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Join the fourth annual startup competition + conference
on April 13 + 14 at NYC to Create Tomorrow.


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StartupColumbia is a two-day celebration of innovation
and entrepreneurship. Day 1 is the culmination of the
$250,000 Columbia Venture Competition. Day 2 is the all-day
conference featuring innovators and entrepreneurs examining
future solutions to the world's most vexing problems.

Watch 2016 Recap

Conference Panels and Speakers is a multi-faceted entertainer and front man of the Black Eyed Peas, producer and creative innovator who has been recognized by seven Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, a CLIO Award, and the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award. Learn more.

Jeffrey Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics and leader in sustainable development. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders, and was called by the New York Times, "probably the most important economist in the world." Professor Sachs served as the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University from 2002 to 2016. Learn more.

Nancy Miller is the editor-in-chief of GOOD Magazine. Her editorial work spans print, digital, podcasts and video, with an editorial focus on how technology, innovation, creativity and storytelling shape our world. Learn more.

Jacob Weisberg is Chairman of The Slate Group, whose roster includes Slate magazine and Panoply, a full-service podcast network. He is the creator and host of Trumpcast, a near-daily podcast about the Donald Trump phenomenon that kicked off in March 2016. Learn more.

Deborah Jackson '80BUS is an entrepreneur, early-stage investor and former investment banker. As the Founder and CEO of Plum Alley Investments, she is a fierce advocate for women building technology and female founders as an important way to change the world for the better. Learn more.

James J. Valentini was appointed Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education in September 2011. Affectionately called “Deantini” by Columbia undergraduates, Dean Valentini has been a member of Columbia’s faculty since 1990 and previously served as chair of the Chemistry Department and director of the Chemistry Department’s Undergraduate Studies Program. Learn more.

Shan-Lyn Ma is the CEO and Founder of, wedding registry that will go to great lengths to find the best brands, both known and unknown. Zola has developed technology that helps couples get more out of their registry, letting them personalize everything with their own notes and pictures, add gifts from any website, and ship at their convenience. Learn more.

Hayley Barna is a Venture Partner at First Round Capital based in New York. Prior to joining First Round she co-founded Birchbox, the leading beauty and grooming retailer seed funded by First Round in 2010. Learn more.

Mary C. Boyce is Dean of Engineering at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University in the City of New York and also the Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor of Engineering. Dean Boyce has been widely recognized for her scholarly contributions, including election as a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. Learn more.

Mark Hansen joined Columbia Journalism School in July of 2012. He is the Director of the Brown Institute, a partnership between Columbia Journalism and Stanford Engineering. Hansen works with data in an essentially journalistic practice, crafting stories through algorithm, computation and visualization. Learn more.

Peter Kelemen is Arthur D. Storke Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He studies the chemical and physical processes of reaction between fluids and rocks. Learn more.

Merit E. Janow, in addition to being Dean of SIPA, she is also Co-Director of the APEC Study Center and Chair of the Faculty Oversight Committee of Columbia’s Global Center East Asia. Her research interests focus on international trade and investment, Asia, competition law and economic globalization. Learn more.

Kate Sheppard is an enterprise editor and senior reporter at the Huffington Post. She previously reported for Mother Jones, Grist, and the American Prospect. Her reporting covers a wide range of environmental topics. Learn more.

Adam Sobel is a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He leads the Columbia University Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate. Learn more.

Justin Hendrix is Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. Hendrix connects companies seeking to advance digital media technologies with New York City's economic and intellectual resources. NYU Media Lab is a public-private partnership encompassing the universities of NYC and many of the biggest corporate players in media today. Learn more.

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic is the Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences at Columbia University, where she directs the Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering. The focus of her research is on engineering human tissues for regenerative medicine, basic research and modeling of disease. Learn more.

Karen Heidelberger is the Chief Partnership and Communications Officer at Deerfield, where she is responsible for relationships with investors, partner companies, and other interested parties. Prior to this role, Karen was a Trader at Deerfield for over a decade. Learn more.

Soo-Jin Kim ’10BUS founded Inclued in September 2012 as an open table for corporate events, sourcing venues (private rooms) and menus (caterers) for corporations free of charge. The Inclued team has catered all of events and sourced all of venues for the Columbia Startup Lab since its opening. Learn more.

Euan Robertson is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, where he leads the Strategic Planning Team, the Center for Economic Transformation, and the Asset Management and Capital Divisions. Learn more.

Orin Herskowitz is VP of Intellectual Property and Tech Transfer for Columbia University and Executive Director of Columbia Technology Ventures, is also an Adjunct Professor at Columbia’s Business and Engineering Schools. Learn more.

John Cunningham is the Senior Vice President – Regional Market Director of the New York City cluster at Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. Mr. Cunningham has more than 27 years of experience in real estate operations, leasing and development, and has completed over 4.5 million square feet of development projects, including numerous complex life science and specialized high-tech projects, large build-to-suits, and strategic properties. Learn more.

Katherine Ryder is the founder and CEO of Maven, the first digital clinic for women. Maven is a telehealth platform offering instant access to its best-in- class network of women’s and family health providers, with a flagship 15-month maternity program for employers to help new parents throughout their transition back to work. Learn more.

Richard Witten '75CC serves as the Special Advisor to the President of Columbia University, a position he assumed after retiring as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University. He is the Founder of Columbia Entrepreneurship and a member of the Columbia University Medical Center Board of Advisors, where he chairs the Cancer Advisory Council. Learn more.

Zach Aarons '13BUS, as a Project Manager of Millennium Partners, works in real estate and technology and looks to connect people within those two industries. He has vast experience with investment banking, angel investing, real estate development, and consulting. Learn more.

Alex Iskold is the Managing Director of Techstars in New York City. Previously Alex was Founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by, founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM), and Chief Architect DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO). An engineer by training, Alex has deep passion and appreciation for startups, digital products and elegant code. Learn more.

Sree Sreenivasan has been Chief Digital Officer of NYC since Oct 2016. Sree runs the Mayor’s Office of Digital Strategy and works with City agencies and colleagues throughout the five boroughs. Before coming to City Hall, Sree spent three years as Chief Digital Officer of The Met and also worked for 21 years at Columbia Journalism School. Learn more.

Columbia Food Founders' Fare

Join us for lunch the Columbia Food Founders' Fare, a great place to eat and network during the conference. Columbia-founded food startups will cater the conference and hold an innovative pop-up bazaar. Bring your appetites. See the teams who'll be serving lunch.

FRI. 2:40-3:30

Women in Entrepreneurship: Investment and Opportunity

Investors often chase the same companies, inflating valuations and producing questionable returns for later investors. One part of the market -- women-led and gender balanced teams -- is still under the radar, but the data shows that this segment outperforms others by producing higher returns with less capital. Indeed, companies that include both women and men in product creation and leadership are best positioned for survival. Hear from both sexes about the value that is created by tapping all brain power and diverse consumer interest.


  • Deborah Jackson: Co-Founder, Plum Alley Investments
  • Shan-Lyn Ma: Founder,
  • Hayley Bay Barna: Founder, Birchbox

Featured Panels and Keynotes

Computational Propaganda – Hacking The Digital Tools That Direct Our Attention

Columbia Journalism Professor Mark Hansen works with data in an essentially journalistic practice, crafting stories through algorithm, computation, and visualization. In his new course, Computational Propaganda, he focuses on tools and techniques that have achieved new prominence in the recent national election. He discusses how, over the last few years, we have seen how these tools for directing our attention can be hacked.

Jeffrey Sachs – "Choices, Energy Policy, and Climate Change"

Professor Jeffrey Sachs will speak to energy against the backdrop of the new political climate.

"President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to resurrect coal, promote gas fracking, and restart the Keystone XL pipeline project to bring Alberta, Canada’s oil sands to market. He won’t get far. Today’s low world prices of oil, coal, and gas reflect the fact that newly installed power generation and vehicles worldwide are shifting decisively to low-carbon energy. Trump may well try to resist the tide at the start. In that case, climate change would quickly become his biggest controversy, costing decisive political capital as the climate debate engulfs his nominations, undercuts America’s diplomacy, and stymies infrastructure plans as well."

- Jeffrey Sachs, November 2016 The Boston Globe


Facts, Alternative Facts, and Innovations in the Media in Response to the Post-Truth Era

An old curse said, “May you be born in interesting times.” Well, the world today is certainly interesting, if not outright confounding. When spinning the truth becomes more important than clearly articulating the facts, up becomes down and black becomes white. Regardless of political position, education level, or home state, we’re all losing our ability to distinguish fact from spin. This panel will discuss how some media are innovating in response.

NYC’s Emerging Lifescience Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

Over the past 10 years, NYC has transformed into a world-class center for tech and media startups, becoming an equal to the Bay Area and Boston. Now, we are starting to see a similar energy and momentum building in for early-stage lifescience startups. With the Mayor and the Governor announcing over $1B in new funding for lifescience entrepreneurship, to the accelerating launches of many exciting venture-funded startups in the region (including Columbia’s Epibone, Kallyope, Applied Therapeutics, Sapience, Kyras, and others), to premier VCs like Deerfield, Arch, Lux, Flagship, and Accelerator Corp looking to invest locally, the next five years hold tremendous opportunity (and some risks) for the NYC region.

Climate Change: Fact, Fiction, Innovations and Solutions

One of the most polarizing arguments in today's society is the obstinate refusal to accept man-made climate change. Comprised of world-class climate scientists, technologists, and influencers, this panel first lays out the indisputable facts and then examines product and policy innovations that may just save the world.

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Columbia Venture Competition:

Your Chance to Win a Piece of $250k

The CVC has five tracks or challenges. Each challenge will split $50K among the top three winners. Three of the challenges are open to all students and all recent alumni (within five years of degree) from across the worldwide Columbia community. The Undergraduate Challenge, sponsored by Columbia College, is open to all current Columbia and Barnard College undergrads. CVC judges will come from across Columbia’s worldwide alumni community and will represent diverse backgrounds and a wide-ranging set of expertise.

StartupColumbia Challenge

This challenge is all about customer development and demonstrating product-market fit. Cash grants will be awarded to those teams that best prepare and present compelling and empirical evidence of market acceptance for their value propositions. If you don’t have empirical evidence, this is not the Challenge for you. For second-round submissions and final presentations, documented proof of business model viability must be provided. This proof may come in the form of qualitative and quantitative market surveys, customer development interview summaries, or current customer, revenue, or unit shipment counts.

Eligibility: Open to all Columbia University students and recent alumni (five years or less from their most recent degree).

Technology Challenge, Sponsored by Columbia Engineering

Entries must include business models based on a solid foundation of applied, solution-focused, technology innovation. Submissions must focus on product development, innovative design, and “builder” technologies including data analytics, biomedical solutions, software, or hardware. Cross-disciplinary teams are strongly encouraged.

Eligibility: Open to all Columbia University students and recent alumni (five years or less from their most recent degree).

Global Technology Challenge, Sponsored by Columbia Engineering

With your minds set on Engineering for Humanity, entries must include technology or data-driven solutions to address global challenges. These challenges could represent problems—whether environmental, sustainability, health, disaster relief, or security-related. Cross-disciplinary teams are strongly encouraged.

Eligibility: Open to all Columbia University students and recent alumni (five years or less from their most recent degree).

Columbia Undergraduate Challenge, Sponsored by Columbia College

Prize grants will be awarded to the top teams with the most innovative and viable business model. Winning entries must document the incorporation of customer or user feedback into the design of their business model.

Eligibility: Open only to undergraduate teams from Columbia University and Barnard College. Undergraduates from other universities may enter as members of Columbia- or Barnard-teams but the roles of the founders must be provided and the length of time each founder has been working with the team must also be provided.

SIPA Dean's Public Policy Challenge Grant

The Public Policy Grant Program of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) invites students to form teams to propose student-designed projects and prototypes that use ICTs and/or data analytics to solve urban problems around the world. Solutions may be market-based, public/philanthropic supported, or a mix. The Program encourages the formation of teams that integrate students of public policy, computer science, engineering and other fields across Columbia University. All teams must include at least one SIPA student in a substantive role.

Eligibility: Eligibility: Rules, eligibility and deadlines for this challenge are separate from other challenges. For details, email


Friday, Feb. 24: Executive Summary Submission (11:59 PM in YouNoodle platform)

Executive Summaries must:

  • Contain the name, school affiliation and degree year for all team members.

  • Clearly explain role of each founder. CVC administrators may ask for proof of when each founder joined the team.

  • Describe your venture idea and address the criteria that are unique to the track you've entered.

Wednesday, March 8th: Announcement of Advancing Teams

Wednesday, March 22nd: Second-Round Submission (11:59 PM in YouNoodle platform)

Second-Round Submissions must:

  • Include both a slide deck (PDF-format preferred, Prezi not allowed) and a link to a three-minute video.

  • Contain one slide with a brief bio and role of each member of the team.

  • Clearly and in detail address the criteria unique to the track you've entered.

Monday, April 3: Finalists Announced

Friday, April 14: Final Round - Live Presentations

Presentations must not exceed five minutes for the presentation and five minutes to answer judge questions. International teams who cannot travel to the Columbia University campus may present via teleconference.

Judging Criteria, Rules, and Eligibility

Columbia Venture Competition (hereafter referred to as “CVC”) has five separate tracks; each track comes with a unique set of judging criteria and eligibility requirements. Competitors are asked create an account on our YouNoodle competition platform here and enter their venture descriptions. When entering your description, consider the judging criteria below.

Choose One of Five CVC Tracks Carefully

Read the judging criteria for all five tracks carefully, consider the specific judging criteria, and choose your track wisely. When entering your venture’s information into the Younoodle, refer back to the judging criteria for the track you have choosen. Individuals and teams may only enter one track. In a few isolated cases, CVC administrators may reserve the right to reassign competitors from one track to another.

Blended Teams With Members From Other Universities

Generally speaking, entries from current Columbia students (and Barnard students for the Undergraduate Challenge) and alumni within five years of their degree will be accepted. Entries from blended teams that include non-Columbia-affiliated members will also be considered.

CVC administrators reserve the right to determine if the Columbia members of a blended have played a significant role in founding and running the company and are currently engaged wtih the team. CVC may disqualify a blended team if they don't meet this criteria.

If a blended team wins, award funds will only be granted if the Columbia-affiliated founder remains on the team at the time the funds are ready to be awarded.

  1. CVC is intended for new, independent ventures in the seed or early start-up stages.

  2. Businesses built using technologies or IP licensed from Columbia University will be accepted but ownership of the IP must be clearly stated and documented. Ownership of intellectual property and equity shares in the business must not be in dispute.

  3. Status of incorporation and any funding received must be clearly stated.

  4. Teams must not have raised more than $150,000 prior to March 1st, 2017.

  5. Columbia Venture Competition is intended for ventures founded, managed, and owned by eligible founders (students or recent alumni within 5 years of degree). Winning teams with non-Columbia-affiliated founders must document the role all founders have had in the conception and development of the venture. At least one of founder must be a Columbia student or recent alumnus (recent alumni within 5 years of degree).

  6. All team members are asked to state their university and school affiliation with degree year. CVC administrators may also require proof of the length of time each of founder has been engaged in their venture.

  7. Teams who have won a CVC challenge in prior years may not enter the same challenge again but can enter another challenge. For example the 2015 Undergrad Challenge winner may enter the #StartupColumbia Challenge in 2016.

  8. Teams may only enter one challenge.

  9. CVC finalists must present live or via teleconference on Thursday April 28, 2016.

  10. The winners will be announced on Friday, April 29th at the #Startup Columbia Festival. Winners must agree release rights to use their images and brief descriptions of their business models to help promote Columbia University programs. Winners will be given rights to use their images, photos and videos for their own promotional purposes.

  11. It may take Columbia up to three months after the final winners are determined to award the grants.

  12. Eligibility is contingent on compliance with the rules listed above. Teams can be disqualified at any point, during the competition and prior to receiving funds at the administrators’ discretion. Disqualification is final and cannot be appealed.

Non-Disclosure Agreement

There is no formal non-disclosure agreement in place for the Columbia Venture Competition. Participants’ executive summaries and pitch decks will only be seen by the Venture Competition administrators and the judging panel. Neither of those documents will be distributed more broadly unless explicit permission is received from the team. Teams should be aware that CVC administrators will not require judges to sign non-disclosure agreements. Confidentiality has never presented a problem but we do advise that teams provide as much detail as possible without disclosing proprietary information or unprotected IP.

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