Criteria and Frequently Asked Questions

The MIT Arts Startup Incubator  encourages the launch of arts-focused ventures at MIT. Consequently, teams are required to have at least one current MIT student member and to have a business plan with arts at its core.

Application deadline: Monday, November 13, 2023

Competition Rules

  1. To compete, your venture must have arts at its core: this means your idea either directly promotes the arts or features arts as an intrinsic part of the mission or business model.
  2. Teams must include at least one current MIT student. Currently registered MIT students include all full-time and part-time undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral candidates. Teams may include non-students; however, each team must be composed of at least 50% students from MIT or other schools.
  3. Each team may enter only one idea.
  4. Submissions must be the original work of the submitting team.
  5. The Judging Panel reserves the right to disqualify any entry.

Judging Criteria

The MIT Arts Startup Incubator seeks ventures with a strong:


The team has explained how their business idea and business model fit into the arts continuum, meaning that they fairly and sufficiently address the needs of: the artist, the producer, the customer/user, and/or all other pertinent stakeholders involved in a viable arts entrepreneurship initiative.


The arts-focused business plan offers an innovative approach to solving a real need related to the sustainability of the arts and/or a novel way to increase the cultural and societal impact of the arts. The ideal plan can be scaled, and once implemented, will have a substantial, sustainable, and measurable impact. Note that impact may not necessarily translate to profit; social enterprise and nonprofit models are also encouraged.


The pitch describes a clear strategy and milestones that the team will execute to create a financially sustainable venture. Note that some teams may have already tested their business model, while others are in the early stages of developing their plan; applicants of all stages are welcome to the competition.



The team (with at least one current MIT student) has the expertise, skills, and commitment necessary to execute their arts-focused business plan.



The pitch is presented in a professional and clear fashion.

2019 $15K Creative Arts Competition. Credit: HErickson/MIT.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does it mean to have arts and design at the core of a business?

Your business must create, integrate, or promote the arts as its primary goal. Examples include: a new web platform that connects artists, a game company that focuses on music, a software that makes it easier to edit video footage, or an ecommerce site that democratizes the art-buying experience. As long as the arts and/or design are critical to your business plan, you are eligible to compete. You can check out past recipients of the award here.

2. How do I apply?

Applications are accepted annually via online submission. Deadline and the access link will be posted here when available.

3. What is the judging process?

A panel of judges will review the initial applications and select a group of semi-finalists that will make up the cohort of teams developing their ventures. Semi-finalists will be asked to submit additional materials to move onto the final round. A panel of expert judges will review the semi-finalist applications and select finalist teams that will participate in the live pitch event in the spring. Judges may include former and current MIT Visiting Artists, entrepreneurs in the creative industries, local artists, MIT alumni, and leaders in the arts at MIT.

In the initial round, the judges are looking for potential. Make sure to clearly define your vision and potential impact. In the final round, the judges are looking for more mature development of that potential in the business plans, with a clear understanding of your roadmap to success.

4. Who do I contact with questions about the $15K MIT Arts Startup Incubator?


For more information contact:

Philana Brown
Producer, Arts at MIT