Fashion startup Cue the Curves takes home $150,000 VentureCat grand prize


Photo courtesy of VentureCat.

This year, the total prize pool was more than $325,000.

Nicole Markus, Summer Editor in Chief

Student startup Cue the Curves, an app focused on plus-size fashion, won the $150,000 grand prize at Wednesday’s VentureCat competition.

Five other startups presented at the annual event, which allows Northwestern students to win money and gain exposure for their companies. This year, the total prize pool was more than $325,000.

The Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center, the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Kellogg School of Management and The Garage organized the competition. Larry Levy (Kellogg ‘67), who endows the Levy Institute — which provides funding to VentureCat — said the event is “a great honor.”

“We have a campus-wide, incredible flurry of entrepreneurs, both faculty and students,” Levy said. “We’re very proud of what we started, and we wish everybody well.”

VentureCat is ranked sixth in the top collegiate entrepreneurship competitions in the country, according to the Times of Entrepreneurship. Since the event was founded, more than $1.5 million in prize funds have been allocated.

Earlier on Wednesday, judges heard pitches from the six finalists, which they had narrowed down from 25 semifinalists. Five of the finalists were winners of one of the VentureCat tracks. CRM dataset startup Sorrek won the Business Products and Services track. Cue the Curves won in Consumer Products and Services, whilst lending startup Borrough won the Energy and Sustainability track. Life Sciences and Medical Innovations went to BMImmune, and Social Impact to Zeestr. The sixth finalist, The Neuron, was a “wildcard startup.”

This year’s competition began in early April. After the selection of the semifinalists on April 25, each team completed a five-week Pitch Prep Program with help from pitch coaches, graphic designers and business advisors.

Judges chose the first, second and third place winners, but audience members at Wednesday’s live show could vote for a startup to win an additional $2,000.

Cue the Curves took first place, beating out 24 other semifinalists. Cue the Curves founder Charlotte Oxnam said the startup aims to help plus-size women find clothing they can feel comfortable in.

Oxnam said Cue the Curves has a style page to allow users to discover brands and outfits that fit their personal aesthetic, while inspo pages allow users to share their own outfits in a “safe space.”

“We’re not just helping women find clothing, we’re helping them find confidence in themselves,” Oxnam said.

The second-place team, Zeestr, won $50,000. It won in the Social Impact track for its nonprofit fundraising and events platform.

Zeestr co-founder Lauren Biegler said she wants the platform to help nonprofit organizations improve donor retention by helping them market.

“You want marketing your cause to be as visible as selling a pair of shoes,” Biegler said.

BMImmune won third place and a prize of $25,000 for its potential new treatment for triple negative breast cancer.

CEO and co-founder Prashanth Somu said the new treatment could reduce side effects seen in typical cancer therapies.

“We eventually aim to expand the indiciation to be applicable to more than just breast cancer,” Somu said. “There’s a list of 13 cancers in total.”

Previous VentureCat competitors have raised over a billion dollars for their startups since 2014, according to the competition’s website.

The Garage Executive Director Mike Raab said VentureCat is unlike many other pitch competitions because it’s not just about an idea or business plan.

“It rewards students actually solving the problems they see in the world,” Raab said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

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