2023 SPIE Startup Challenge
Celebrating 13 years of light-based business creation!
More than a simple pitch competition, the SPIE Startup Challenge is an entry point into the community of high tech business development. Numerous mentors volunteer their time in support of new business ventures. More: http://spie.org/startup
Eligibility: Participants must have an optics or photonics technology or application that they wish to publicly present as the basis for a viable new business.
Companies must select a track based on their development stage at the time of the written application:
- Pre-revenue for the pre-seed stage
- Below $500k in revenue from product sales for seed stage
- Actively raising a Series A or B round with some demonstrated market traction for the Series A/B Open Pitch Event
In all cases, revenue means revenue generated from products sold, not funding acquired through investors, grants, or other support. Teams (un-established companies) should join the pre-seed stage.
In 2023, we are accepting applications for:
- Deep Tech - involving scientific or engineering innovation (no apps)
The focus is on new businesses and potential startups. Students, post-docs, professors and other first-time business starters are encouraged to apply. The Startup Challenge accepts applications from the worldwide community of entrepreneurs.
How to Apply:
A SPIE web account is required to apply. Click "Sign In" above and log in using your SPIE login credentials. Once you've logged in, navigate to this program and click the blue "Apply" button to begin your application. To create a SPIE account, or to retrieve forgotten account information, please follow this link. For any account assistance, please contact Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Structure of the Competition
Written Application: The written application is extensive and requires an investment of time to complete. A video pitch must be provided in addition to the supporting written information.
Each answer will be saved automatically when you move on to the next question and you can return to previous questions and the application itself at any time.
Incomplete applications will not be evaluated. Answer all questions. Make your best educated guess if you do not know or have not yet determined how to approach this aspect of the business.
Feedback: Applicants to the Startup Challenge and Series A/B Open Pitch will have their applications evaluated by experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and business development experts. These evaluators will provide written feedback for the materials and pitches that teams provide. They evaluate each application on the strength of the business case, financial case, and the trajectory of the team. Judges select the teams that advance to the final round events.
Finals: Based on the written application and video pitch, judges select the teams who become Startup Challenge Finalists and Series A/B Open Pitch Finalists. These teams are invited to enter their respective live pitch round which will occur at Photonics West 2023, in the Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA.
Final pitch decks will need to be provided electronically to the organizers at least 1 day ahead of the Finals.
For Startup Challenge Finalists: A representative from each team will make a 5 minute pitch to a panel of judges. Judges then have 5 minutes to ask questions of the presenter. Judges will decide the top three pitches and the winners will be announced at a final awards ceremony. In all rounds, the decisions of the judges are final.
For Series A/B Open Pitch Finalists: A representative from each team will make a 5 minute pitch to a panel of investors. Teams in this track are not eligible for the Startup Challenge competition or the monetary prizes, but will pitch during the Photonics West in-person events. Pitching to investors is the sole purpose of the event.
For all applicants:
Rules for the Pitch: Oral pitches can be no longer than FIVE (5) MINUTES each. Extra time is not allowed. Application pitches must be submitted in video format. Finals pitches must be made live and in person at Photonics West by the applicant or a team member named in the application. After the Finals pitch, judges will have additional time to ask questions.
Application Fee: There is no fee to enter the competitions for either the Startup Challenge or the Series A/B Open Pitch events. However, applicants selected as finalists will need to pitch in person at Photonics West. You will need to register for Photonics West in order to attend the finals.
Travel: Finals teams for both the Startup Challenge and Series A/B Open Pitch are responsible for making their own arrangements to travel to Photonics West in San Francisco.
A note on disclosure: The written application to participate in the Startup Challenge will be read by a team of evaluators who have been asked to keep the contents of the application confidential, however, no formal guarantee of confidentiality will be provided or implied. Participants should avoid the release of proprietary information, trade secrets, information subject to export control, or ITAR.
By participating, you agree: Participation in the competition means that you agree to have your startup presentation evaluated. Furthermore you allow SPIE to use your name, likeness, and the information provided in the Startup pitch to promote your product and this competition, in print and electronic communication means.
SPIE may document the competition with video and images of the presentations. This material will be used by SPIE to promote the Startup Challenge competition, your pitch, and entrepreneurship in photonics. If you are filmed by SPIE, you may request a copy of the footage.
Additional Questions: If you have questions about eligibility, participation, expectations, sponsorship, or anything related to the Startup Challenge, please contact Emily Bottemiller (email@example.com). For help with any application issues, please contact Nikki Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The global pandemic has impacted all aspects of planning these events and the situation is continually evolving. We intend to organize this event according to appropriate guidelines from local health officials. We will communicate major modifications to this plan to all participants.