The Startup Competition


The Startup is CFE’s cornerstone competition for undergraduate and graduate students looking to turn a startup idea into a real company. It’s a winner-take-all opportunity for ventures to get visibility, direct one-on-one mentorship with local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, funding, and bragging rights to be called the next, best startup at Michigan.

The winning startup last year walked away with a total of $18,000 to launch their venture.

This is NOT another pitch competition. We aren’t looking for students who think they are the best right now, we are looking for startup teams with the highest potential to become the best. The Startup makes real entrepreneurs, in real time, by giving teams direct access to mentors who will help them reach important milestones in moving their company forward. On top of close mentorship from local entrepreneurial leaders, students will also receive increased funding as they make it past each round of the competition, and will present in front of CFE’s largest seminar class, Entrepreneurship Hour. That’s over 300 potential customers who will learn about, and, potentially test out your venture idea.

Important Details and Dates

2017 Auditions: January 10th & 17th. If selected, CFE contacts your team with an audition date and time slot.

2017 Startup Competition Rounds will be held on U-M’s North Campus, Stamps Auditorium, 12:30 -1:30P, as part of Entrepreneurship Hour on…

Round 1: Friday, January 27
Round 2: Friday, February 10
Round 3: Friday, March 10
Finale: Friday, April 7

How does CFE’s The Startup work?

  • Selected applicants are asked to participate in an audition, where teams pitch their startup idea and answer a few questions on the direction of their idea. This is the time to show why you deserve to be in the running, and why you think a successful mentor will want to chose you to mentor during the competition. Once auditions have wrapped, CFE reps will select participants to advance to Round 1. Progressing through Rounds 1, 2, 3, and the Finale will be done, in-person, on stage, at Stamps Auditorium as a part of Entrepreneurship Hour.
  • Round 1, Friday January 27th: Four successful mentors will select students to become a part of their “team.” The teams the mentors pick will be a direct reflection of their reputation too, so they’ll be picking teams or individuals they believe have true potential. Mentors have serious skin in the game, and might even be looking for their next investment…!

2017 Mentors are: Jake Cohen of Detroit Venture Partners, Sonali Vijayavargiya of Augment Ventures, Bill Mayer of Ann Arbor SPARK, and Scott Taylor of SBDC Tech Team

  • Each following Round: Startup Teams will work closely with their mentor to prepare for upcoming challenges that are designed to help meet important venture milestones. After each Round, teams will be eliminated through a process of voting by the mentors and audience of Entrepreneurship Hour students … until only one startup is left standing.

Why should you participate?
Work one-on-one with investors and experts to move your idea forward. Making it past each Round gets you increased funding as you go, to use as operating capital. With one big final funding for the winner. Rounds take place in front of CFE’s Entrepreneurship Hour class (300+ students, plus alumni and AA locals), giving your idea tons of visibility. The structure keeps you moving forward throughout the entire semester.

What do you win?
Besides lots of cash, mentorship, networking, working space, and PR? You will be Michigan’s next best startup, walking away with an actual venture ready to launch. This could be YOUR big break.

Are there requirements? Applicants must be enrolled in a U-M degree-granting program and  in good academic standing (GPA of at least 2.0 for undergraduate students, or 5.0 for graduate students). In order to receive a Jump Start Grant, an award recipient must be actively enrolled in a U-M degree-granting program at the time of disbursement of funds. Funding for this Round does not count against the Jump Start Grant maximum funding of $1000 per student per year and $2000 per team per year.

2017 Ventures:


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The Startup Competition 2016 on CFE TV

The Startup Competition 2015 on CFE TV

Entrepreneurship Hour Speaker Series on CFE TV