Student start-up InfernoGuard, an early wildfire detection company, won the grand prize of $150,000 yesterday (May 25) at VentureCat, Northwestern University’s pitch competition.
A collaboration between the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Kellogg School of Management, the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center and The Garage, VentureCat annually showcases 25 of the most promising college-based startup teams from five industry leads to compete for over $325,000 in prize money.
Since 2014, VentureCat has awarded over $1.5 million in non-dilutive equity. (without giving equity) financing.
After two years of virtual programming, the one-day event offered both in-person programming and online streaming. Students have proposed business solutions for a variety of global issues – from food insecurity to carbon emissions. The teams pitched behind closed doors in front of the judges earlier in the day before a select few advanced to the final round.
InfernoGuard, which provides rapid wildfire detection and notifications to large property owners, won first place and $160,000; second place and $50,000 went to Beni, a browser extension that finds high-quality second-hand alternatives to big name brands; and Zuri Fertility, an app that more accurately tracks human fertility, won third place and $25,000. Zuri Fertility also won the People’s Favorite Award and an additional $2,000.
Amount VentureCat participants have raised since 2014
To qualify for the final round, semi-finalists had to win their category – commercial products and services, consumer products and services, energy and sustainability, life sciences and medical innovations or social impact – or win the only “generic” place. “. InfernoGuard, which won the energy and sustainability category, was represented by CEO and co-founder Kevin Kaspar, a sophomore at the McCormick School of Engineering.
Students on competing teams represented the Kellogg School of Management; the School of Communication; Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; McCormick; the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications; Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Pritzker School of Law.
Originally called Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC), VentureCat was introduced in 2007. VentureCat’s 2022 season was supported by volunteers who helped mentor, advise and judge. The Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice co-sponsored the event with Lanny and Sharon Martin. Lanny Martin chairs Northwestern’s Board of Directors and earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from Northwestern.
The competition continues to set itself apart from other pitch competitions around the world by arranging competitors in five industry-specific tracks, helping to showcase the expertise of each school at the University.
VentureCat alumni have raised more than $500 million in venture capital since 2014. Alumni report being accepted into prestigious accelerator programs, successfully joining exiting companies, and creating jobs through the growth of their company.
For more information on the winners and semi-finalists, visit The Garage results page.