Is there a big problem in the world that you’re dying to solve? Have you always dreamed of being your own boss? Are you bursting with new ideas? Are you just curious about #startuplife? Looking for a good resume-builder? Then the Zahn Center’s Startup Competitions may be for you…

You’ll gain access to our Lean Startup Bootcamp where you’ll learn the skills you need to start a scalable business, you’ll be introduced to expert mentors who will help you develop your business, AND you’ll have the chance to win seed money to bring your idea to market.

Our 2019 application closed on November 11, 2018. Our application takes place annually, so will open again in September 2019.


  1. September-November: Complete Application online
  2. September-November: Attend Info Sessions, Workshops, Co-Working Hours & Hackathons at the Zahn Center to help you prepare (optional but highly encouraged!)
  3. November 11th: Application closes at 11:59pm
  4. November 12th-20th: Judges review applications
  5. November 21st: You will be notified via email whether or not you made it to the interview round, and you’ll need to respond
  6. November 26th-November 30th: Interviews with Zahn track chairs take place
  7. November 30th: You will be notified via email if you’re chosen as a semi-finalist, and you’ll need to respond
  8. December 6th: Semi-finalist luncheon (attendance is mandatory)
  9. Date TBD (usually end of January, early February): Immersive Retreat Weekend (attendance is mandatory)


  • You must fill out the application in its entirety, including a video.

  • You can apply as an individual, however, in order to compete, you must have at least 2 registered City College undergraduate or graduate students on your team by the last week of January 2019. Learn more in the FAQ section at the bottom of the page.

  • Your startup idea may be for-profit or nonprofit in structure, but it must have a sustainable revenue source.

  • You must identify an outside mentor for your team. Learn more about mentors in the FAQ section at the bottom of this page. 


All applications will be evaluated by an independent panel of investors and entrepreneurs. They will consider the following:

  • Scope of the problem – is the challenge to solve big and bold
  • Value proposition – is the solution appropriate to the problem
  • Financial – is there a likely market to sustain this business and grow
  • Differentiation – is the idea innovative over what’s already in the market
  • Team – capability and commitment of the team to implement the idea

The Four Categories

Zahn Technology Prize

This prize celebrates all things techy. Qualified ideas include transformative new apps, web platforms, database tools, e-commerce sites, or just about anything else powered by technology.

  • up to $1,500 Bootcamp budget
  • $25,000 Grand Prize
  • $5,000 Second Place Prize

Sponsored by the Moxie Foundation

Kaylie Hardware Prize

This category celebrates all things hardware. Qualified startups include physical products and devices that may or may not include a connected (smart) technological aspect.

  • up to $2,000 Bootcamp budget
  • up to $50,000 Grand Prize
  • $5,000 Second Place Prize

Sponsored by Harvey Kaylie of Mini-Circuits

Standard Chartered Women+Tech4NYC Prize

This category was designed to create 50/50 gender parity in the NYC startup ecosystem (Silicon Alley). It encourages students to create groundbreaking technology (as software, hardware, or a combination of the two) that will shape what Silicon Alley is known for, and to become leaders in NYC. For this challenge, qualified teams should be led or co-led by women and its team should be made up of at least 50% women.

  • up to $1,500 Bootcamp budget
  • $25,000 Grand Prize
  • $5,000 Second Place Prize
  • Plus, extra support from advisors at Standard Chartered Bank

Sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank

Zahn Social Impact Prize

This category celebrates changemakers. Qualified startups include nonprofits or for-profit social enterprises, with sustainable revenue models, whose primary objective is social change or environmental stewardship.

  • up to $1,500 Bootcamp budget
  • $25,000 Grand Prize
  • $5,000 Second Place Prize

Sponsored by the Moxie Foundation


Many people have lots of questions about the application process, competition requirements, and commitment. Below we’ve gathered some of the most common questions.


Q: I’m not a City College student. Can I still apply?

A: Yes, you can still apply, as long as you’ve added at least two City College students to your team.

Q: Can I apply as an individual?

A: Yes, you can apply as an individual, as long as you’re a City College student. Remember, in order to compete, you must find at least one more City College student to add to your team no later than January. We do not recommend applying as an individual because it’s a lot to handle on your own!

Q: I have an idea, but I don’t have a team. How can I go about finding people to join my team?

A: Our best advice is to start telling everyone you know about your idea, and reach out to your networks. You can also find students on our Zahn Center Networking Facebook Group.

Q: I don’t have an idea of my own, but I’d like to join the competition. How do I do that?

A: That’s great! We also suggest you use the Zahn Center Networking Facebook Group, but share your skills so that people with ideas can find you.

Q: How far along do I have to be with my idea to compete?

A: We welcome your ideas in all stages, but we mainly work with very early stage startups.

Q: Are there any ideas you won’t consider?

A: We want to hear all ideas, but some ideas just don’t fit into our competition. These include traditional small businesses (brick & mortar shops), song/movie/book ideas, or ideas for things that are currently illegal. Also read about the ideas that we’ve seen before (link on this page under Resources).

Questions? Email katherine@zahncenternyc.com