Program Details

The Wind River Start-Up Challenge is for new, independent businesses in the seed, startup, or early growth stages. All business concepts will be considered. The Wind River Startup Challenge and all workshops are free.


Generally excluded are the following: buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, real estate syndications, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, and spin-outs from existing companies.

  • Applications must be for seed, startup, or early stage companies.
  • Submissions may be entered by individuals or teams (up to 5 members).
  • Each team may only enter one idea.
  • A single individual cannot be the sole qualifying individual for two teams.
  • Team must have tribal member as principal and at least 50% ownership and implementation of the business. Otherwise, teams can be made up of any individuals.
  • Final approval of eligibility is reserved for the judging committee.
  • Qualifying teams must launch their business in the Wind River Community within four months of the final Pitch Day event to be eligible to apply to the seed fund.

Application Stages and Timeline

To participate in the 2023 WRSC cohort, participants must complete an application and be accepted into the program. Once accepted, participants are expected to attend all business workshops, trainings and mentorship sessions prior to Pitch Day.

  • November 1 – December 1, 2022: 2023 WRSC applications open. Anyone interested in joining the 2023 WRSC cohort is invited to apply with a business idea via an online application or mailing in their application.
  • December 1 – December 15, 2022: Applications are reviewed by a panel of judges. Semi-finalists are chosen from the pool of applications.
  • December 20, 2022: Accepted participants (Semi-Finalists) will be notified via phone call or email.
  • December 31, 2022: Semi-Finalists must confirm their participation in the 2023 Wind River Startup Challenge.
  • January 10, 2023 – February 21, 2023: Business skills and training workshops. These workshops are free and open to the public, but it is highly recommended that all 2023 WRSC participants attend. A full schedule will be available in December 2022.
  • February 28, 2023: Semi-Finalists are asked to self-select if they would like to continue onto Pitch Day by February 28. If they would, each will be paired with a business coach. Semi-Finalists will then become ‘Finalists.’
  • March 1 – May 31, 2023: Weekly one on one business coaching and mentorship takes place to prepare participants for Pitch Day. The focus of these meetings will be to work toward developing a short pitch presentation during an in-person Pitch Day in early June 203.
  • Early June 2023 (date and location TBD): In-person Pitch Day! All finalist teams will present their business concept in a 12-minute-maximum presentation. Immediately following, the judging committee will conduct a Q&A session for a maximum of 10 minutes. At the conclusion of all Pitch Day presentations, a judging committee will determine the amount of seed funding to be awarded to each business. Participants pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for an opportunity to receive seed funding for their business idea.
  • June – December 2023: Winners will continue to work with WRSC Business Counselors after Pitch Day to ensure all necessary paperwork is completed to receive the seed funding and to support business growth over the next six months.

If you are awarded seed funding for your business…

Congratulations!  You have crossed multiple hurdles to have your business move to the next stage of development. There are still a few more pieces to know:

  • All seed fund disbursements will be heavily controlled, measured against deliverables or milestones, and subject to audit exactly the same as a company funded by a venture capitalist or angel investor.
  • Seed funding is intended as working capital, not as a cash award. “Working Capital” is cash flow that funds a business’s operation, including (but not limited to) modest payroll, first commercial article builds or minimum viable product build, marketing or customer engagement, etc.
  • Invoices to receive funding must be produced and approved by August 15, 2023. WRSC organizers will work with you to ensure you have the correct paper work completed and that you understand the steps to receive your funding.
  • Seed funding is not debt; it does not need to be paid back.
  • If milestones are unmet for whatever reason or the value proposition changes (market changes, negative customer validation, etc.), WRSC will work with you to develop a clear and actionable plan to utilize the seed fund to invest into your business’s development. If you are unable to use the fund for appropriate expenditures, a decision can be made by the WRSC to remove the funding. This will not happen unless prior conversations and all other options have been sought.

The Fine Print

  • WRSC As a participant in the WRSC, participants allow organizers to utilize any materials, photos or videos created for the WRSC, including a participant’s name and business information, to publicize and promote the event.
  • Decisions regarding the WRSC and the Finalists, the competition rules, procedures, and processes are at the sole discretion of WRSC organizers. The selection of the teams to compete and the decision of the Finalists are at the sole discretion of the judging panel put in place by the WRSC organizers.  Best efforts will be made to make decisions in accordance with this Rules and Regulations document and to be completely objective, fair, and, unbiased in those decisions.
  • Changes to competition rules: While not anticipated, these rules and prizes are subject to change at the discretion of the WRSC. WRSC staff and administration have the right to interpret these rules according to its own judgment.
  • Confidentiality Agreements: As a publicly funded institution, all sessions of the competition, including but not limited to oral presentations and question/answer sessions, are open to the public at large. Any and all of these sessions may be broadcast to interested persons through media which may include radio, television, and the Internet. Any data or information discussed or divulged in public sessions by entrants should be considered information that could possibly enter the public domain, and entrants should not assume any right of confidentiality in any data or information discussed, divulged, or presented in these sessions.
    • Due to the nature of the competition, we are not able to ask judges, staff, volunteers, or competitors to sign a confidentiality agreement.  However, while the WRSC will make every effort to limit distribution of business plans presented at the WRSC, we cannot guarantee that other individuals will not obtain access to electronic or hard copies of the business model.  All presentations are open to the general public, and some presentations may be videotaped.  Attendance by media personnel may occur.
    • It is recognized that, especially in this realm of technology innovation and invention that there may be some key/critical parts of a submission that could potentially be patented or considered key intellectual property.  If there are these aspects, WRSC organizers will limit distribution of that key content to ONLY those individuals who need to see those aspects to provide counsel and judgment over the overall concept.
      • It is incumbent on the submitting team/individual to submit those items that carry intellectual property sensitivity and to MARK that content appropriately. WRSC staff and administration will be held to maintain internal confidentiality until such time that a judgment can be made regarding patentability, and whether the overall submission can be presented publicly without disclosure of the key technology elements.  
  • Copyrights & Permissions: If a team uses copyrighted materials and/or images from a third party in their submissions or presentation, they must obtain permission and authorization in advance from the owners to use this material and be able to provide such documented permission/authorization upon request from the WRSC administrators.
  • Conflict of Interest Statement: No judge, volunteer or competition staff member may have any vested interest, equity stake, or financial stake in any of the competing companies.  Any of the previously listed parties that stand to gain financially or otherwise from the success of any of the competing companies is strictly prohibited.  Any such associations will result in disqualification of the team and/or removal of that individual from his/her associated position with the competition.

Code of Ethics and Breach of Rules

  • All competitors, judges, staff, or other individuals involved with the WRSC shall be held to the highest level of ethical standards consistent with intellectual property laws as well as decorum expected in a professional and collegial environment.  Any incident or issue that seems to go against such high ethical standards shall be subject to due diligence investigation WRSC senior staff, and those individuals or teams found wanting in this area will be considered for appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including being barred from the current and future WRSC competitions.
  • Rules violation concerns identified by competitors, judges, or other involved individuals must be submitted in writing to WRSC organizers detailing the purported violation, team(s) or individuals involved, and team(s) or individual reporting the purported violation.
  • WRSC organizers will have final authority in deciding if a violation occurred and will assess a penalty for the violation if deemed appropriate. WRSC organizers can disqualify a team or team member, advise judges of a violation and allow them to consider the facts in their rankings, remove grant eligibility, recommend barring a team or individuals from future Wind River Startup Challenges, or simply dismiss a purported violation.
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