The McCloskey New Venture Competition focuses on ventures that have not yet been launched or are at their earliest stages of launch. An eligible venture is one that has generated less than $500,000 in cumulative revenues, has received less than $500,000 in external financing and has been in operation less than three years. Eligibility will be determined at the sole discretion of the IDEA Center.

Teams can be led by the following:

  • All undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni from the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame students from all Colleges, all majors and all programs are encouraged to enter.
  • Local community members (St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties only)
  • Students from other local universities (including St. Mary’s College, Holy Cross College, Bethel College, IUSB, Goshen College and Trine University)
  • High School students from local schools in the three county region (St. Joseph, Elkhart and Marshall counties only)  

Participants may compete as individuals, but are encouraged to create teams (maximum of 7 per team) with a variety of different skill sets and strengths. Individuals may participate on more than one team.(see below)

It is our desire that the McCloskey New Venture Competition be an exceptional learning experience for our students. Many Notre Dame students are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, but do not YET have their own ideas for new ventures. Inviting students to participate on faculty/staff, alumni and community teams is an excellent way for our students to learn and to experience the world of startups through the lens of a trusted entrepreneur. To this end, we have determined that Notre Dame faculty, staff and alumni ventures, as well as community ventures, may compete in the McCloskey Competition as long as a current Notre Dame or St.Mary's student is a participant on the team: student(s) must be involved in the business planning process, supporting efforts to conduct market research, developing the business model, and developing the required submission. Student(s) on the team must also present the venture in the video for the Round 2 submission and in the semifinal and final presentation rounds. Adding students to the team will only be required after round 1: all faculty/staff, alumni and community ventures are welcome to enter the competition by submitting the Round One requirements. Those teams advancing to round 2 will be required to add at least 1 student to the team. We will provide detailed information about how to make these connections.

Founder/Student relationships regarding any equity, payment if prize money is awarded, or ongoing involvement with startup is at the sole discretion of the founder/student relationship agreement and should be discussed upon initial meeting.  The IDEA Center will only require notification of said agreement upon advancement to the Semifinal Round.  

ND FACULTY or University Researchers (faculty members, graduate students, post doctoral researchers, or lab members)

Any new venture submission based on or incorporating university intellectual property must ensure this work has been disclosed to the IDEA Center before the venture can be substantively advanced in the competition. The confidential disclosure of a university invention or research program element with commercial potential can be completed online through the INVENTOR Portal. For more information on what constitutes university intellectual property, please see the University IP Policy.

Nonprofits may participate in the competition but must demonstrate income generation potential beyond traditional philanthropy. We view a social enterprise – regardless of the type of entity formation – as designed to operate like a for-profit business, which must include a revenue-generating income stream in addition to traditional philanthropic sources (donations, grants, foundations, etc.). All entries in the McCloskey New Venture Competition will be judged on their ability to become financially self-sustaining, that is, to generate revenue in excess of costs.


A “social venture” is financially sustainable business enterprise that produces significant, positive change by addressing a pressing social, humanitarian or environmental challenge. The social mission must be at the core of the business enterprise.  In other words, it is core to the mission and vision of the business, the result of a deliberate set of activities focused on the social mission – not simply a charitable add-on. At the IDEA Center, we believe that the best way to ensure lasting, significant change as it relates to social, humanitarian and/or environmental challenges is through viable, sustainable business opportunities.  How can we be a “force for good” consistent with the social mission of the University of Notre Dame?  In other words, “doing good” and “making money” are NOT mutually exclusive.

For the McCloskey New Venture Competition, teams who wish to be considered for the social impact award must clearly and objectively articulate their social impact.

Past participants in the McCloskey competition may enter the same venture in subsequent McCloskey competitions only if the business model has changed significantly in response to feedback provided. Eligibility determination is at the sole discretion of the IDEA Center.