experiences / Duke Startup Challenge

Duke Startup Challenge

Students can further their own ventures through the Duke Startup Challenge, a year-long entrepreneurship competition that offers access to resources, feedback from experienced professionals, and the opportunity to secure seed funding. The Duke Startup Challenge, co-hosted by Duke I&E and the Fuqua School of Business, welcomes individuals or teams and includes tracks for current students, for alumni, and for faculty.

The grand prize winner of the Duke Startup Challenge receives $50,000 for his or her venture. Special cash prizes are also awarded throughout the competition, such as a prize for the best alumni team and the Borchardt Prize, which was endowed by David Cummings (T’02) in 2013 and is awarded to an undergraduate team each year in honor of Professor Frank Borchardt. In 2017, special prizes will be awarded to select teams by the Duke Energy Initiative and by the Biomedical Department of the Pratt School of Engineering.


Founder of Walla

“Winning the Startup Challenge gave me the confidence as a first-time student entrepreneur to keep hustling and iterating on my goal to create meaningful connections in college. After understanding the value of every penny while bootstrapping Walla for a year prior to the Startup Challenge, we were able to accelerate the development of the product exponentially with the financial backings from the competition.”


2013 Winner: Matt Pleatman (E’13)—Refresh Innovations

2014 Winner: Rajvi Mehta (M’17)—Let’s Be Well Red

2015 Winner: Afreen Allam (B’15)—SiNON

2016 Winner: Judy Zhu (E’17)—Walla

2016 Alumni Prize Winner—Tom & Jenny’s, which was co-founded by Tom Thekkekandam (L’10, B’10) and his wife Jenny, who is a dentist, produces tooth-friendly candy that is good for you.

2016 Borchardt Prize Winner—BioMetrix, which was co-founded by Ivonna Dumanyan (E’17) and Gabrielle LeVac (T’14), is a wearable device that collects data to help athletes train safely and effectively.