• Size of the Photonics Market
  • Industry Events
  • Prism Awards
    Startup Challenge
    Cash and Prizes
    Tips and Training
    Winners and Finalists
    The Event
    Past Events
  • Export Information
  • Advocacy and Industry Support
  • Marketing Opportunities
  • optics.org
  • Training & Education
  • Recruitment Services
  • Free Business Information
  • Exhibitor Directory
  • Photonics Clusters
  • Industry Related Links
Print PageEmail Page

Startup Challenge Eligibility, Structure, Rules

Eligibility: Participants must have an optics or photonics technology or application that they wish to publicly present as the basis for a viable new business. Established companies must be pre-revenue at the time of the competition. Pre-revenue in this case means revenue generated from products sold, not funding acquired through investors, grants, or other support. The focus is on new businesses and potential startups. Therefore, companies that have already sold products are ineligible. Students, post-docs, professors and other first-time business starters are encouraged to apply.

A note on disclosure: The written application to participate in the Startup Challenge will be read by a team of evaluators who have been asked to keep the contents of the application confidential, however, no formal guarantee of confidentiality will be provided or implied. The oral presentations required in February 2015 to participate in the Startup Challenge do constitute disclosure.

Structure of the Competition: All applicants will have their written application evaluated by a team of expert judges. Judges will select the 20 semi-final pitches that will enter the first round of the competition from the initial pool of applicants. 

The semi-final round will take place at Photonics West on Tuesday afternoon (10 February, 2015) and is structured exactly like the final round, but will not have an audience. A panel of judges (different from the initial pool) will select the top 8 presenters from Tuesday who will go on to the final competition on Wednesday afternoon (11 February). 

The final round will occur in public, with judges deciding the top 3 pitches and announcing the winners shortly after the last presenter has finished. The decisions of the judges are final.

Rules for the Pitch: Oral pitches for both rounds of the Startup Challenge can be no longer than THREE (3) MINUTES each. You may use a maximum of TWO (2) SLIDES. Extra time and additional materials are not allowed. Pitches must be made live and in person at Photonics West by the applicant or a team member named in the application.

Participation in the competition means that you agree to have your startup presentation evaluated publicly. Furthermore you allow SPIE to use your name, likeness, and the information provided in the Startup pitch to promote your product and this competition, in print and electronic communication means. 

Founding Partner


Supporting Sponsors

Edmund Optics


Open Photonics

National Science Foundation