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SPIE Startup Challenge at Photonics West

Supporting entrepreneurs in optics and photonics businesses
SPIE Startup Challenge is held at SPIE Photonics West

See top entrepreneurs pitch the brilliance of their business plans

The SPIE Startup Challenge is held annually at Photonics West. Entrepreneurs apply to the program in October, and a panel of experts review the applications to offer insight into funding options and refinement of business plans. Finalists are selected in December and invited to pitch their light-based technology business plan to a team of business development experts and investors at Photonics West.

More than a simple pitch competition, the SPIE Startup Challenge is an entry point into the community of high-tech business development. Numerous mentors volunteer their time in support of new business ventures.

Startup Challenge
30 January 2024
Hosted at SPIE Photonics West

The application process is now closed.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2024 finalists.

2024 Startup Challenge Prizes

All Startup Challenge applicants receive expert feedback on their technology and business model from photonics industry leaders based on their answers in the application. Finalists go on to compete at Photonics West for cash prizes provided by SPIE Startup Challenge Founding Partner Jenoptik.

Cash prizes for winners:
1st Place - US $10,000
2nd Place - US $5,000
3rd Place - US $2,500

In addition to the cash prizes, winning participants receive immediate and ongoing recognition, including:

  • Promotion on,, social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), press releases, and the Photonics West Show Daily
  • Opportunities to return to the Startup Challenge stage for updates on your company in the coming years

Thank you to our Founding Partner

Industry leaders at Jenoptik understand the value of superb innovation. The company's support of SPIE Startup Challenge is unmatched.


How businesses get started

Competition overview Competition overview ...
Network of experts Network of experts ...
Eligibility and application Eligibility and application ...

Finalists compete in two areas of focus

The competition focuses on new businesses and potential startups within two areas of focus from the worldwide community of entrepreneurs.

healthcare using mixed VR technology


healthcare using mixed VR technology

Deep Tech

Scientific or engineering innovation (software apps not included)

Accelerate the launch of your business

Winners hold checks

Financial support and recognition

Participating teams compete for sponsored prizes as well as gaining increased visibility with potential investors.

Mentored by experts

Industry leaders, mentors, and investors give their time, share expertise, and ensure startup businesses are on a path to success.

Part of a wider network

Participants in the competition are connected to other entrepreneurs and previous participants.


If you have questions about eligibility, participation, expectations, sponsorship, or anything related to the SPIE Startup Challenge, please contact Emily Bottemiller,