Charlotte Venture Challenge

The Charlotte Venture Challenge is the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s annual event highlighting campus research, innovation and community partnerships. CEI provides workshops and events designed to help faculty, researchers, students, entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups commercialize their technology or venture. The program prepares participants for further funding opportunities such as NC IDEA, SBIR/STTR, NSF I-Corps Teams and NCBiotech grants.

Since its inception in 2001, the Charlotte Venture Challenge competition has produced and highlighted some of the Southeast’s most successful early-stage companies. In the last three years, over 300 start-up companies entered the competition for the opportunity to present to potential investors, first customers and the chance to win over $150,000 in cash prizes. During the final rounds of competition, finalists will present to angel and venture capital investors and large potential customers (Fortune 500 corporations).

Program Benefits

  • Customer Discovery
  • Mentorship
  • Network Building
  • Go/No-Go decision to move forward
  • Teams are better prepared to compete for NC IDEA Seed grant, Charlotte Challenge and angel investment

Team Qualifications

  • Successful participants and teams should be flexible and agile.
  • Team with an innovation-driven venture suitable for national or international market
  • Market testing, Minimal Viable Product or Beta Prototype
  • Can you answer the question, “Does my innovation have me solving a problem that many people want (or need) me to fill?


Teams will be expected to make a commercial viability decision at the end of the program. Successful completion of the program will benefit teams in their search for funding.

Charlotte Venture Challenge: Student Edition

The Charlotte Venture Challenge: Student Edition, held annually at The Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte, focuses on student entrepreneurs looking to make an impact with their ideas, innovation and research.

This event includes:

  • 49er Impact Pitch Finals – The final 49er Impact student teams will pitch their ideas to a panel of experts.
  • Student Alley – A showcase of the pitch semi-finalists.
  • Research Alley – A showcase of UNC Charlotte student research.
  • The Student Experience Panel – This panel will feature University and community leaders as they discuss their involvement in critical student pathways across campus. Students, faculty and community members will learn about a variety of opportunities for students to gain critical career competencies – including entrepreneurial thinking – and how they can get involved.
  • Award presentations – Awards will be presented to the top student pitches and crowd favorites from Student Alley and Research Alley.