MIT Arts Startup Incubator

Workshops + Mentorship + Compete for $15,000

Formerly known as the Creative Arts Competition, the MIT Arts Startup Incubator was established in 2013 to foster arts-focused ventures at the Institute. The $15,000 prize is awarded to help launch the winning enterprise and enable the recipient(s) to join the ranks of MIT’s most successful startup founders.

Taking place October 2023 – May 2024, this year’s competition features supporting events and workshops before and during the program period to help students build out their teams and define and refine their business concepts. Semifinalists, chosen by application in November, are part of a cohort program designed to accelerate arts-focused ventures. Teams receive mentorship from past prize winners, distinguished faculty, MIT alumni, local creative entrepreneurs, and access to exclusive workshops to help them hone their business models, connect to resources, and prepare to pitch.

Finalists pitch their ventures to a live panel of judges and compete for the $15K grand prize. All finalist teams receive $2,500 towards their venture.

The $15K Arts Startup Incubator is supported in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT.

Upcoming Events

May 1, 2024 / 5:00-8:00pm | iHQ (E38) 7th Floor Hacker Reactor

Hear from CreateSafe CEO and Grimes’ manager, DAOuda Leonard, at the MIT Arts Startup Incubator live pitch competition!

Five teams of MIT students present their arts-focused ventures to a panel of expert judges to win $15K. Following their pitches, DAOuda Leonard joins in conversation with an MIT moderator about CreateSafe’s approach to using GenAI as a tool to empower artists and transform the music industry. The event will culminate with the winning team awarded a $15K prize.All finalist teams receive $2,500 towards their venture.

2023-24 MIT Arts Startup Incubator Launch Event

October 4, 2023 at 5-7:30pm | iHQ (E38) 7th Floor Hacker Reactor

Join us for this year’s Arts Startup Incubator kickoff event!

2023 First Prize Winner: Monki Tox

Warm congratulations to Divya Iver SM ’24 and her team, whose venture Monki Tox—an audio storytelling app that helps Indian children connect with their roots—won the $15,000 prize in the 2022-23 competition.

On Wednesday, April 4, 2023, the five finalist teams pitched their ideas to a jury and packed house at the MIT Innovation Headquarters. The remaining four semifinalist teams (Artizen, Embrace, Kino AI, and Oneshoe3D) each received prizes of $2,500.

Resources from Past Events

Non-Profit Business Plans with Miguel Rodriguez

Monday, December 21, 2020 / 7:00-8:00pm

This session helps students interested in the competition’s non-profit track to build out a robust business plan by identifying target impact, stakeholders, key partners, and more. We are joined by guest facilitator Miguel Rodriguez, who is the founder and president of Athlone Artists and has held executive positions with Boston Baroque, Opera Boston, and Boston Landmarks Orchestra.

For-Profit Budgets with Kit Hickey

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 / 7:30-8:30pm

This session is aimed at helping for-profit venture teams create a prospective budget to support your venture’s early growth. Kit Hickey, co-founder of Ministry of Supply and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Martin Trust Center will share her experience budgeting to support growth in a company’s early stages. 

Non-Profit Budgets with Julia Turnbull

Monday, December 7, 2020 / 7:30-8:30pm

This session focuses on how to create a prospective budget to effectively plan for your non-profit venture’s growth. Julia Turnbull, Assistant Director for Student Programs at the Legatum Center, will discuss her experience evaluating budgets and grant funding for the Inter American Development Bank.

Building your For-Profit Business Plan with Carly Chase

Sunday, December 6, 2020 / 5:00-6:00pm

Carly Chase, Managing Director of the MIT NYC Startup Studio and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Martin Trust Center will be sharing guidance on how to build a strong plan for your arts-related venture. You’ll hear professional tips for building out dimensions from target customers to key suppliers and everything in between.

Building Your Value Proposition with Dr. Michael Camp

November 19, 2020 / 7:30pm

Dr. Michael Camp, Executive Director of Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation at Ohio State University, leads a workshop on how to build and articulate your value proposition as an arts-related venture.

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2022-23 Final Pitch Event

April 4, 2023 | 5:30-8:00pm | iHQ (E38) 7th Floor Hacker Reactor

Five teams compete to win $15,000 to invest in their arts-focused start-up.

Please join us for the final pitch event of the 2022-23 Creative Arts Competition. Months of effort from student teams culminate when five finalist teams present their arts-related ventures to a panel of esteemed adjudicators. While the judges deliberate, the competing teams participate in a Q&A with the audience, the 2022 Competition winner Emma Kaye gives an update on the Cosmosii venture, and refreshments for all attendees are served. After deliberation, a winning team will be announced and the $15,000 prize will be awarded.

Featuring live pitches from the 2023 Finalists:


Minnie Fu, MBA ‘24—cofounder
Angel Lam, Purdue ‘22—cofounder
Natcha Sophonpanich, MBA—cofounder

An AI algorithm-based marketplace that provides aspiring art owners with step-by-step guidance to artwork discovery, personalized visual curation and validating insights into the world’s emerging artists.


Gabriela Torres, SM ‘23—CEO/cofounder
Chen Huang, SM ‘23—designer/cofounder
Alexandra Rigobon ‘16, MBA ‘22—researcher
Angelica Chincaro, SM ’22—researcher
Carolyn Brazil—advisor

An interactive storytelling platform that uses art therapy to help patients waiting for their first psychotherapy appointment to jump-start their healing process

Kino AI

Wesley Block ‘22—cofounder
Lucas Igel ‘23—cofounder

A platform to help film editors become more efficient and more creative.

Monki Tox

Divya Iyer G, MIT SDM, Founder, 
Nandhakumar – App Developer
Afrin Banu – Social Media marketing
Priya Senthil – Story teller
Priya Iyer – Story teller
Karthika Kashyap – Story teller
Anjali – Story teller
Sabarish – Sound engineer

An app that helps Indian children reconnect to their roots by combining culturally-rich Indian stories with contemporary values.


Ganit Goldstein – SMArchS Computation Student at MIT Architecture, Researcher at the Self Assembly Lab
Sasha McKinlay – Alumni of MIT Architecture (MArch) 23′, Researcher at the Self Assembly Lab
Thaddeus Lee – Alumni of MIT Architecture (MArch) 23′, Researcher at the Self Assembly Lab

A venture disrupting standardized sizing in footwear to provide personalized footwear for all, whilst minimizing waste, labor, and material complexity in the manufacturing process.

Featuring an update from the 2022 Competition Winner:


The Etsy of custom goods, Cosmosii enables creators to turn their passion into profit through a community-oriented approach. This SaaS-enabled marketplace helps makers of custom goods find customers and run their business.

IAP Course: How to Talk (and Write About) Your Arts-Based Venture

January 18-24, 2022

This series will help prepare students to present their ventures in writing and discussion in a way that is clear, concise, and compelling. The aim is to help student venture teams succeed in creating their $15K Creative Arts Competition application and equip students to effectively promote their entrepreneurial projects in “pitching” situations.

2020–21 Competition Kick-off Conference

October 25, 2020 / 1:00-3:30pm

Wendy Swart Grossman and Jen Guillemin, co-founders of Creative Re/Frame, present their keynote address, “Bringing Meaning to the Marketplace: Make*Care*Strategize*Implement.” Panel discussion featuring Competition mentors and past winners of the $15K, who share their experiences, successes, and wisdom with us. Panelists include Maria Esteban Casanas and Michael Stradley (Elements, 2020 $15K Winners), Ellen Shakespear (Spaceus, 2018 $15K Second Prize), Nir Hindi (Mentor, Founder of The Artian), and Jon Corbiere (Mentor, CEO of Thought Cafe).