• February 19 – Call for submissions goes out

  • March 15 – First-round summaries submitted by 11:59 PM here

  • March 17 – Second-round contestants announced

  • March 28 – Second-round materials submitted by 11:59 PM (Dropbox will be provided)

  • March 30 – Judging and voting on startups for finalist status opens

  • April 4 – Finalists announced

  • April 9 – Judges’ summaries or updated materials intended for projection submitted by 11:59 PM (Dropbox will be provided)

  • April 11 – Final presentations live during Entrepreneurship Festival


Who can participate?

  • Current enrolled students from any Columbia University school.

  • Students on leave of absence from Columbia for less than two years.

  • Young alumni of the University, within 5 years of graduation.

  • Teams must have raised less than $250,000 of outside capital for the startup they’ve applied with, at the time of application to Round One.

  • Composition: at least 2/3rds of any founding team must be affiliated with Columbia.

Round One

  • All teams may submit for Round One through this form no later than March 15, 2014, at 10:00 PM.

  • First-round entries must address all aspects of the judging criteria in a 1-page executive summary as a single-spaced document (in PDF form), including at least description of problem you are tackling, the solution you have for that problem, and why now is the right time for that solution.

  • A cover page is required with:

    • Name of the venture

    • Description of each of the team members, including names, UNIs, email addresses, and phone numbers (contact information will not be widely distributed)

    • Description of, if applicable, where the technology was developed and if Columbia University resources were used (i.e., lab space or faculty research time)

  • Selection: The organizing committee of #StartupColumbia, including experienced student leaders and administrators, will help select a group of 12 semifinalists to participate in Round Two.

Round Two

  • Teams will be notified of their admission to Round Two on or around March 19th.

  • We ask all teams selected to submit a Presentation Document that addresses the Judging Criteria outlined below, specifically, proving Market Acceptance, Financial Viability, and Team Composition.

  • Second round entries add details and specificity. Please assume that your document should be able to stand on its own, without a presenter.

  • Selection: An experienced panel of individuals in the Columbia community, including administrators, academics, entrepreneurs, and campus leaders, alongside fans of the summit, will vote to select six finalists.</span>

Final Round

  • Final round contestants will present live at the #StartupColumbia festival on April 11, 2014.  Live presentations will last six minutes and allow for four minutes of responses to judges questions.

  • Team are welcome to submit updated materials up until midnight on April 4, 2014, including:

    • Information on progress since previous rounds, and/or an updated deck for presentation.

    • A “judge’s summary” of your presentation, for distribution to judges prior to the event.


Judging Criteria

In contrast to other competitions, we want to place an emphasis on viability and traction.

  1. Market Acceptance – Teams that advance in the Challenge must prove empirical evidence of positive market acceptance to their ventures’ value propositions or evidence that the venture or product has been modified to better fit well-documented customer requirements.  Teams that present strong proof-of-market acceptance, not a compelling idea alone, will score more points.

  2. Financial Viability – Winning teams will have sized their markets and shown realistic projections and strategies for market share and revenue growth. Nonprofit models must also show financial viability.

    1. Teams who present nonprofit models that will rely on philanthropy for financial viability must demonstrate some acumen or knowledge of fundraising and factor that into their models

    2. Teams who present models that rely on advertising to reach sustainability must demonstrate some acumen or knowledge of ad sales.

  3. Team Compositions – Teams showing that their members have the expertise required to execute on their venture ideas will score higher than teams who cannot account for missing critical skill sets.

  4. Salesmanship – In business (even for nonprofits), nothing happens until somebody sells something. Early-round teams are encouraged to be as compelling and persuasive as possible in their written materials.  In addition to the criteria above, finalists will be judged by the quality of their oral communication, salesmanship, and stage presence, along with clarity of thought.