2021 Dempsey Startup Competition
Submission Deadline04/26/2021

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.

The 2021 competition will be virtual. Several small adjustments have been made to the structure of the competition in order to deliver all events online. 

  • 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. 

  • We will announce all prize winners in a Video Awards Ceremony on Friday, May 28.

2021 Competition Timeline (updated 2/15/2021):

  • Monday, April 5 - Applications due by 11:59pm

  • Thursday, April 8 - Tuesday, April 13 - Screening Round (Round 1) takes place online

  • Tuesday, April 13 (after 3pm) - Top 30 teams advancing to the Investment Round are notified

  • Thursday, April 15 (6pm) - Investment Round Resource Night for Top 30 teams (mandatory)

  • Monday, April 19 - Startup Financials Workshop

  • Tuesday, April 20 - Pitch Workshop

  • Wednesday, April 21 - Friday, April 23 - Office Hours with mentors

  • Monday, April 26 - 60-second Pitch Videos + 1 Page Summaries Due

  • Wednesday, May 5 - Virtual Investment Round

  • Wednesday, May 19 - Coaching Round

  • Friday, May 21 - 12-15 page Business Plan due (12pm)

  • Wednesday, May 26 - Sweet 16 

  • Thursday, May 27 - Final Round (four teams present via webinar)

  • Friday, May 28 - Video Awards Presentation (12pm)


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 2020 for the 2021 competition), you are considered a current student in the competition.
    • ​Taking the impact of COVID-19 into consideration, students who have deferred an academic term during the 2020-2021 academic year may still be eligible. Please contact Sarah Studer (sstuder@uw.edu) to discuss your eligibility.
  • 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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