Supporting inclusive entrepreneurship with faces of diverse entrepreneurs

Program Overview

The START Entrepreneurs program is an integrated program that is part academic fellowship and part startup accelerator. The goal of the program is to help aspiring commercial and social entrepreneurs translate academic scholarship into highly impactful new ventures.

Princeton desires to help create a better future by ensuring that its innovations become available to the broader public. The University's initiative is especially important at this time in our history, as we confront multiple interwoven global challenges. Our faculty and professional research staff are increasingly involved in translating their scholarly research into creative solutions to address societal challenges.

In the Research phase, START Entrepreneurs spend 12 months on campus working with a Princeton University PI engaged in translational research leading to new or enhanced innovations that can be applied in a for-profit or not-for-profit startup. During this time, START Entrepreneurs receive training in entrepreneurship along with tailored mentorship.  

In the Accelerator phase, START Entrepreneurs spend 18 months off campus at the Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs where they work full time on their new startup or non-profit organization. Educational programming and mentorship will be ongoing during this phase as well.

The program is fully funded, and includes both salary and benefits for the Entrepreneur as well as a stipend during the Research phase. All startups that are approved to participate in the Accelerator phase also receive a substantial additional investment over the course of the Accelerator phase.

The START program strongly encourages applications from individuals who will contribute to the University’s diversity, broadly defined, including members of groups that have been historically, and are presently, underrepresented in academic entrepreneurship, such as racial and ethnic minorities.


Program Details

All Entrepreneurs will be expected to be present in Princeton, NJ for the duration of the program. This is a full-time commitment, and is not compatible with other employment.

All Entrepreneurs must sign a Entrepreneurs Agreement with Princeton University. This agreement covers expectations during the program, licensing terms for any intellectual property invented at Princeton as well as an investment agreement.

Phase 1 Details

Each Entrepreneur will be employed as a Researcher by Princeton University and will receive a salary of $65,500 plus benefits. START Entrepreneurs will also have access to research funds of up to $10,000.

Each person will create and commit to a set of research milestones with their faculty PI, plus a set of startup activities and milestones with the START program director. Setting and meeting milestones is a key element of the program.

At the outset of the program, a team of mentors will be selected for each Entrepreneur based on their individual needs.

During the first 12-months, START Entrepreneurs can expect to spend 6-10  hours per week on entrepreneurship education and mentorship and activities related to their startup. This is above and beyond the work on academic research.

Phase 1 entrepreneurship education will include access to select entrepreneurship classes, a bootcamp, guest lectures and specific assignments around customer discovery, product:market fit and pitching.

Entrepreneurs will be required to present a quarterly report to the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council outlining the progress on their startup. This reporting will take place quarterly during the whole program.

During Phase 1, Entrepreneurs will be expected to apply for and/or participate in programs that provide education and/or non-dilutive funding such as the NSF i-Corps or SBIR programs, if relevant to their startup.

While it is our expectation that all Entrepreneurs will remain with the program for the 30 months and create a fundable startup, this is not guaranteed. At the end of the first 12 months, Entrepreneurs will present to a review board which will determine if the startup meets the threshold to proceed to Phase 2.

Phase 2 Details

During Phase 2, Entrepreneurs will be working full time as employees of their new startup. This startup will receive a significant investment from Princeton University. These funds are intended to cover salary, benefits, rent and other startup costs.

While Princeton will not receive equity in your startup in exchange for this investment, they will have the right to receive a change-in-control fee under certain circumstances. Note that this is separate from a licensing fee, which will be incurred if the START Entrepreneur develops IP while in the employ of Princeton that is then licensed to the startup.

Entrepreneurs and their employees/co-workers will work at the Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs. Each Entrepreneur will get a dedicated lab bench (if applicable), and a dedicated desk.  Conference rooms are available to tenants on a reservation system.  If you have additional employees in your startup, it will incur additional facility expenses.

The focus during Phase 2 is to get your startup to a place where it can receive outside funding to continue to scale. In addition to general entrepreneurship training, there will be a particular focus on meeting value-building milestones that are important to funders – venture funders, grant funders and others.

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Research Areas

Applications are open to all academic areas. We are first and foremost seeking research and startups that will be highly scalable and impactful and that are in the spirit of Princeton’s unofficial motto “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity”. 

The research being done in partnership with a Princeton faculty member will need to align well with the expertise of that faculty member.

We hope to welcome Entrepreneurs from a breadth of disciplines. Learn more about Princeton University’s areas of study.

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Eligibility & Requirements

Eligibility:  To apply, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Earned an advanced degree from any university by the start date of their appointment (no later than September 1, 2022). 
  • Have the ability to work in the US. US citizens, US permanent residents (green card holders) and non-immigrants with unrestricted employment authorization (visa holders) are eligible to apply. 
  • Strong preference for applicants with PhDs.

Research Proposal Requirements:

The purpose of this program is to enable entrepreneurs to translate academic research into highly impactful new ventures. 

All proposals must be based upon ideas that have a high probability of leading to a scalable and impactful spin-out.

The proposed research must be strongly aligned with the sponsoring Princeton faculty member.

You must be committed to becoming a full-time entrepreneur. This program does not allow for other, concurrent, work activities.

Sponsoring Faculty Requirements

All faculty nominations must be accompanied by a signed START Faculty Agreement.

If your sponsoring faculty member/PI is a Lecturer, their contract with Princeton must extend at least the first 18 months of your appointment.

Other Requirements

This program is designed to foster diversity, equity and inclusion, including to support and empower historically-underrepresented entrepreneurs.  All applicants must explain how their candidacy will contribute to this goal.

Please note that no prior connection to Princeton is required to be a START Entrepreneur.

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Milestones Dates
Applications Open: October 8, 2021
Applications Close: January 2, 2022 11:59pm ET
Notification to Finalists January 16, 2022
Finalist Pitches Week of January 24, 2022
Offers Made February, 2022
Program Starts September 1, 2022 in Princeton, NJ

For questions contact Lauren Bender (

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  • 1-page research proposal (up to 500 words);
  • 1-page startup or non-profit proposal (up to 500 words);
  • 1-page personal statement describing your motivation for being an entrepreneur and why you want to pursue this particular idea (up to 500 words);
  • Statement explaining how applicant will support and empower historically underrepresented entrepreneurs (up to 200 words); 
  • Curriculum vitae;
  • A Faculty Agreement signed by the Princeton faculty member who will be your PI. You may obtain this agreement by emailing Lauren Bender at;
  • At least 2 letters of support (not including your sponsoring Princeton faculty member)
  • Ability to work. Are you a US citizen or green card holder? Y/N. If N, do you have the right to work in the US? Please explain.


  • Finalists will be invited to deliver a startup pitch to a panel of reviewers. Details for the pitch will be shared with you when you are notified that you are a finalist.
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Q: I am a few years out of my PhD and have been working. How will this impact my candidacy?

While we welcome applicants who have been working outside of academia, it will be important to demonstrate that you are able to quickly transition back to research within an academic setting.

Q: I have an idea for a startup, can I apply with this idea?  This program is focused on transitioning academic research into impactful startups. Your research will need to fit well with the expertise, resources and focus of the faculty member with whom you work, and this research should be an integral part of the startup value proposition.

Q: May I finish my PhD research at the same time that I am in the program?
No. You must complete your degree before the program begins.

Q: Must my PI be a tenured or tenure-track Princeton faculty member? 

No, though that is preferable. You may apply to do your research with a lecturer or non-tenured faculty member, as long as they have at least 18 months left on their contract at the time your fellowship begins.

Q: I don’t have a relationship with a Princeton faculty member. How can I find a PI? 

You should reach out directly to faculty members whom you believe would be a good fit for your research. Since this is a new program for Princeton, not all faculty members will be familiar with the details of the START program. Feel free to have the faculty member reach out to Lauren Bender for more information. 

Q: Can the startup use IP owned by another institution? 

While it is the intent that the startup leverages the research being done in Phase 1 of the program, the startup is free to license technology from elsewhere. If you plan to use IP from another institution, it is recommended that you already have the IP licensing agreement in place before joining Princeton.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Lauren Bender at

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Key Dates

Milestones Dates

Application Period:

October 11, 2021 - January 2, 2022
Finalist Pitches January 2022
Fellowship Starts: September 1, 2022 in Princeton, NJ


You can also schedule a 30 minute informational meeting with Lauren Bender of the START Entrepreneurs program.

Join a 30 minute virtual info session for more information about the START Entrepreneurs program. Multiple dates available through December 7, 2021.

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