HUNTINGTON, IN — The OSV Innovation Challenge announced its selection of 12 Finalists who advanced from a pool of over 350 applicants, developing their innovative art, business, and ministry startups throughout the multi-round contest. The Finalists will incubate their projects in a University of Notre Dame IDEA Center Accelerator, culminating in a final pitch in front of Catholic investors, with a chance for new investments and a shot at three $100,000 prizes.
Designed to cultivate and launch projects in any stage, the Challenge began its inaugural year in August 2019. It has aimed to pave a new path for Catholic entrepreneurs and creators — offering the best tools of the startup world while imbuing every step of the competition with Catholic spirituality and community support.
“We didn’t just launch this challenge to find and fund a few good ideas,”
said OSV Institute President and OSV Innovation Challenge Founder Jason Shanks.
“We created it to bring out the innovator and entrepreneur in all Catholics, and so that the Church would come alive with new ideas to bring people to Christ.”
The Notre Dame IDEA Center Accelerator will broaden the Challenge’s impact beyond the Finalists, opening a door to mentors, investors, and others looking to support leading innovators.
The Accelerator is being developed by John Henry, the Notre Dame IDEA Center Director of Student Startups, and John Cannon of SENT. The 10-week Accelerator will integrate a custom curriculum and personalized coaching from world-class Catholic speakers, entrepreneurs, ministers, and artists, with spiritual support tailored for entrepreneurs. Participants will also receive a Catholic Innovator Certificate from the University of Notre Dame.
Henry believes that the Accelerator’s culmination in a Demo Day in the presence of investors from both the startup and non-profit world will help drive these companies and projects further. Henry states,
“We’re seeing a tremendous appetite for this type of program from investors and strategic supporters. They want a central place to convene, talk about the needs of the Church, and interact with inspired pioneers who want to help solve problems.”
Though the Challenge and Accelerator are in their early stages, the team hopes to widen its reach in the years to come: adding business mentors to the network, involving more up-and-coming entrepreneurs, or even, as Shanks describes,
“a pitch contest at the Vatican.”
To any Catholic, whether they’re a business owner or artist, a priest or layperson, a seasoned investor or new startup owner, this first year of the OSV Innovation Challenge is a sign of hope. One competitor put it this way:
“There’s more than a competition here. There’s a community. And it’s catalyzing our Church for greatness.”