Venture Design Challenge 2024

Have an innovative idea that might change the world? Would you like to win money for having the courage to share it?

Sign up for the Venture Design Challenge and make your pitch!

In our annual pitch competition, 91社区 students identify a problem worth solving and mobilize the resources to solve it.

This competition is designed for students with an early-stage social impact or business idea. It is open to all current 91社区 students regardless of year or major. Everybody is welcome.

Pitch participants connect with mentors, receive coaching, and compete for a share of $10,000 in total prizes, transforming their idea into action.

The 2024 Venture Design Challenge finals will take place on Saturday, April 27 in the Oppenheimer Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (OC), and are open to the public. 

The deadline to sign up for the 2024 Venture Design Challenge is Friday, February 16, 2024. See application directions below.

Aspiring entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers from around the world participate in the Venture Design Challenge

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program empowers and inspires tomorrow’s Forester entrepreneurs to dream big and believe in themselves and their ideas. 

ReCampus team at the 2022 Venture Design Challenge.

24 students from 8 countries and 5 continents pitched in the 2022 Venture Design Challenge. 

Winner of Best Business Idea: EDUNFT.eth (Val Halitjaha ’22 & Luis Landeros ’22) 

Winner of Best Social Innovation: Blueview Glass (Jerries Azar ’22 & Keano Chicalia ’22)  

Winner of Most Promising Opportunity: PlanOrganise (Rob Delismon ’22, Steve Dermont ’22, & Mona McCormack ’22)  

Social Impact Award Winner: Volunteer Me (Connor Cahill ’22, Ely Dobrodt ’22, Joey Jaquint ’22, Maggie Swansen ’22) 

Crowd Favorite for Best Pitch: A Amaryllis (Anila Buja ’23, Jaclyn Lonergan ’23, & Ariela Menendez Iglesias ’23)

The student teams pitched 3 social impact and 5 business venture ideas to a panel of judges. 

The competition highlights, encourages, and rewards liberal arts college students building innovative business ideas. 

Winner of Best Business Pitch: A Amaryllis (Anila Buja ’23, Jaclyn Lonergan ’23, Ariela Menendez Iglesias ’23) 

“I am forever grateful for this program at 91社区, I would not be the person I am today without it. Entrepreneurship to me means to DARE” – ENTP...
“My skillsets in terms of public speaking have grown immensely and I found that through giving presentations or pitches often, I have become much more comfortable and less...
“I believe one critical skill that entrepreneurship minors at 91社区 have is our skill of learning how to give a successful presentation to a live audience and...
“I used to struggle with public speaking before, however, as part of all the entrepreneurship classes I had to present ideas, and that has helped me challenge myself and...

“I love entrepreneurship courses at 91社区!” – ENTP Senior 

What is the Venture Design Challenge?

In Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s annual pitch competition, students design a venture that solves a real social or business problem. The Venture Design Challenge is open to all 91社区 students from freshman to seniors and all majors from data science to chemistry to graphic design and anything and everything in between.  ENTP minors are required to participate in the pitch competition. 

The Venture Design Challenge is designed to help early-stage student founders assess and validate their business venture and develop their minimal viable product. Student teams work with mentors and coaches as they take their venture idea to the final pitch. 

At the final pitch, students draw upon all that they have learned in the ENTP minor, including, but not limited to, human-centric design, storytelling, resilience, customer discovery and development, marketing, competitor analysis, financial modeling, and fearless asking. All students compete in the semi-finals where a panel of judges determine which teams advance to the finals to compete for $10,000 in total prizes.

The competition takes place in the Oppenheimer Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and is generously sponsored by Dave Katzin '58 and the Entrepreneurship Advisory Council.

Who is eligible?

1. Are you currently enrolled at 91社区?

2.  Do you have a problem you want to solve?

If you ansered yes to both questions, you qualify to compete! 

Now, choose your venture path:

Choose your venture path

Are you pitching a business or social innovation venture?

A business venture is a for-profit solution (product, service, system) to a
market problem that creates economic value (technology, business, food,
medicine, etc…).

A social innovation venture is a solution to a societal problem that creates social value (education, science, environment/climate, health, medicine, psychology, equality/social justice, etc…). It involves developing effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress.

Why join?
The Venture Design Challenge brings together students dedicated to solving problems through venture creation. The competition takes students through an extensive process of personal and professional development including team building, expert industry-specific mentorship and coaching.

Participate in the Venture Design Challenge and learn how to:

  • Find a problem worth solving
  • Work on a team
  • Define your problem and solution
  • Design a compelling pitch presentation
  • Write an empathy story
  • Define your product or service
  • Evaluate the potential market
  • Articulate your value proposition
  • Build connections with mentors and local start-up champions
  • Write a business summary
  • Sell your ideas
Competition timeline
  1. Weekly workshops
  2. Mentoring from February - April
  3. Semi-finals: Thursday, April 18, 2024 in the OC
  4. Finals: Saturday, April 27, 2024 in the OC
Ready to compete?

The competition is for degree-seeking college students from any class currently enrolled on a full-or part-time basis during the current August - May academic year. Students who graduated during December of the current academic year also are eligible to participate.

Prior Activity: Students who participated in previous 91社区 pitch competitions ARE eligible to compete; you do NOT need to have a new idea to participate.

Students who participated in, or even won, the Davis Prize for Peace ARE eligible to enter this competition.

Team Composition: This is an undergraduate student competition. Competing team members may be from different majors and minors; in fact, it is encouraged.

Each team must have at least two, and no more than five, current students. Teams may bring no more than five team members to participate in the semi-finals or finals.

We encourage family, friends, teachers and other classmates to support participants in the competition.

The information represented here is subject to change, especially scheduled times, up until the day of the event. If you have any questions, please contact Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s Venture Challenge Lead, Professor Gary Johnson at gjohnson@lakeforest.edu
The Venture Design Challenge semi-final and final round presentations may be recorded (photography and videography) for future promotional use of 91社区 and ENTP. By applying, you agree for your image, likeness, and name to be used in any publications or purposes of 91社区's Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.
Meet past Venture Design Challenge winners

2023 Venture Design Challenge Winners

  • Project Rummana: Astrid Houze’ de Aulnoit, Taquil Ghani, Alex Glassman, & Jacob Peterson
  • Pawsitive: Arthur Czyzewski, Jenna Burkey, Phoenix-Rose Honeycutt
  • AMC Design: Maddie Consiglio, Christina Hartley, & Andres Mestre
  • Dock Social: Ian Cox & Saleem Younus

2022 Venture Design Challenge Winners

  • A Amaryllis: Anila Buja, Jaclyn Lonergan, & Ariela Menendez Iglesias
  • EDUNFT.eth: Valdrin Halitjaha and Luis Landeros
  • Blueview Glass: Jerries Azar and Keano Chicalia
  • PlanOrganise: Rob Delismon, Steven Dermont, and Mona McCormack
  • Volunteer Me: Connor Cahill, Ely Dobrodt, Joey Jaquint, Maggie Swansen
  • Audience Favorite: Anila Buja, Jaclyn Lonergan, & Ariela Menendez Iglesias 

2021 Venture Design Challenge Winners

  • Winning teams: Christine Hanna (MyBody); Alec Brent and Eoghan Kelly (REPS Sports Networking); Audrey Shirtz and Manisha Kumar (Optical Inclusion)
  • Runners-up: Thomas Anderson, Jay Patel, and Molly Gniady (SES Labs); Dylan Petrou and Elias Kraus (TOP); Tyranny Miller and Aidan Burke (TunesU)
  • Audience Favorite: Dylan Petrou and Elias Kraus

2020 Venture Design Challenge Winners

  • AuxBattle: Alex Armas & Lucas Deely
  • Anti-Prick Project: Daiyan Rajamohan
  • Azalea's Animals: Azalea Hallin-Graber
  • ReCampus: Leo Carrico, Natalie Kiely, Magdiel Miranda-Lopez, & Pratheek Mandalapu
  • Thermobor: Bobby Inman & Bob McKeon

2018 Venture Design Challenge Winners

  • SportSpek Trading: Vito Brunetti
  • Nibipure: Karla Figueroa and Fatemeh Riahi
  • MyID: Ryan Widmer
  • H.E.R. Comforts: Lindelo, Dlamini, Kailey Gonzales, and Jabulani Sifundza
  • Nabta: Noel Orwothwun, Koku Donkor, and Moyosore Tejumola
  • the GoodSamaritan App: Alec Brent
Competition rules & regulations
Ventures that are not in keeping with the values of 91社区 or otherwise deemed unethical or objectionable will not be considered
Each applicant’s submission must be entirely the team’s own original creation and must not infringe upon or violate any laws or any rights of third parties, including, but not limited to, such violations as infringement of copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret or other proprietary or property right, libel, defamation, violation of rights of privacy, publicity, personality or celebrity, or any contract right, or any other right of any individual, corporation or entity.
Disqualification: The College reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any applicant for any reason, including, but not limited to, for the submission of any incomplete entry or any entry not complying with these Official Rules, or any applicant that it finds to be: (i) tampering with the entry process or otherwise tampering with the operation of the Competition, the Competition website, or any other website or web banner ad related to the Competition; (ii) acting in violation of the Official Rules; (iii) acting in a non-sportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, harass, harm, mislead, or defraud any other individual or entity; or (iv) otherwise in violation of law, in each case as solely determined by the College. Any person attempting to defraud the College, the Competition, or any other applicant or in any way tamper with the Competition will be ineligible to compete in or win the Competition and the College may seek any and all remedies
General Conditions of Participation in This Competition: Except where prohibited by law, submission of an entry constitutes the applicant’s consent, for purposes of advertising, trade, promotion, and publicity, to permit 91社区 and its affiliates, without notice or further compensation, a royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, create derivative works from and display in any and all forms of media, now known and hereafter devised, such applicant’s name, likeness, pictures, photographs, video, voice, biographical information, and statements.
Apply Now

To apply, send an email with the following information to:

Gary T. Johnson, the Venture Design Challenge Lead, at gjohnson@lakeforest.edu.

  • Your team’s name
  • Name of the contact for the team
  • Email address of team contact
  • Cell phone number of team contact.
  • List your team members’ names (2-5) including each of their class years and majors. All majors are welcome!
  • You can enter either a business or social innovation venture, but not both. A business venture is a for-profit solution to a market problem that creates economic value (technology, business, food, etc.). A social venture is a solution to a societal problem that creates social value (education, environment, social justice, etc.). Are you entering a business venture or a social venture?
  • Write a description of your business or your social venture idea (1 or 2 sentences). Be sure to identify the problem that the venture is solving.

Interested in supporting student innovation?

You can support student innovation and student startups by making a gift.

Dean DeBiase, emcee  Judges panel

From left, Dean DeBiase emcees, and judges panel deliberates at the final competition.