Announcing the 2023 Brown Institute Innovation Challenge

Applications due March 8! Register here!

The Brown Institute, in partnership with the Columbia Venture Competition at Columbia Entrepreneurship, are pleased to announce a competition for Columbia students, alumni and their collaborators. Now in its second year, this competition rewards new entrepreneurial ventures in journalism, media and technology. Perhaps you want to create new kinds of journalism or new kinds of content, design new forms of participation, contribute to our understanding of media and society, or experiment with entirely new ways to communicate. 

Consider entering your venture in the Brown Institute Innovation Challenge in Journalism, Media and Technology! 

Applications due March 8! Register here!

Winning teams will receive cash prizes and fellowships for the Brown Institute’s 2023 Summer Program in Entrepreneurship. The summer program ends with one final competition which could award up to $100,000 to one of the participating ventures.

Successful projects can be either for-profit or non-profit. We will weigh business successes and social impacts equally. While a competition, this challenge helps take ideas from inception to pitch. First-time founders are encouraged to enter — we will provide ample resources to help you through the process!

The Brown Institute Innovation Challenge is part of the 2023 Columbia Venture Competition. Now in its eighth year, the Columbia Venture Competition ranks among the nation’s top five largest, university-based business plan competitions. 


  1. The winning venture will receive $15,000, the second-place prize is $10,000, with $5,000 going to the third-place team.
  2. The Brown Institute Innovation Challenge is just the start of a larger program to encourage new ventures in journalism, media and technology. The teams winning the challenge (and one or two of the other finalists) will also receive paid 10-week fellowships (up to two people per team, on top of their prize money) to participate in Brown’s Summer 2023 Program in Entrepreneurship, designed to further develop ventures, and produce a pitch and prototypes.
  3. Brown’s summer program ends with one final competition which could award one of the participating teams up to $100,000 to continue work on their venture!

Some details.

For our Innovation Challenge, we are seeking proposals for new tech-based or tech-enabled forms of media — these might make novel uses of computer vision, AI, NLP, machine learning, data visualization or even VR/AR to create, communicate, and interpret content. Eligible ventures can also be topically aligned, building custom platforms to explore complex issues in new ways. What are the long-term societal impacts of COVID? Are communities equally prepared for Climate Change? How can we spot or intervene with mis/disinformation? How can we leverage the latest advances in deep learning to assist with business and content operations within news organizations? (To be successful, a topically-oriented application must have a plan for sustainability, as this challenge is meant to support new ventures and not to produce a single published news story— for that see our Magic Grant Call for Proposals)

Our Innovation Challenge extends a special welcome to ventures that focus on the practice of journalism — developing tools to aid investigations, say, or designing new visualization platforms to experience stories. Projects might also address the business of journalism, proposing new models for local media or sustainable approaches to delivering content to underserved communities.

About the Summer Entrepreneurship Program.

Winners of the 2023 Innovation Challenge in Journalism, Media, and Technology will automatically be enrolled in the Brown Institute’s Summer Entrepreneurship Program. Participants will receive an $8k stipend to attend the program and will have semi-weekly meetings held in the main Brown Institute space in Pulitzer Hall. The program will be led by Justin Hendrix, former head of the NYC Media Lab and now Editor in Chief of the Technology Policy Press, and takes place from mid-June through mid-August 2023. The program will bring founders together semi-weekly and is a modified version of the Lean Launch Bootcamp. Through a mix of instruction, assignments, and field trips to startups around New York City, founders will learn what it takes to move their idea from concept to pitch. At the end of the ten-week program, founders can pitch for a final grant of up to $100k and become part of the 2022-2023 Magic Grant cohort of projects.. 

Important Dates.

February 17, 2023 – Information Session [Optional]

February 25/26 and March 4, 2023 – News Product Sprint [Optional]

March 8, 2023 – Innovation Challenge Application Deadline

March 22/23, 2023 – Pitch Session, Round 1

March 30, 2023 – Pitch Session, Round 2

April 4, 2023 – Finalist Pitch Session



We are soliciting applications from Columbia students and alumni within five years of their degree. Entries from “blended teams” that include non-Columbia-affiliated members will also be considered. The Columbia Venture Competition administrators reserve the right to determine if the Columbia members of a blended team have played a significant role in founding and running the company and are currently engaged with the proposal. If a blended team wins, award funds will only be granted if the Columbia-affiliated founder remains on the team at the time the funds are ready to be awarded.

For more information, see the competition website at

Note: This program is not meant to support the production of a single published news story — it is meant for ventures that will have sustained impacts. If you are looking for support for a single story idea, please contact the Brown Institute about our Magic Grant Program