Capital. It is one of the biggest obstacles student entrepreneurs must navigate when building a company from the ground up. It costs money to develop a prototype, pay for professional services like legal support, and market a viable product to customers. 

Enter the Desjardins Startup Prize, the University of Toronto’s annual business pitch competition, awarding upwards of $100K in cash and in-kind prizes to support student entrepreneurs. The competition is open to all teams with at least one full-time U of T student or recent grad.

“This award will mean the University of Toronto’s best and brightest innovators will be able to secure funding for their startup without giving up any equity in their business,” said Jon French, director, U of T Entrepreneurship (UTE). “More than $100,000 in non-dilutive prize money will be awarded.”

Ten startups will be selected to compete in the Desjardins Startup Prize pitch competition during Entrepreneurship Week, which runs from March 4 to March 8, 2024.

Finalists will be divided into early-stage and late-stage categories based on funding to date and current revenue, and will have five minutes to pitch to a panel of investors, entrepreneurs and other business leaders before being asked questions in a format reminiscent of CBC’s Dragons’ Den. The prize money will be divided between the two categories, with the top three finishers in the early-stage category sharing $30,000 and those in the late-stage category sharing $70,000. 

“The engagement in entrepreneurial activity at U of T is increasing rapidly,” French said. “There are almost 600 teams annually that are building innovative solutions to the world’s problems and this support from Desjardins gives them the critical resources they need to grow and succeed.”

Previous finalists who have gone on the achieve success include Transcrypts, Genecis, Braze Mobility, LSK Technologies, Reeddi, ALT TEX and many more.

The Desjardins Startup Prize is part of a larger, three-year commitment from Desjardins as a lead partner for University of Toronto Entrepreneurship.

The partnership, which launched last year, also includes Startup Finance 101 – a financial literacy workshop for founders happening on November 8 at ONRamp, and the Desjardins Speaker Series – inspirational thought leadership events covering topics relevant to the UTE community. The next Desjardins Speaker Series session will take place on November 21 at the new Schwartz Reisman Innovation Campus, featuring an interactive conversation with Mike Murchison, co-founder and CEO of customer experience AI chatbot provider, Ada.

Student entrepreneurs are invited to apply for the 2024 Desjardins Startup Prize by November 30.

Upcoming Events

event Wednesday, November 08, 2023 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST

Startup Finance 101 – What You Need to Know 

Are you working on a startup and trying to understand key financial concepts and terms? Do you need advice on how to raise funding or extend your existing financial runway…

event Tuesday, November 21, 2023 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST

Desjardins Speaker Series with Mike Murchison 

Join members of the U of T community as Mike Murchison (U of T, B Sc. 2012 Alumnus), Co-founder and CEO of Ada, shares his professional journey building an AI-native…