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Entrepreneurial Spirit Takes Center Stage in Venture Challenge

Students to pitch their startup ideas to venture capitalists for money and mentorship

  • Northwestern University Venture Challenge to be held June 4
  • Startups developed by students from various schools and different disciplines
  • Leading up to Challenge, semifinalists mentored by successful entrepreneurs
  • Participants compete for more than $200,000 in cash prizes

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University students will showcase innovative business startups and compete for more than $200,000 in a special challenge event on June 4, where they pitch their startups to venture capitalists and business executives.

More than 80 startups in different stages of development submitted their ideas to the seventh annual Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC). The competition provides a stage for Northwestern undergraduate and graduate students from different schools and disciplines to gain real world experience and collaborate with other students and entrepreneurs from around Chicago and across the country.

The startups have been developed in a variety of entrepreneurial courses taught at Northwestern. Many of these businesses incorporate technologies coming out of the labs at Northwestern. As students develop their business ventures, the only requirement to compete is at least one team member be affiliated with the University.

Some 27 startups have been selected to compete in a semifinal round of the challenge, which will take place at the Allen Center on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Each venture falls into one of five categories: green energy and sustainability; consumer products; social enterprise; business products; and life sciences and medical. One startup from each track will be selected to compete in the final round for the grand prize.

This year's competition has been bolstered by a $100,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Clean Technologies and Innovation Grant Program intended to help jumpstart the students' ventures.

“We’ve seen college students like Mark Zuckerberg revolutionize industries with their ideas,” said Michael Krakaris, NUVC’s student director. “It’s exciting that [the competition] could be a springboard to help student entrepreneurs take their ideas to the next level.”

Semifinal pitching will take place Thursday morning before keynote presentations from Paul Sagan, XIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) of General Catalyst Partners and former CEO of Akamai, and Dick Burke, CEO of Visa Now Global Immigration and former CEO of Apartments.com. The final round of pitches, an award ceremony and reception will follow that afternoon.

The public is asked to register for the free event here. Media coverage is welcome.

Daniel P. Smith contributed to this story.

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