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Entrepreneurship on Display at Eighth Annual Venture Challenge

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

  • Northwestern University Venture Challenge to be held June 2
  • Student startups represent various schools and different disciplines
  • Participants compete for more than $200,000 in cash prizes

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University students are among the innovators who will pitch their startup ideas to venture capitalists and business executives June 2 at the eighth annual Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC).

“NUVC brings together the Northwestern community to celebrate the best and brightest student-led ventures,” said Melissa Crounse, executive director of The Garage, the University’s new innovation incubator.

Eleven startups will compete in the challenge’s final round for more than $200,000, including a $25,000 grand prize. The popular event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall in the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, 70 Arts Circle, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. The public is welcome but must register for the free event.

As Northwestern’s premier business pitch competition, NUVC rewards the most innovative and promising student startups with capital and mentorship. Teams representing more than 80 interdisciplinary startups in different stages of development submitted their ideas to NUVC; the number was winnowed down to 11 finalists.

Many of the startups have come out of a variety of entrepreneurial courses taught at Northwestern, including NUvention, and others incorporate technologies coming out of Northwestern labs. Six of the finalist startups worked at The Garage this year as part of The Garage Residency Program. As the young entrepreneurs continue to develop their business ventures at the University and beyond, the only requirement to compete in NUVC is that at least one team member be a current Northwestern undergraduate or graduate student. 

The final round Thursday night will feature pitches, an awards ceremony and a keynote address by Northwestern alumna Kat Mañalac, a partner at Y Combinator, which provides seed funding for startups.

Each finalist falls into one of five categories: green energy and sustainability; consumer products and software; social enterprise and nonprofit; business products and software; and health care and medical. Two startups from each track were selected during the semifinal round May 2. These 10 teams will compete for various cash prizes. An additional all-undergraduate team will compete with them for the $25,000 grand prize.

NUVC provides a stage for Northwestern 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. 

“With the opening of The Garage last year and an ever-growing number of students taking classes in entrepreneurship and pursuing their own ventures, this is a tremendous time to be an entrepreneurial thinker,” said Alicia Löffler, executive director of Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO). “More than ever, Northwestern students have ways to channel that creativity into original, inspiring ventures.”

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