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Thank you to everyone who made the first Entrepreneurs Challenge a great success!

Find out more about the Challenge below and be sure to sign up here to stay in the loop for future editions!


NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) partnered with the global aerospace hub, Starburst, to jointly launch a pilot program to engage entrepreneurs. The first edition of the Entrepreneurs Challenge sought to identify individuals and promising commercial companies working on technology that will advance the state-of-the-art in three broadly defined technology focus areas. 

For the inaugural Entrepreneurs Challenge the three technology focus areas were:

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Physics-based transfer learning and artificial intelligence

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Advanced mass spectrometry 

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Quantum sensors


Applications Close

June 26th, 2020 

Evaluation Complete

July 17th, 2020 

Ask Me Anything #2

June 23rd, 2020 

Ask Me Anything #1

June 16th, 2020 

Announcement / Solicitation Release

June 3rd, 2020 

Evaluation Begins

June 29th, 2020 

Virtual Pitch Event

July 29th, 2020 




Innovation Opportunity Conference

October 22nd, 2020



Round One:​​​

  • More than 75 interested parties submitted white papers that broadly described the capability being offered, the capabilities’ relevance to one of the three aforementioned technology focus areas, whether the idea represented an existing product or a concept to be matured over time, a brief description of the technology, and the company’s overarching business model. SMD stakeholders then conducted a review of the 5-page white papers using the challenge scoring criteria and down-select the top 15 white papers. The selected companies advanced to the next round of the competition, where they had the opportunity to pitch their capabilities live.

  • The 15 white papers selected as Round One Winners were as follows:​​​

Round Two:​​​

  • The next step in the process was the Entrepreneurs Challenge Presentation Day, where the selectees from Round One were brought together for a virtual pitch event to make oral presentations about their ideas to a judging panel consisting of NASA program managers. The judging panel selected ten finalists to receive prize awards of $20,000 each, based on the same scoring methodology in Round One. Thees ten finalists were then invited to virtually attend and present at the Innovation and Opportunity Conference (IOC).

  • The 10 successful pitches deemed Round Two Winners and received $20,000 in prize funding were:                                

Round Three:​​​

  • The 10 Round Two prize winners then submitted a white paper that described their concept in more detail and presented the details live in a secondary pitch event for a chance to be awarded an additional $80,000 in prize funding. The judging criteria for Round One was used once again and resulted in 6 of the presenting companies being selected to receive the additional prize funding. The secondary pitch event took place during the Innovation Opportunity Conference (IOC), and the winners were named on-the-spot immediately following the event. 

  • The Round Three Winners selected to receive an additional $80,000 in prize funding ($100K total) were:

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Physics-based transfer learning and artificial intelligence

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Advanced mass spectrometry 

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Quantum sensors

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Thanks in large part to everyone who helped make the inaugural Entrepreneurs Challenge a big success, we are planning to issue several more challenges in 2021! That means brand new focus areas, bigger & better pitch events, and so much more!

Want to be the first to know when we release more information on what's to come? Register your interest now by clicking the button below.