Do winners give up an equity stake in their startups?
No. The prize money is non-dilutive capital and there is no exchange for equity with Northwestern or any of our sponsors.
Who is eligible to participate?
Teams must have created an entity for their business prior to the start of the competition, and must consist of at least one currently enrolled degree seeking Northwestern University student and that student must be a co-founder and current equity holder of the team applying to the competition. Teams can be of any size and ventures can cover any industry in one of the five tracks. Teams that have previously won the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place Grand Prizes at VentureCat Finals are precluded from competing in VentureCat in future years. Teams that previously won prize money at Semifinals or teams that made Finals, but did not win a Grand Prize are eligible to apply. The event organizers reserve the right to disqualify any entry that does not meet all the eligibility requirements or that violates any rules or regulations of VentureCat.
Please read VentureCat’s Rules and Guidelines before applying.
Do I have to have a registered company?
Yes. Teams applying to VentureCat need to be a registered company to apply and must have a founders agreement to compete.
Am I eligible to participate if I graduated earlier this year?
Students who were in a degree seeking Northwestern University program (full-time or part-time) in the current academic year of the competition and graduated prior to the end of the academic year are eligible to apply.
Can alumni participate?
Each team must consist of at least one currently enrolled degree seeking Northwestern University student and that student must be a co-founder and current equity holder of the team applying to the competition. Only current Northwestern students are allowed to present at semifinals and finals.
Can I apply in more than one track?
No. You can only apply to one of the tracks that is the most appropriate for your startup. The VentureCat organizers reserve the right to move startups to the most appropriate track.
How far along should my startup be?
VentureCat is a startup competition, not a business idea competition. Entries should be a viable startup that the team is actively working on. The startup should have some traction. We expect that most entries will be pre-revenue. We discourage startups with more than $2M in revenue from applying. Entries must have a legal business entity/registered company and will be required to provide documentation showing the business entity in order to apply and a founders agreement in order to compete.
How are applications and Semifinals and Finals pitches evaluated?
Below is the rubric for applications and also Semifinals and Finals:
Problem: Did the team clearly articulate the problem that they are solving? Were you convinced that it is a real problem?
Feasibility: Does this team have an interesting solution/product? Do you think this team will be around in 5 years?
Go-To-Market: Does the team have a clear go-to-market strategy? Do you believe in their ability to execute on this plan?
Team: Have the co-founder(s) defined the team that is required to lead the startup to the next milestone? (May not have the entire team in place, but have identified elements that are missing.)
Presentation: Was the presentation logically organized and did it effectively present the business case? Was the presentation compelling? How did they manage the Q&A?