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VentureCat is Northwestern’s annual student startup competition and celebrates the University’s most promising student founders. The program culminates in a pitch competition in which more than $300,000 in non-dilutive prize money is distributed to student ventures. VentureCat is a collaborative program at Northwestern, supported by The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, The Kellogg School of Management, the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center and The Garage. The program and non-dilutive prize money awarded to student ventures is made possible by generous sponsorship from the Levy Institute and Lanny and Sharon Martin.

VentureCat is an evolution of the Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC), which was originally introduced in 2007. From inception, NUVC distinguished itself from other pitch competitions around the globe by organizing competitors in industry-specific tracks. The track structure leverages the rich expertise of distinct schools from across the University in both graduate and undergraduate programs, and awards top teams with non-dilutive capital.

Students apply to the program in one of five distinct tracks: Business Products and Services, Consumer Products and Services, Energy and Sustainability, Life Sciences and Medical Innovations and Social Impact. Semifinalists are selected from the pool of applicants and participate in the four-week Pitch Prep Program. The program includes: pitch coaching, advice from industry experts and professional graphic design support.

At the culmination of the Pitch Prep Program, teams compete by track in private semifinals pitching their ventures to a panel of industry experts as judges. The top team in each track moves on to compete in finals with a panel of prominent investors and entrepreneurs. Competition day ends with the Finalists taking the main stage to pitch one more time to an audience of hundreds of students, alums, and investors at the Public Showcase. Grand Prize results are announced and the audience votes for their favorite startup.


Jessa Fuller
Senior Program Administrator for VentureCat

As Senior Program Administrator for VentureCat, Jessa Fuller manages the planning and production of the annual startup competition event and leads strategizing for its future growth and development. Prior to joining Northwestern, Jessa was working at a global marketing agency partnering with Fortune 100 brands. She has also owned her own award-winning retail business in Chicago and worked in the startup world for several years focusing on marketing and tech product development. Jessa is a Northwestern alum and proud Wildcat, having graduated with a BS in Journalism.