University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

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The Acara Challenge is the University of Minnesota’s impact venture competition to reward student teams that are developing solutions to address global social and environmental challenges. The Acara Challenge is organized by Acara, a program at the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota.

  • Learn:  Contact Fred Rose <> to discuss your application.
  • Prepare: To prepare your venture idea, join CE 5572: Social Venture Launchpad, offered each January. This is not required but will help your team prepare for the competition.
  • Apply: Applications are due in January for the next Acara Challenge competition.
  • Pitch: Present your venture for feedback and funding at the next Acara Challenge in March 2016 at the University of Minnesota.


  • The competition is open to current degree-seeking University of Minnesota students (undergrad, grad, professional) from all system campuses. If you are a student from a different school, please contact us at to discuss your situation.
  • Any team with a business idea or operational early stage business that addresses a grand challenge issue with a for-profit or not-for-profit organization may participate.
  • Each team must have at least 1 currently or recently registered student (1 or more students must be registered Fall 2015 or Spring 2016).

2016 Timeline

  • January 22, 2016, 5pm CST. Initial entry deadline at
  • January 29, 2016. Finalists announced.
  • February 2, 2016, 6-8pm. Information session (please hold this date if you are applying).
  • February 12, 2016, 5pm CST. Final plans due.
  • February 19, 2016, 5pm CST. Final 10-minute and 2-minute pitch decks due.
  • February 22-26, 2016. Required one on one practice session with Acara.
  • March 3, 2016. Acara Challenge Finals: 8am-4pm at McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. Acara Challenge Public Reception and Award Ceremony: 5:30-8:30pm


  • Acara Challenge cash awards up to $1,000 per team.
  • Invitation to apply for an Acara Venture Fellowship up to $5,000 per team.
  • Scholarship for the 2016 Acara Spring Institute venture design workshop series.


All teams will be judged by an investor-like panel. The judging criteria is:

  • What is the problem?
  • How do you make money?
  • What is the social impact?
  • How does it scale?
  • Who is the team?


Review the full Acara Challenge 2015 Rules and Guidelines for further information on the competition. This will be updated later in the Fall semester.

Acara is the impact entrepreneurship program of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management.