Funding: UW Dempsey Startup Competition


The University of Washington’s annual Business Plan Competition has a new name: The Dempsey Startup Competition. The change comes as recognition of a generous donation from alumnus Neal W. Dempsey, a longtime benefactor and Managing General Partner of Bay Partners, one of the earliest Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

The gift to the Foster School of Business’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship will make a significant impact on a startup competition with a storied history; over the past 21 years, the competition has empowered nearly 5,000 student entrepreneurs with expert mentorship and seed funding.

“Go to my website and the first thing you’ll see are the words ‘Do something that scares you.’ Young people in particular should embrace that mantra,” says Dempsey. “They can learn from the failure and come back stronger.”

Dempsey’s confidence comes from his own success story as well as his mentorship of countless students and entrepreneurs. “Neal’s Running Start,” an opportunity for early stage entrepreneurs to spend one month learning from, and with, Dempsey, is just one example of his passion to inspire others.

Foster School Dean Jim Jiambalvo suggested this is simply one more example of Dempsey’s commitment to his alma mater. “Neal was among the first to champion the launch of an entrepreneurship center here in the early 1990s. Over the years he’s invested in students and faculty to weave business creation into the fabric of our school,” Jiambalvo continued. “He even flies back to Seattle to teach a quarter-long graduate class on leadership and board governance each spring. Now he’ll be here to help mentor the young entrepreneurs developing new ventures through the startup competition in his name.”

The Dempsey Startup Competition will maintain the multi-stage format of the original competition and time frame, starting each year in the spring. However, the name change allows for the Buerk Center to emphasize more than just development of a business plan, including a greater focus on customer discovery, market research, understanding the competition, and creating a strong pitch deck. Dempsey’s support also will help grow the competition in terms of its student reach, expanding beyond the borders of Washington state.

“We want student entrepreneurs to share in an experience that mirrors the real world while also allowing room for their idea to pivot and grow,” said Amy Sallin, interim director of the Buerk Center. “Neal’s gift allows all of us at the Buerk Center to re-double our efforts to support the diverse student innovators across the UW campus and expand that to universities across the Pacific Northwest.”

Registration for the 2019 Dempsey Startup Competition begins March 18, 2019 and the deadline for teams to enter is April 8. For more information about the competition, visit

For more information about Neal Dempsey, visit, or contact Jane Gideon, Incendio International,, 415-682-9292.

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