How to compete In the Startup Challenge

Startup Challenge helps the founding, funding, and growth of new and innovative businesses located in this tri-county region. It is a five-month competitive business acceleration process that teaches, coaches, mentors, networks, and connects entrepreneurs to the knowledge and resources they need to start successful businesses. Startup Challenge provides free workshops and mentoring to participants, as well as exposure to potential investors, lenders, and business advisors.

Who Is Eligible:

  • Start-ups (not yet operational) and emerging (in launch phase) businesses may apply.
  • Businesses must be located in the Monterey Bay region (Monterey, San Benito, or Santa Cruz counties).
  • The business idea must be your original work (your business, not someone else’s and not a franchise of another business).

Key Dates for Competitors

March 9th:
Deadline for Applications

April 4th:
Qualifying Round Pitches

May 8th:
Startup Challenge Finale

Startup Challenge Divisions

Prepare to apply to Startup Challenge

Submit An Application

When you’re ready to fill out your application, click below on the link to your division. Fill out the application online and click the submit button. Once you have submitted your application, you’ll receive an email confirmation.

Important: In your confirmation email, there will be a link to your application. That link will allow you to edit your application until the deadline. Save that link! It is the only way to get back to edit your application.

The application asks for contact information and then for you to answer questions about your market, how your business will add value for customers, how it will make money, who your business will be competing with and how you will win, and other questions. You can return to editing your application until applications close on March 9th.


Venture –
$30,000 Total Prize Money

Businesses intended to scale nationally or internationally and provide venture capital-level returns in 3-5 years.


Social Venture – $15,000 Total Prize Money

For-profit or not-for-profit businesses that deliver social impact as a part of their mission.

Startup Challenge Main Street icon

Main Street –
$15,000 Total Prize Money

Local and regional businesses that are not intended to scale but will be economically viable.

Startup Challenge student icon

Student –
$1,500 Total Prize Money

Open to all students in middle school through graduate school.

Attend One or More Workshops for Participants

Attend a Creating a Winning Pitch workshop

After you enter you are eligible to attend the Creating a Winning Pitch workshops. The schedule for these workshops will be listed on the Participant Workshops page. The Pitch workshops will be held during  March, after the applications close.

Some additional information you may find useful: