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Winning students presenting their startup project

Startup Showcase


The Startup Showcase is a student business startup competition, is sponsored by the George R. and Martha Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Illinois State University. Any current ISU student may register to compete. The event is designed to link contestants to support resources and help them develop connections with potential investors, mentors, and the larger business community. Students will compete for prize packages of financial support for their start-up business. A few past winners include Packback (featured ABC Television's Shark Tank), Open Source Classroom, BizzBaits, and First Hand Museum.

This year's competition will be held on November 8, 2024.

2023 Competition Financial Support Awards

1st Place - $10,000
2nd Place - $6,000
3rd Place -$4,000
Four Other Finalists - $1,000

Any student who is awarded funds in this competition must be an active and enrolled student at the time of the award. The student will have two years from the date of the award to spend down all funds. All expenditures must be related to the startup/operation of the business the award was granted for at the Startup Showcase competition.

Who Should Enter

Any student with a developed business idea should consider entering. It is not necessary to have a fully-developed business plan, just the ability to answer a few basic questions about your business idea. Prior to competition, all registered competitors will be briefed on how the competition works and will have the opportunity to practice their presentations. Aren’t sure where to start? Please contact us at (309) 438-2994 . We will be happy to answer any questions.

  • Eligibility Requirements

    • All competitors must be at least 18 years of age on the day of the competition.
    • Startup Showcase is open to any full or part-time student currently enrolled in a degree program at Illinois State University. Graduate students may enter.
    • Entrants may be individuals or teams. Non-students may be members of the business’s advisory board or management, but the competing team must be comprised solely of students meeting the eligibility requirements above.
    • Student members of the founding team must hold, in aggregate, a majority ownership stake in the company.
    • Individuals may be a member of only one team.
    • Teams and individuals are limited to one application.
    • The business may not have received more than $20,000 in outside investment prior to the day of the competition.
    • The spirit of this competition is to support new, independent, seed-stage firms. To that end, the following business types are not eligible:
      • Purchases of franchises (starting a franchise is acceptable)
      • Spin-offs of existing firms
      • Purchase of existing firms
      • Purchase of equity in existing firms
      • Any other business type deemed by the event organizers to be inconsistent with the event's mission
  • General Rules

    • Disqualification: The Means Center reserves the right to disqualify, at its sole discretion, any individual or team for any reason. Reasons for disqualification may include, but are not limited to: plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty, infringement or misappropriation of the intellectual property of others, failure to comply with competition rules and requirements, violation of established laws and regulations, promotion of illegal, illicit, or unethical ideas.
    • Confidentiality: Startup Showcase is a public forum and as such, we cannot guarantee the confidentiality of any application or presentation material. No individual associated with the event will sign any non-disclosure agreement and no promises of any kind concerning confidentiality are made by the Means Center or Illinois State University.
    • No Guarantees: No guarantees of funding are expressed or implied. Neither the Means Center, Illinois State University, nor any person or group associated with this event make any claim as to the reliability of information presented by contestants or their representatives.
    • Use of Materials: The Means Center and Illinois State University may, at their sole discretion, use any materials submitted to the competition for publicity or for internal purposes. Application materials will not be returned to participants.