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SPIE Startup Challenge and Entrepreneur Program

The SPIE Startup Challenge at Photonics West

The SPIE Startup Challenge is a high-stakes, global competition where entrepreneurs with light-enabled products have 5 minutes to pitch their businesses to a team of expert judges. Winning teams share more than $85,000 in cash and other prizes.

Traditionally, the SPIE Startup Challenge is held annually at Photonics West in San Francisco; the largest research conference and trade show for light-based products in North America with over 1,300 companies and 22,000 attendees. In this challenging year, the Startup Challenge's 11th year, the industry-judged competition will be moving to an all-online, live-pitching format.

Save the date: The 2021 Startup Challenge will launch 14 April with our live online kick-off event announcing this year's semifinalists!

Questions? Contact us at innovation@spie.org

Live 2021 kick-off event
14 April 2021 | 9:00AM PT

Register for free  ›


2020 Winners 
Read the press release

Schedule of 2021 online events

Startup Challenge 2021 Kick-off Event
Semifinalist announcement
Startup Funding in 2021 panel discussion
2020 Startup Challenge Winners update
14 April 2021
8:30AM–10:00AM PT
Register >
Virtual Customer Discovery workshop
Mentor office hours
21 April 2021
8:00AM–10:00AM PT
Coming soon
Pitching your Company Virtually pitch clinic
Mentor office hours
28 April 2021
8:00AM–10:00AM PT
Coming soon
Seed Stage Semifinals — Deep Tech
Investor Relations panel discussion
5 May 2021
8:00AM–10:30AM PT
Coming soon
Seed Stage Semifinals — Healthcare
Prototyping and Market Strategy workshop
12 May 2021
8:00AM–10:30AM PT
Coming soon
Pre-Seed Stage Semifinals — Deep Tech
Team Formation and Development workshop
19 May 2021
8:00AM–11:00AM PT
Coming soon
Pre-Seed Stage Semifinals — Healthcare
FDA Shark Tank panel discussion
26 May 2021
8:00AM–11:00AM PT
Coming soon
SPIE Startup Challenge Finals
Welcome keynote
Finals — Deep Tech
Finals — Healthcare
Post-pitch analysis
2 June 2021
8:00AM–11:00AM PT
Coming soon
Post-Event Wrap Up workshop
Including valuation, term sheets, legal matters, and next steps for teams
9 June 2021
8:00AM–10:00AM PT
Coming soon

The high-stakes, global business plan competition for new entreprenuers

Sponsors and Prizes
Schedule and Rules
Tips and Training

Join the Startup Challenge workspace on Slack


Join the coversation with the SPIE Startup Challenge Community

Business strategy, pitch reviews, and competition logistics are all discussed on the SPIE Startup Challenge workspace on Slack.

Send an email to innovation@spie.org to be added to the discussion space.