Deadline: November 13, 2018 00:00 CET| Apply here
[Oops, the opportunity has already expired. Sign up to AlphaGamma weekly newsletters to stay ahead of the game]
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 written application. Pre-revenue, in this case, means revenue generated from products sold, not funding acquired through investors, grants, or other support.
Dates: February 3-6, 2019
Prizes: Winner will receive $10,000 from JENOPTIK + $5,000 in products from Edmund Optics
Location: San Francisco, the United States

SPIE Startup Challenge 2019

SPIE Startup Challenge is a high-stakes, global competition where entrepreneurs in photonics have just 5 minutes each to pitch their businesses to a team of expert judges, and vie for over $85,000 in cash, prizes, promotion, and more.

Held annually at Photonics West, this competitive event invites new entrepreneurs to pitch their light-based technology business plan to a team of corporate development experts and venture capitalists.

The best pitchers receive cash prizes and are selected to attend a week long entrepreneur boot camp to refine their ideas and make further contacts with experts.

2019 Startup Challenge Prizes

With over $85,000 in cash, prizes, promotion, and training, this is your chance to be seen, learn, and win!

  • Winner: $10,000 from JENOPTIK + $5,000 in products from Edmund Optics
  • 2nd Place: $5,000
  • 3rd Place: $2,500

Top 3 also receive:

  • Promotion on,, social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), press releases, as well as the Photonics West Show Daily
  • A ticket to PRISM awards gala reception and banquet
  • Additional opportunities to connect at future SPIE Events like the Photonics Fast Pitch Lunch

Finalists receive:

  • Additional training opportunity with NSF I-Corps instructors (and may qualify for I-Corps funding)
  • Promotion on,, social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), press releases, and Photonics West Show Daily
  • Registration reimbursement for future training
  • Travel reimbursement for future training
  • $3,500 value to each finalist

Two semi-finalists can win an “Early Stage Travel Award” (travel reimbursement and pass to the Photoncis West conference), a $2,500 value.

The early stage travel award will go to 2 of the semi-finalists, to be selected by the judges of the written applications.

Semi-Finalists receive:

  • Expert feedback on business model from photonics industry leaders
  • Networking lunch with mentors and investors
  • Semi-finalist promotion on,, social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), and press release
  • Product Demo time on PW Exhibit Hall floor – Startup Alley
  • $2,000 value to each semi-finalist

All Startup Challenge Applicants receive:

  • Expert feedback on their technology and business model from photonics industry leaders based on their answers to the application

Structure of the Competition

Judges will select approximately 20 semi-final pitches that will enter the live pitch round of the competition from the initial pool of applicants. The applicants are divided among three topical tracks.

  • The Semi-Final Round

The semi-final round will take place Tuesday afternoon, 5 February, at Photonics West 2019 and is structured exactly like the final round, and is open to all attendees.

A panel of judges, different from the initial pool, will select the top 6 presenters from Tuesday who will go on to the final competition on Wednesday afternoon.

  • The Final Round

The final round will occur in public on Wednesday, 6 February at Photonics West 2019, in the Moscone Center.

Judges will decide the top 3 pitches and announce the winners shortly after the last presenter has finished. The decisions of the judges are final.

Interested in applying for the SPIE Startup Challenge 2018? Register your participation by following the registration link and taking the suggested steps.

For more opportunities, check our opportunities section and subscribe to our weekly newsletters.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here