Venture Incubator and Competition


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 Venture Incubator Competition might be for you…

Learn more about what the competition is all about below.

Application forms are open - APPLY HERE!

The deadline to apply for the Spring Program is Sunday, November 12 at 11:59PM.

What is it?

The Zahn Innovation Center is a startup incubator at The City College of New York that offers programming to encourage entrepreneurial thinking & growth. We believe everyone at CUNY has the potential to be a changemaker, and we want to help you innovate! The venture incubator competition will provide the foundation for the creation of CUNY startup ventures while supporting and strengthening the skillsets of our entrepreneurs to enable success. You apply in Fall for a competitive program that takes place during the Spring 2024 Semester. Your team will participate in required workshops, both on-campus and online, on Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:45, which will help you prepare for a pitch at the end of the semester where you will compete for $15,000 and $5,000 prizes to help you build your startup!

How do I enter the competition?

You’ll need to apply via the application.


Our judges will score your application and the top teams will be invited for an interview. Once interviewed, we’ll let you know if you are selected.

In Fall 2023, The Zahn Innovation Center will run a mini-bootcamp open to all interested students. These mini-bootcamp sessions are highly encouraged and topics will correspond to application questions. More information about the Fall 2023 mini-bootcamp is available.

How can I learn more about the competition?

RSVP for an in-person help session on 11/9 at 12:15pm

What should I expect from the competition?

The competition is an incubator program, so by participating, you’ll gain experience and mentorship. During the Spring 2024 Semester, you’ll attend weekly in-person and virtual workshops about a variety of business topics. You’ll be required to meet with Zahn staff & other industry mentors to track your progress. We’ll give you the education you need to get your idea off the ground, and you’ll work towards building a pitch deck, conducting market research, and creating a basic prototype of your idea. 

Types of ideas that we accept:

  • Physical products
  • Service-based businesses
  • Apps/software
  • Nonprofits & social enterprises
  • Tech-driven innovations
  • This year, we’ll be taking a special look at applications that solve for inequity!

Types of ideas we don’t support:

  • Purely brick and mortar businesses (store fronts, restaurants/cafes/food trucks, boutiques)
  • Multi-Level marketing businesses

Who can apply to the competition?

Our program is for CUNY students, so each team has to have at least one CUNY student on the team. (If you are graduating CUNY in December 2023, you still count as a student). 

Note that while you can apply as an individual, you’ll need to build out your team by the start of the Spring 2024 semester. Teams have a minimum of two individuals and a maximum of five.

What is the deadline to apply? 

Sunday, November 12th, 2023 at 11:59PM. Everyone must apply by this time to be considered for the 2024 Incubator. Interviews will be held after Thanksgiving.

Questions: Email us at

Track Descriptions:

The Kaylie Hardware Prize was developed and sponsored by CCNY Alum Harvey Kaylie, Founder of Mini-Circuits. This category celebrates all things hardware. Qualified startups include physical products and devices that may or may not include a connected (smart) technological aspect.

The Standard Chartered Women + Tech Prize is sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank as part of the Women in Technology Incubator at the Zahn Center. The category celebrates the role of women in building innovative businesses leveraging technology and finding solutions to social inequities. Startups in this category must be led by women and have a team made up of at least 50% women.

The Zahn Social Impact Prize honors CCNY Alum Irwin Zahn. This category acts as a catalyst for the spread of social entrepreneurship on campus, and encourages students to develop a global perspective on impact. Startups in this category are challenged to build ventures with a sustainable revenue model, whose primary objective is social change or environmental stewardship. They may pursue either a nonprofit or for-profit model.

The Zahn Software Prize honors CCNY Alum Irwin Zahn. Startups in this category are challenged to develop ventures that use technology to solve problems otherwise untouched. Their products include transformative new apps, software, database tools, e-commerce sites, or technological devices.

Last Updated: 04/16/2024 12:38