Miller Theater on the Columbia University Campus


Join us for Columbia University’s Fifth-Annual StartupColumbia Festival, a two-day celebration of Columbia’s culture of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.  Day one is the culmination of the Columbia Venture Competition, more than 200 Columbia startups will compete for $200,000 in cash awards.  We’ll announce the winners on day two, the StartupColumbia Conference.  The day will be filled with provocative discussions on Blockchain, the NewSpace Startups, Data Ethics, and Women Inventors.  We’ll finish the day with a to-be-announced closing keynote. 

Join us for lunch under the Low Library Rotunda at the Columbia Food Founder’s Fare.  More than 20 Columbia-founded food startups will be serving lunch.

2019 Festival Highlights

Panels, Keynotes, and Fireside Chats

We Love Our Sponsors

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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. 

Click on the logos below to learn more about the teams who'll be serving lunch.

Your Chance to Win a Piece of $200,000

This year the Columbia Venture Competition (CVC) has four challenges but you may only enter one. The descriptions, rules, and eligibility guidelines are listed below. Each challenge will split $50,000 among the top three winners. Three of the challenges are open to students and recent alumni (five years or less from their most current current Columbia degree) from any Columbia-affiliated school, including Barnard and Teachers College. The Undergraduate Challenge, sponsored by Columbia College, is open to all current Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, General Studies, and Barnard College undergrads. CVC judges will come from Columbia’s worldwide alumni community from Beijing to Brooklyn and will represent diverse backgrounds and a wide-ranging set of expertise.

2019 CVC Challenges

rEGISTRATION FOR 2019 opening soon

Startup Columbia 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).

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

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.

Blockchain Challenge, Sponsored by

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...

Registration FOR 2019 opening soon

Competition Judges

CVC Timeline 2019


First Round Submissions 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.



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.



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.


Columbia Venture Competition Rules and Regulations

Updated January, 2018

  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.  Cash grants will only be awarded to teams that have established, legally-formed business registration.  
  4. Teams do not have to be formally incorporated to enter – or win – the any track in the CVC. However, winning teams must be legally-formed business entities to receive the grant. If a winning team is not yet an incorporated entity, Columbia Entrepreneurship administrators can assist with that process.     
  5. Teams must not have raised more than $150,000 prior to March 1st, 2018.
  6. The 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 founder must be a Columbia student or recent alumnus (recent alumni within 5 years of degree).
  7. 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.
  8. Certain Challenges further restrict the eligibility requirements for teams. It is up to the team to fully review all eligibility requirements before entering a Challenge. Teams that enter a Challenge for which they are not eligible may be disqualified.  
  9. 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 2017 Undergraduate Challenge winner may enter the #StartupColumbia Challenge in 2018.
  10. Teams may only enter one Challenge per year.
  11. CVC finalists must present live or via teleconference on Thursday April 5th, 2018.
  12. The winners will be announced on Friday, April 6th at the #Startup Columbia Festival. Winners must agree to 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.
  13. It may take Columbia up to three months after the final winners are determined to award the grants.
  14. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 with the team. CVC may disqualify a blended team if they do not 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.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

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.