Startup Survivor

Are you a McMaster University student or alumni with a business idea?
If you’re ready to make your ideas come to life, The Forge is here to help!  Startup Survivor provides startups with the funding, resources, and mentorship to guide and prepare you for launch. Join Startup Survivor to start and build your business in just 4 months!

Applications open on February 1, 2023.
Applications close on March 31, 2023.
Program runs May to August 2023.

Interested in getting involved? Reach out to us and learn more!

Program Inquiries

Outwork. Outshine. Outpitch. Only the strongest startups will survive.

Startup Survivor is a four-month innovation program and pitch competition open to McMaster University students and recent alumni. If that isn’t exciting enough, we’re giving out $75,000 cash throughout the program!

Startup Survivor

  • Throughout the summer, companies are given six business and technical challenges to complete.
  • Challenges focus on customer discovery, market validation, rapid prototyping, marketing and sales, go-to-market strategy, and pitching to investors.
  • For each challenge, educational workshops with subject matter experts will take place so participants can learn about the topic.
  • One-on-one mentorship is offered bi-weekly to provide support to teams as they tackle challenges.
  • At the end of each challenge, a panel of external judges reviews deliverables and provides competitors with feedback for improvement and a challenge score.
  • All teams receive $750 per challenge with The Forge giving out $45,000 throughout the Summer.
  • Companies are encouraged to work out of The Forge, located at McMaster Innovation Park. Our prototyping facility and makerspace technician are available on-site to support companies with hardware components.
  • Participants are invited to weekly informal meetups to share key learnings, ask questions, and connect with peers.
  • The last challenge has the teams pitching to a Venture Capital firm who may choose to invest an additional $25,000. The teams are paired with a pitch coach to ensure they are well-prepared and ready to give a professional presentation.
  • The summer ends with a graduation ceremony celebrating all the teams’ startup achievements and business milestones.
Universole Fit receiving their grand prize award.

Startup Survivor Pitch Competition

  • At the end of August, all competitors’ scores are tallied, and the top 5 companies are invited to pitch at our annual Startup Survivor Pitch Competition where we’re giving away the remaining $30,000 in cash prizes!
  • The Pitch Competition includes our five remaining startups pitching to a panel of esteemed judges and a live audience.
  • The one-night event is the flagship of McMaster’s Entrepreneurship Week, taking place November 13-17, 2023.
  • The event is open to the public and a great opportunity for networking with other students, faculty, startup founders, researchers, and special guests.
  • The lucky grand prize recipient will walk away with $15,000 to go towards their startup!
MedX pitching to the audience.

Application Process

  1. Submit one (super short!) online eligibility form, opening February 1.
  2. All eligible applicants will be required to attend a workshop to prepare you to embark on your first challenge and learn valuable entrepreneurship skills. We are hosting three sessions (which will all contain the same content), with in person and virtual options at a variety of times to ensure there’s a convenient offering for you! More details on this will be found in the eligibility form.
  3. Applicants will work on the first challenge submission until the application deadline.
  4. Applications close March 31st.
  5. During the first two weeks of April, we conduct virtual interviews with the top applicants.
  6. Top 10 teams will be invited to join the program from May to August 2023.
Tression pitching to an audience.


  • At least 1 founding team member must be a McMaster University student or recent alumni (graduated on or after Spring 2022)
  • Students may be enrolled in any faculty, program, and level (undergraduate and graduate)
  • Teams may be comprised of domestic students, international students, or a combination.
  • Business can be from any industry sector (software, hardware, medical device, clean technology, consumer product, social innovation, etc.)
AccessResolve pitching to the audience.

Hear from Previous Participants

Christopher Juman, co-founder of Dahlia

Winners of the 2021 Startup Survivor Competition

Our experience with the Forge Startup Survivor program has been incredibly valuable. We entered the competition looking to gain guidance on our first steps in launching our business while also hoping to gain some funds along the way. We never would have imagined how many skills we would develop all the while having the opportunity to build connections with valuable mentors and other co-founders who have helped shape our business. Startup Survivor has helped catapult Dahlia forward and we are very grateful for this experience. We encourage new founders to apply if they want to gain guidance and direction on how bringing their startup to life!

Josh McGillivray, co-founder of Universole Fit

Winners of the 2022 Startup Survivor Competition

The Forge Startup Survivor program was pivotal not only for Universole Fit but also in my transition from researcher to entrepreneur. We entered the competition with the goal of trying to improve the wide-spread problem of finding the right size shoe, not knowing in the span of a few months they could help turn an idea into a scalable business. The workshops on business development, access to skilled professionals for mentoring, and The Forge’s extensive network provide all the tools for a determined entrepreneur to turn their startup dream into a reality. We would recommend the competition to anyone trying their first startup venture as the mentorship paired with the funding opportunity means regardless of the competition outcome it will be invaluable to your business development. Without the constant guidance and support of The Forge, Universole Fit would not be where we are today. Continuing to work with The Forge as an incubator client, even after the competition, continues to prove to be the best decision we could have made.

Parisa Agahi, founder of Tression

Finalist in the 2022 Startup Survivor Competition

Tression was shaped as a startup through working with The Forge. The mentorship and support offered by this community was paramount for Tression’s growth from an early-stage startup with little validation, to an incorporated company with a large network of advisors and planned go-to-market strategies. I would highly recommend the Startup Survivor and Incubator programs to anyone with a business idea and a passion to solve a real world problem!