What began in 2010 as a simple business plan competition to jumpstart the local ecosystem with cash prizes totaling $140,000 has now grown into the most competitive and high-profile investment opportunities for cleantech startups in the Midwest. Since the first competition, startups have received $4M in funding, raised an additional $96M in follow-on funding, and created over 300 new jobs. The Challenge has jumpstarted more than 95 startups in the Midwest to date, including LuminAID, a then-student company who after winning $100,000 at the Challenge went on to become a Shark Tank Season 6 success story and Detroit’s GreenLancer, who has since gone on to raise $5 million in Series B funding.
The Clean Energy Challenge event is the premiere cleantech networking event in Chicago. Over 400 entrepreneurs, investors, business executives, students, and university faculty attend each year. The event combines a business plan competition with presentations by leading clean energy thinkers and doers. Last year’s event featured keynote addresses by Adam Lowry, CEO of Ripple Foods and Co-Founder of Method, Katherine Hamilton, Principal at 38 North Solutions, and Jim Rogers former CEO of Duke Energy. Additional past speakers include Tom Steyer, NRG’s David Crane, and Governor Bruce Rauner.
The Challenge is a nationally recognized accelerator program and the largest single-day clean energy pitch competition in the nation.