News & Events

Students brainstorm business ideas during StartupNU on Nov. 9.

Students brainstorm business plans at StartupNU

Startups from scratch

StartupNU: From idea to business plan in two days

By Rhonda Gillespie

11/14/2013 -
In reality, it could take years to get a business up and running. With StartupNU, participants had two days.

Now in its second year, the program formerly known as the Startup Incinerator afforded over 100 Northwestern students on Nov. 9 and 10 a chance to form teams and pitch ideas for business startups.

This year’s competition ran from 9 a.m. Saturday to 3 p.m. Sunday, giving students 30 hours to change the world.

"It definitely helps us put whatever we're learning at Kellogg into action," said Richie Khandelwal ’14, whose business plan for life-saving birth kits recently took first place at the C.K. Prahalad Case Competition.

Sharing experience

For StartupNU, Khandelwal and his team of four pitched an idea on fuel cell storage system and thermal electric generator. The team included Kellogg and McCormick students exchanging talents and ideas on how to use the energy industry idea and turn it into a money-making business venture.

Christopher Brown, a second year McCormick Engineering Management major, said StartupNU is a “low-risk way to dip your feet in creating a startup. You can learn the ropes of what a startup is.”

Giving up a weekend to be shut in with potential business partners from across majors and disciplines while getting invaluable feedback from faculty and experienced mentors hardly seemed like a sacrifice to many participants.

Khandelwal’s teammate Nick Houshower ‘15 called StartupNU "a really good hands-on sort of practical introduction to a lot of the issues I expect I will be facing in my future career."

More than just a competition, StartupNU is a meeting of the minds between Kellogg, McCormick and other Northwestern students who have innovations to share but whose paths might not otherwise cross.

"(StartupNU) is meant to get students closer to what it's like in the real world” said Michael Marasco, director of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “It's about having very well-performing teams with multiple backgrounds. When you bring very smart people together with different backgrounds, magic can happen.” 

Terrance Wallace '14, Eric Lee '14 and Harsha Dronamraju '14 took the top spot for their startup Fall Proof. They received $500.

Last year’s winner, License Buddy was an idea by Jeremy O'Briant '14 to help licensed professionals manage their continuing education requirements.

Further resources: