VentureCatalyst™ Overview

  • For high-growth, scalable startups
  • Up to $7,500 in grant funding
  • Two dedicated executive mentors
  • Three self-paced training courses

It takes more than a good idea to build a great business.

VentureCatalyst is a comprehensive, co-curricular program for MSU’s students and faculty who are interested in starting a successful, investor-backed company. Comprised of five, progressively more difficult stages matched with up to $7,500 in grant funding, entrepreneurs will learn how to evaluate a market, create a detailed product plan, and draft an investable business & finance plan. Startups graduate when they have raised investment of 2-yr burn rate OR are self-sustaining on earnings.

VentureCatalyst is self-paced, comprised of three components:

Three training programs help teams identify their customers, create an executable plan, and build necessary infrastructure to begin sales.


Understanding who is the customer, what is the value provided, and the basics of building a business model.


Developing a product roadmap, business plan, and building financial projections.


Numerous tactical tools and methods to develop a sales pipeline and supply chain.

We provide up to $7,500 across three funding rounds reviewed by external boards.

Spark Grant

Fixed awards to help new entrepreneurs identify their customer, value proposition, and develop a basic proof of concept or mock-up.

Startup Grant

Capital to continue customer and market discovery, develop a minimum viable product (MVP), purchase critical equipment, hire professional counsel, or other requests.

Seed Grant

Grant to enable teams to begin execution of their approved business plan.

Teams participating in VentureCatalyst have access to three different kinds of mentors

Core mentors provide light guidance by subscribing to biweekly email updates from teams.

Advisers hold office hours to meet with multiple teams monthly for 30-minute periods,

Coaches work one-on-one with a single paired startup team, as a dedicated mentor.


Each stage is detailed below. Click the tabs below to see the five stages of the VentureCatalyst program.

Start Stage

The Start stage is the point of entry for new participants. Entrepreneurs will prepare a basic presentation to give a broad description of the opportunity.

Stage Checklist

  Develop Entry Presentation (5 slides max) Download guide

Identify the team.
What is the product or opportunity?
Who is the customer?
How do you plan to reach and sell to them?
Who the competition and what alternatives do customers have now? How are you better?

  Sign commitment document to proceed through later stages.

  Pitch to Peer Review Entrepreneurship Panel (PREP) for $500 Apply to Pitch

Stage Gate:

  Approval by the PREP to proceed into program.

Search Overview

The first stage forces teams to specifically define who their customers are, clarify their value proposition, assess the overall market opportunity, and validate all three with actual interaction with potential customers. Teams exiting this stage will have a firm basis for where their business fits in the market.

Stage Checklist

  Complete FlashPoint training course (required) Access Class

  Talk with minimum of 30 potential customers; must provide contact list as evidence.

  Prepare 3-slide summary of conversations with potential customers

One slide to list highlights of surprising feedback in favor of and against concept
One slide to summarize TAM/SAM/SOM
One slide to draw conclusions

  Complete a full business model canvas; review and edit with our staff.

  Construct a proof of concept.

  Develop 10 slide deck describing market opportunity; review and edit with our staff. Download guide

  Pitch to E-Center Advisory Board (ECAB) for up to $2,000. Apply to Pitch

Stage Gate:

  Search Stage Checklist complete and ECAB approved.

Plan Overview

With an understanding of who the business will serve, the Plan stage directs teams to dive deeper into planning. Teams exiting this stage will have a reviewed, executable plan along with a team mentor to assist with business planning needs.

Stage Checklist

  Complete Ignite training course (optional; completion raises grant ceiling from $3,000 to $5,000)

  Talk with at least 15 more potential customers; must provide contact list as evidence.

  Prepare product development plan.

Must include: Bill of Materials (BOM), Suppliers, Costs (material, labor, min order qty)

  Identify and connect with at least one executive mentor. (Skillsets focusing on strategy)

  Prepare initial business plan draft.

  Prepare initial set of financial projections to exit. Must identify how an investor can see return.

  Review and edit business plan and financial projections with executive mentors.

  Develop 10 slide presentation describing investment opportunity; review with mentors.

  Pitch to Investment Review Committee (IRC) for up to $5,000.

Stage Gate

  Plan Stage Checklist complete and IRC approved.

Launch Stage

The Launch stage shifts startups towards early execution of plans. In this stage, startups will build a demonstrable product, develop an early sales lead list, and secure pre-orders under the guidance of two external mentors. Successful completion of this stage’s gate marks the team’s eligibility to work with the Angel Network.

Stage Checklist

  Complete UX Accelerator Training (optional)

  Identify and connect with second executive mentor. (Skillsets focus on operations)

  Build demonstrable product or solution. Must include packaging considerations.

  Create first sales leads list. Review with mentor.

  Secure at least 3 pre-orders or 100 active beta users (if SaaS play).

  Early management team completely identified.

  Finalize business plan; heavy input from both executive mentors.

  Develop 15 slide deck combining Stage 1 and 2 content; review heavily with mentors.

  Submit for comments by Investment Review Committee (IRC).

Stage Gate

  Build Stage Checklist complete and IRC approved.

Grow Overview

Teams in the Early Growth stage will be expected raise funds to achieve revenue required to transition to self-sustaining growth and/or follow-on funding.

Stage Checklist

  Raise early stage growth capital based on Launch Stage financial projections.

  Begin production to fulfill pre-orders.

  Reach revenue projection targets as outlined in plan developed in Launch Stage

  Revise business plan based on what has been learned and is clearly positioned to grow revenue.

Stage Gate

 Early Growth Stage checklist complete. Investment of 2-yr burn rate OR self-sustaining on earnings.