2020 Dempsey Startup Competition
Submission Deadline04/06/2020

The Dempsey Startup Competition (Dempsey Startup), organized by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, provides a real-world experience for student entrepreneurs, promoting student ideas and new venture creation to the entrepreneurial community. Participating in the Dempsey Startup gives students practice in the dynamics of venture creation by developing an idea, putting together a founding team, writing a business plan, and presenting to investors. In fact, many ideas that started as a class project turned into a start-up company through the competition process! The Dempsey Startup is open to enrolled, degree-seeking undergrads and grad students at accredited colleges and universities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia and Alaska.

UPDATE: In light of the University of Washington's decision to move all Spring quarter instruction to a virtual format, we are transitioning all live rounds to a virtual experience using Zoom. We will make several small adjustments to the Investment Round of the competition so that we can provide a more manageable and more robust virtual experience - please see below.

  • 30 teams will advance from the Screening Round to the Investment Round instead of 36.
  • The top 30 teams will be asked to submit a video recording of a 60-second pitch, and will also deliver their pitch during the first hour of the live virtual event.

In addition, we have cancelled the annual Dinner + Awards Ceremony that was scheduled for May 21, 2020. We will announce the winners via email and social media, and we hope to convene the prize-winning teams and judges in the Fall.

2020 Competition Timeline (updated 3/19/2020):

  • Monday, April 6 - Applications due by 11:59pm
  • Thursday, April 9 - Sunday, April 12 - Screening Round (Round 1) takes place online
  • Monday, April 13 (afternoon) - Top 36 teams advancing to the Investment Round are announced 
  • Wednesday, April 15 (6pm) - Resource Night for Top 36 teams (mandatory)
  • Week of April 20-24 - Office Hours with Entrepreneurs for Top 36 teams
  • (TBD) Wednesday, April 22 - Pitch Workshop for Top 36 teams (strongly recommended)
  • (TBD) Thursday, April 23 - Financial Workshop for Top 36 teams (strongly recommended)
  • Friday, April 24 at 12pm - Deadline for Top 36 teams to submit a 1-page summary and 60-second pitch video for judges to review prior to the Investment Round
  • Wednesday, April 29 - VIRTUAL Investment Round (Round 2) - Sweet 16 teams will be announced at 6pm
  • Thursday, May 14 - Coaching Round (Round 3, mandatory for Sweet 16 teams, non-elimination)
  • Monday, May 18 - Deadline for Sweet 16 teams to submit 12-15 page business plan
  • Thursday, May 21 (7:30am-12pm) - VIRTUAL Sweet 16 (Round 4)
  • Thursday, May 21 (1-4pm) - VIRTUAL Final Four (Round 5)
  • CANCELLED: Thursday, May 21 (6-9pm) - Annual Dinner + Awards Ceremony at W Seattle

Dempsey Startup Competition Rules

Teams in the Dempsey Startup Competition must comply with the following criteria to be eligible for the competition:

  • Teams entering the University of Washington’s Dempsey Startup Competition must have at least one full-time or part-time student on the team who is enrolled in a degree seeking program at an accredited college or university in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia or Alaska. If you graduated in Summer quarter of the current academic year or later (e.g., graduated at the end of summer quarter 2019 for the 2020 competition), you are considered a current student in the competition.
  • The business plan must be developed during the student’s tenure at the university. Students working with outside entrepreneurs must create an original business plan. 
  • All submissions to the Dempsey Startup Competition must live up to the higher ideals of the University of Washington. Your idea must be appropriate for a university-sponsored event. The Buerk Center reserves the right to disqualify any entry that in its judgment violates the letter or the spirit of the competition or exceeds the bounds of social convention.
  • If the company is revenue positive, the company’s actual annual revenue OR seed funding cannot exceed $500k. Please note this is different than the company’s projected revenue. This rule does not apply to projected revenue.
  • Eligible students can form a team with non-student business community members or alumni, but there are restrictions to this involvement (see below). Students must have an ownership stake in the business or the potential for equity or employment.
  • In the Investment Round, no more than four team members, including both students and non-students, can present the new business concept to the judges. In the Sweet Sixteen and Final Rounds of the competition, only student team members will be allowed to make presentations to the judges.
  • Only student members of a team may use the Startup Tree, Office Hours and competition workshop resources. Non-student members may not reach out to mentors nor should they attend any Office Hours appointments, even if accompanied by a student. These resources are for students only.
  • Only student team members are eligible to earn prize money. No payments will be made to non-students.
  • Teams that have participated in the Jones + Foster Accelerator may not apply to the Dempsey Startup Competition.

Note: The Director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship reserves the right to make the final determination of the eligibility of submitted business ventures.


The Dempsey Startup Competition considers all submitted business plans as confidential and treats all team matters accordingly. However, we cannot guarantee complete confidentiality for proprietary matters.

Therefore, we strongly encourage any team with concerns regarding intellectual property, copyright, or patent confidentiality to either contact their University’s intellectual property office (for University-developed discoveries) or competent legal counsel (for non-University related discoveries). The University of Washington, the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, the Foster School of Business, and the organizers of the competition are not responsible for any proprietary information and/or intellectual property included in a submitted business plan.

Ultimately, protection of sensitive materials is the sole responsibility of the individual or team participating in the competition.

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