Enter Your Startup


Applications Open: Monday, December 6, 2021 (9:00 AM Eastern)

Application Platform: 

  • New users: From Venture Lab’s SurveyMonkey Apply, log in with your PennKey and password. Complete the Eligibility profile. Choose the Startup Challenge from the list of programs, and complete the application.
  • Existing users: Log in to Venture Lab’s SurveyMonkey Apply, choose Startup Challenge from the list of programs, and complete the application.


Application Deadline: Sunday, January 23, 2022 (11:59 PM, Eastern)

Application Screening: late January 2022

  • Faculty and staff of Venture Lab will screen applications to determine which will be sent to the judges for review. Applications that are incomplete, do not adequately provide the required information, or are too early stage to answer the application questions outlined will not be sent to the judges for review. The decision of Venture Lab is final.

Judge review: early to mid-February 2022

Semifinalists (top 25) announced: late February 2022

Semifinals: Friday, April 22, 2022

Finals: Friday, April 29, 2022


Short Description (required):

  • A 1-2 sentence description of your venture, for use on our website and in the Startup Showcase booklet, if applicable.
  • This description will be used publicly in marketing for the Startup Challenge and Showcase.

Answers to the following (required):

  • Describe the problem you are trying to solve. Why you (and your team) and why now?
  • How have you engaged with potential customers? Be specific.
  • Describe your 3-5 biggest accomplishments to date. Only include accomplishments that move the venture forward (not completing incorporation paperwork, splitting equity, etc.)
  • Provide details on any measurable traction.
  • Provide a timeline of each team member’s involvement with the venture, including specific roles and responsibilities related to the venture.
  • Who do you still need to add to the team?

Pitch Deck (required):

  • You will upload a pitch deck in pdf, ppt, or pptx format that describes your venture with a maximum of 15 slides.
  • Address the judging criteria.
  • Consider that first round judges will not hear you pitch with your deck, as you will only upload a 2 minute pitch video.
  • The cover slide is required as your first slide. The rest of the slides should flow to tell the story of your startup and highlight the content below. These slides may be in any order. Subitems are guidelines, not requirements. The topics listed do not have to be the titles of your slides.
  • Pitch Deck Slide Recommendations
    • Cover Slide (Required as first slide)
      • Company name
      • Your purpose as short text or visual description
      • Contact information (ex: website URL, name & email )
    • The Opportunity/Problem
      • What problem are you solving?
      • How are potential customers solving this problem now?
    • Your solution
      • Why you, why now?
      • Product/service description
      • Value proposition
      • Use cases or user experience
    • Your product or service
      • How does your product or service uniquely meet the needs of your customers?
      • What’s the underlying magic or secret sauce? Do you have intellectual property (IP) that is integral to your startup?
      • Development roadmap
    • Market
      • Total available market
      • Target market segment (your market entry point)
    • Customers
      • Who are your customers, decision-makers, end-users, and influencers?
    • Go-to-Market Plan
      • Customer acquisition process (and pipeline, if available)
      • Sales & distribution model
      • Marketing activities and metrics
      •  How will you retain and grow your customer base?
    • Business Model (detailed financials are not required for the First Round)
      • Revenue model and pricing – how will you make money?
      • Average customer purchase and/or lifetime value (CLV)
      • Cost structures (cost of sales, talent, overhead)
      • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
      • Proforma income statement (if applicable)
      • Funding plan
    • Competition
      • Your primary competitors
      • Competitor characteristics
      • Your competitive advantages
    • Team
      • Current team members, their roles and strengths, and their Penn affiliations
      • Board of Directors or Board of Advisors (if applicable)
      • Who do you still need on your team?
    • Current status
      • Accomplishments to date
      • Use of funds raised (if applicable)
      • Traction
      • Milestones

See template examples here:

First Round Capital pitch deck template
Sequoia Capital pitch deck template
Guy Kawasaki’s approach to pitching

This video is may also be helpful: Professor Ethan Mollick’s 10(ish) Slide Pitch.


To be considered for the $10,000 Jacobson Social Impact Prize, you will provide the following on the Startup Challenge application:

  • Provide a description and assessment of the social challenge.
  • Provide a description of your solution to the social challenge.
  • How do you plan to structure your venture to provide social impact?
  • How will your business model be impacted by your social mission?
  • How do you plan to measure your venture’s social impact?


To be considered for one of the two $10,000 each AI for Business Awards, you will provide the following on the Startup Challenge application:

  • A slide that specifically addresses your application of AI in your startup. (First round application)
  • A video that explains your application of AI in your venture, if you advance to the Semifinals. (Semifinals application)
  • Inclusion of a slide and explanation of your venture’s use of AI in your live pitch to Semifinals judges.