The CVC is a series of Challenges, or business plan competitions. Every year, alumni judges evaluate competitors in six different Challenges. Each has its own focus, save for the StartupColumbia Challenge which is open to any kind of business model, including not-for-profit and social enterprises.

Thank you to all who participated in the 2023 competition! Please come back January 1, 2024, for updated content, prize information, and open applications.

Columbia Venture Competition Rules and Regulations

Updated January 2023


Composition of Eligible Teams:

  • “Blended Teams”: Some teams founded by current Columbia students or Columbia alumni within 5 years of graduation may have a non-Columbia-affiliated co-founder. We will use the term “Blended Teams” to describe such applicants. To be eligible to compete and collect any awards, the founders of such Blended Teams must document the role all founders have had in the conception and development of the venture. To be eligible, such “Blended Teams” must have at least one current Columbia student or recent alumnus (within 5 years of graduation) who is a true founder who joined the team at the inception of the venture and has played a significant role in the company. The Columbia student or alumni founder should be the one to apply for the CVC on behalf of the team. If there should be any question about this issue and/or if it is in dispute, the CVC administrators’ rulings on eligibility will be final. To protect privacy, the outcomes of eligibility will not be shared beyond the impacted team.
  • CVC is intended for early-stage ventures founded, managed, and owned by current Columbia students or by Columbia alumni within 5 years of their most recent Columbia degree. These Challenges are not meant for mature ventures.
  • In the application process, all team members are asked to state their university and school affiliation with graduation degree and year. CVC administrators may also require proof of the length of time each founder has been engaged in their venture and may ask for access to the venture’s cap table. Refusal to provide this data will result in disqualification.

Amount of Dilutive Money Raised:

  • Teams that have raised $250K or more of dilutive investment are NOT eligible to apply for these Challenges.

Intellectual Property:

  • Eligible applicants that are commercializing technologies or IP licensed from Columbia University are eligible to compete, but ownership of the IP must be clearly stated and documented in the application process.
  • For all applicants, ownership of intellectual property and equity splits in the business must not be in dispute.

Number of Challenges a Team May Apply For:

  • Teams may only enter two Challenges per year. (See explanation above)
  • Teams who have won or placed in the top three for any CVC Challenge in prior years may not enter the same challenge again with the same business. However, the same team can enter another challenge or enter another completely distinct business. For example, a top-three team from the 2022 Undergraduate Challenge may enter the #StartupColumbia Challenge in 2023 with the same business or the 2023 Undergraduate Challenge with a different business.

Lastly, certain Challenges further restrict the eligibility requirements for teams. It is up to the team to fully review all eligibility requirements before entering a particular Challenge. Teams that enter a Challenge for which they are not eligible may be disqualified or asked to join another Challenge. Where possible and practical, disqualifications are not publicly announced.


  • Teams can apply to only one Challenge.
  • If accepted into a Challenge, each team will be contacted with their pitch schedule.
  • Unless otherwise announced, most early-round pitches teams make will be held via Zoom, most finals will be live and in person.
  • Once the judging is complete, three winners will be announced for each Challenge (1st place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place). It is possible that two teams will tie for a given finishing place, in these cases, the award is split.
  • Winners will be announced shortly after the Finals.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

The Columbia Venture Competition does not support non-disclosure agreements. Teams should be aware that CVC administrators will not require judges to sign non-disclosure agreements. Participants’ executive summaries, videos, and pitch decks will only be seen by the Columbia Venture Competition administrators and the judging panel. Neither of those documents will be distributed more broadly unless explicit permission is received from the team. We advise that teams provide as much detail as possible without disclosing proprietary information or unprotected IP.