New Venture Awards (NVA)


The Patricelli Center New Venture Awards (NVA), formerly known as the Seed Grants, are three $5,000 awards that aim to recognize and support impactful student ventures across sectors and communities. NVA applicants and recipients join a vibrant community of Wesleyan student and alumni ventures, and receive the following:

  • Advising and coaching support.
  • Special invitations to fully-funded engagements (conferences, speaking opportunities, etc.) at leading institutions across government, academia, media, and the arts. 
  • Access to alumni mentorship and venture directory. 

Apply here by March 20th at 11:59 p.m. EST.

  • Eligibility and Selection Criteria

    Projects or ventures must address a social problem; be sustainable, scalable, and/or replicable; and have potential for impact. New ventures can include emerging organizations or companies, as well as projects implemented within already-established organizations. Entries can be for-profit, non-profit, hybrid, or have no legal structure. They can be U.S.-based or international.

    Teams may be made up of one or more members, but at least one member must be a current Wesleyan undergraduate. 

    Judges will assess both the applicant/team and the project/venture. The quality of the idea, execution plan, and team will be most important in selecting grantees; in particular, judges will look for applicant(s) who have tested their ideas in real-world settings or have meticulous plans for doing that. 

    Characteristics that the judges will look for include:

    The Applicant(s):

    • Passion – commitment to the problem or field, commitment to Wesleyan, personal integrity, tenacity
    • Leadership – leadership and entrepreneurial potential, connections to strong mentors/advisors, confidence and humility 
    • Commitment – will leverage this grant to catalyze their project/venture and their own future as a social entrepreneur
    • Preparation – ability to understand and articulate the issue area and its context and ecosystem. 


     The Project/Venture:

    • Importance – addresses a compelling social problem
    • Innovation – demonstrates a new or better approach or fills a gap; has a unique value proposition
    • Organization – well-designed with clear objectives, adequate personnel and partnerships, data strategy, financial plan, etc.
    • Feasibility – grant could be spent effectively before December 31 of the year it is received
    • Sustainability – has a strong financial model and leadership structure; likely to continue past this year or has a strong exit strategy
    • Potential for Impact – theory of change has been tested or project/venture has been prototyped; solution is evidence-based; has the potential to create change


    Read about past winners: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022

    Watch past pitches

  • Timeline (Updated February 14, 2023)

    February 14th

    Call for applications announced.

    February 14th-March 20th

    Applications accepted and advising appointments available.

    Note: at least one advising appointment is required ahead of submission. 

    To apply, first compile the necessary materials, then submit your application using this form

    March 20th

    Applications due

    Applications submitted after 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time will not be considered

    March 20th-26th

    Judges review applications

    Aggregated judge feedback will be sent to all applicants in early April. 

    March 27th

    New Venture Awards finalists announced on the ENGAGE blog


    March 29th-April 12th

    Preparations for New Venture Awards Finals

    Finalists will be required to make progress on their projects/ventures, submit additional application materials, and attend coaching sessions to prepare for pitches on April 14.

    Friday, April 14, 12-1pm

    New Venture Awards Finals

    Public, in-person pitches (with virtual option) at Beckham Hall. 

    April 17

    New Venture Awards  announcement


  • Application Round

    Applicants will be required to answer five key questions, via written responses OR a video. Written responses can be a maximum of 350 words, and videos 4 minutes. Either medium is acceptable, and you can submit different mediums for each question, or choose one for all of them. 

    Apply here by March 20th at 11:59 p.m. EST.

    The questions are as follows: 

    1. Describe the problem your venture will address and the systemic conditions/context(s) for its persistence.  

    2. Describe your connection to this problem and why you are well positioned to tackle it. 

    3. Describe your venture, its activities, and what makes its approach more unique than other ventures in the space.

    4. How do you plan to make and measure progress/impact over the next year?

    Some key questions to keep in mind as you prepare your application (these are not required, but are helpful to think about as you finalize your answers to the central four questions above):

    • The problem (background/stats on the social problem or impact area you are addressing)
    • Your project/venture (a succinct description of your project/venture)
    • The ecosystem (who else is tackling the same problem and what makes you better or different; your partners/collaborators; your target customers or beneficiaries and how have you engaged with them so far)
    • Metrics and evaluation (your short and/or long term goals, what data you will collect, what impact you aim to have, etc.)
    • Timeline (What have you already done? Have you tested your ideas in real-world settings? Do you have early traction or evidence that your ideas have potential? What are your upcoming milestones in the short and long term?)
    • Team (including founders/leaders, staff, mentors, advisors, a board, or other key supporters and institutional partners)


    Be sure to present information in a concise, clear, and compelling way.

  • Finalist Round

    All applicants will receive feedback on their application materials. Select applicants ("finalists") will advance and be asked to submit:

    • Budget and business model (including your current finances / how you would use the $5,000 Awards and your future finances / how your venture will be financially sustainable after the Award is depleted)
    • [optional] A business plan with supporting documentation, detailed plans for you/your team, or other information. This is an internal tactical and practical document, not another pitch.
    • A pitch deck (slides with script notes; optional template here).


    Pending completion of the Finalist Round materials, finalists will be invited to present for a live audience on Friday, April 14, 12-1 p.m. Eastern Time. Pitches must be no more than 6 minutes each. Winners will be selected by a panel of judges by Monday, April 17. 

    Pitches will be open to the public and recorded for future viewing. 

  • Expectations of Grantees

    New Venture Awards payments will be made in two installments: $4500 in May, and $500 in September pending satisfactory progress. Checks will be payable to a member of the winning team who is a currently-enrolled Wesleyan student (i.e. payments must be made to an individual, not an organization). In most cases, the Award money should be spent no later than December 31 of the year it is received.

    All applicants will receive mentoring from Patricelli Center staff and volunteers, 24/7 access to the PCSE Board Room, and priority involvement in PCSE programs.

    NVA recipients will be expected to submit blog posts with budget reports and remain actively involved in Patricelli Center programs.
  • Judges

    2023 New Venture Awards Judges:

    • Hong Qu '99, Adjunct Lecturer, Harvard Kennedy School; startup team member, YouTube and Upworthy; former Trustee, Wesleyan University
    • Hira Jafri '13, Director of Global Programs, Yale MacMillan Center 
    • Rosemary Ostfeld '10, Assistant Professor of the Practice Environmental Studies and founder of Healthy PlanEat
    • Syed Ali '13, Director of Partnerships and Operations, Trinity Church Wall Street Philanthropies
    • Amy Grillo, Associate Professor of the Practice, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, Environmental Studies, College of the Environment 
    • Evan Okun '13, Investment Associate, Working Capital Fund, helped build Circles & Ciphers
    • Matthew Sorkin '15, Associate Director, Strategy, Proto
    • AJ Wilson '18, JD Candidate, University of Georgia School of Law, Founder of DreamChasers


    Previous Judges (2014-22): 

    • Ajay Rajani '06, Founder, The Inevitable Collective
    • Ali Berman, Program Manager at CTNext, former director at TechStars Foundation
    • Kai Bond '01, Partner, CourtsideVC
    • Jessica Angell Carlson ‘02, founder of Cabbige (acquired by Freight Farms)
    • Ali Chaudhry ’12, VP of Strategy & Product at Caption Health
    • Alvin Chitena '19 - Founder, ZimCode; Patricelli Center Fellow
    • Amir Hasson ’98, CEO of Oxigen America and Chief Development Officer of Oxigen India; judge and mentor for Harvard and MIT Business Plan competitions
    • Andy Weissman ‘88 P'21 (Co-chair), Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures
    • Anne Lebleu '00, Philanthropy Management Director, Arabella Advisors; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Barbara Juhasz, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Service Learning, Wesleyan University
    • Biz Ghormley '04, Membership & Operations, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP); Private Investigator, One World Research
    • Claudia Kahindi '18, Wesleyan student, KIU founder, Davis Projects for Peace grantee
    • Dan Gregory '78 P'09, Co-Director, Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education
    • David Salinas, Founder and Chairman, District Innovation and Venture Center; Co-founder, Digital Surgeons
    • David Sonnenberg P'19 P'20, Co-President/Co-Chief Operating Officer, Hunter Douglas; Board Member, Nalanda Institute of Contemplative Science
    • Deborah Sonnenberg P'19 P'20, Board Member, Riverdale Country School and Nalanda Institute of Contemplative Science
    • Emily Reisner '09, Impact Strategist, reSET
    • Ferdinand Quayson ’20, Founder and CEO of Young Achievers Foundation Ghana; 2018 Seed Grant recipient
    • Gayle Northrop P'22, Lecturer & Faculty Advisor, UCLA Anderson School of Management; Principal & President, Northrop Nonprofit Consulting
    • George Suttles '03, Vice President, Senior Philanthropic Relationship Manager, U.S. Trust; Board Member, Storefront Academy Harlem and Odyssey House
    • Giulio Gallaroti, Professor of Government and Tutor in the College of Social Studies, Wesleyan University
    • Glendowlyn Thames, Director of the Small Business Innovation Group, CT Innovations; Director of CTNext
    • Gregory Makoul '82, Founder and CEO, PatientWisdom
    • Hong Qu '99, Adjunct Lecturer/Research Director, Harvard Kennedy School and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism; startup team member, YouTube and Upworthy; former Trustee, Wesleyan University  
    • Irma Gonzalez '78 P'09, Principal, Zoen Resources
    • Jeremy Mindich '87, Board Chair, Root Capital; Cofounder, Propel Capital; Managing Partner, Scopia Capital
    • Joaquin Benares '15, Founder of BUKO; 2014 PCSE Seed Grant winner
    • Joe Weinstein '97, Managing Director, Georgetown Business for Impact
    • Jonathan Gertler '77, M.D., Managing Partner, CEO, and Co-Founder at Back Bay Life Science Advisors
    • Karl Boulware, Assistant Professor of Economics, Wesleyan University
    • Lara Galinsky '96, former Senior Vice President, Echoing Green; 
    • Lexy Funk '91, Co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Industries
    • Lily Herman '16, digital writer, editor, and strategist; Founder of Rogue Sunday and Get Her Elected
    • Maeve Russell '14, Executive Committee Member, Wesleyan Chapter of Shining Hope for Communities; Communications Intern, RefugePoint; Coordinator, Wesleyan’s Office of Community Service
    • Marc Eisner, Dean of the Social Sciences & Henry Merritt Wriston Chair of Public Policy, Wesleyan University
    • Marc Schleifer '95, Regional Director for Eurasia and South Asia at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
    • Marianne Pantalon, co-founder, Center for Progressive Recovery and RecoveryPad; Senior Facilitator, Yale School of Management; Leader, Venwise
    • Marisa MacClary ’94, CEO/Co-founder, Artifact Health; Executive Vice President, Iodine Software
    • Marcus Chung '98, Head of Sourcing, Stitch Fix
    • Matt Sorkin ‘15, Senior Strategist for Innovation, Proto
    • Melinda Weekes-Laidlow, Esq. '89; President, Weekes In Advance Enterprises; Founder/CEO Beautiful Ventures; former Managing Director, Race Forward
    • Mike Wisniewski - Investment Associate, Connecticut Innovations
    • Mira Wijayanti ’07 – Senior Associate, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
    • Monisha Nariani '99, Director, Global Business Practices and Regulatory Affairs, Citi
    • Nick Devane '13, Co-founder and CEO, Pilotworks
    • Nicole Rodriguez Leach '97 - Head of Education, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation
    • Noel Garrett, Dean of Academic Support and Director of the Academic Resource Center, Connecticut College 
    • Oladoyin Oladapo ’14 – Founder, Idunnu Studios; Author, Girl to the World series; Co-founder, Joomah
    • Peter Frank '12, Founder and CEO of
    • Phoebe Boyer ’89, Senior Advisor, Robertson Foundation; former Trustee, Wesleyan University; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Rachel Hines '82, Board Member at Sesame Workshop, Technoserve, and Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy; former managing director at JP Morgan
    • Raghu Appasani '12, Founder & CEO, MINDS Foundation
    • Rob Rosenthal, Director of the Allbritton Center and John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, Wesleyan University; PCSE Advisory Board Member
    • Rosemary Ostfeld '10, Visiting Assistant Professor, Wesleyan University; founder, Healthy Planeat
    • Sara Crawley '83, Campaign Analyst, Blackbaud
    • Sarah Williams ’88 P'21, Co-founder, Propel Capital
    • Scott Moore ‘91, Co-Founder & CEO, Collaboratory
    • Stacie Halpern P’18 – President, Kingdom Design Inc.; Board Member, Hawken School, Findaway Ventures, Salon Quest, Hillcrest Hospital, and Preston’s H.O.P.E.
    • Syed Ali '13, urban planning graduate student at Harvard University
    • Sydney Ochieng '22, 2019 PCSE Seed Grant recipient
    • Tim Devane '09, Entrepreneur In Residence, Red Sea Ventures; former Director of Sales & Business Development at; president & co-founder of Birthright  Earth; co-chair of Digital Wesleyan
  • Sponsors and Partners

    We are grateful to Propel Capital, The Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, the Norman E. Priebatsch Fund for Entrepreneurship, and many individual donors to the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

For all questions and inquiries, contact