Mel Woodward Cup


The Mel Woodward Cup is a startup pitch competition delivered by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) and generously supported by members of the business community. The competition helps accelerate the most innovative and high-potential student-led startups at Memorial University.

The first and second place teams of the competition win $25,000 and $15,000 prizes, respectively, in addition to in-kind prizes from partners. MCE also awards two additional prizes:

  1. The Fry Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for an Early-stage Idea ($2,500)
  2. The Fry Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for Women or Non-binary Leadership ($2,500)

See more details on these awards in the FAQ below.

This competition has been built on the memory of Dr. Mel Woodward, an entrepreneur who started his journey on a dream and a truck. Learn more about Dr. Woodward HERE.


  1. The applying startup must be at least 50% owned by a current Memorial University student. If the startup is not yet incorporated, then at least 50% of the founders must be Memorial University students. If the company is incorporated, Memorial University students must own at least 50% of the company.
  2. The competition presenter needs to be a founder/co-founder and a current Memorial student.
  3. The applicant(s) must intend to create and operate their startup in Newfoundland and Labrador. If the startup is already incorporated (which is not required for this competition), it must be incorporated in Newfoundland and Labrador. 
  4. The startup must have less than 10 full-time equivalent employees

While these eligibility criteria provide general parameters, eligibility will ultimately be determined at the sole discretion of the MCE.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications are evaluated against criteria in three broad categories: the market opportunity, the proposed product/solution, and the entrepreneur/team. More details are provided in the application form.



Timeline (Winter 2024)

Key dates for the 2024 Mel Woodward Cup (all dates subject to change):


January 15, 2024 Applications OPEN
January 31, 2024 Workshop: How to prepare your Mel Woodward Cup application
February 7, 2024 Workshop: How to pitch your startup
February 26, 2024, 12 pm NST MWC Applications CLOSE
March 4, 2024 Top 10 applicants invited to Q&A with preliminary judging panel
March 5, 2024 Top 10 applications participate in Q&A with preliminary judging panel
March 6, 2024 Top 5 applications confirmed for participation in the Mel Woodward Cup Finals
March 6 - March 19, 2024 Top 5 preparation sessions (as needed)
March 20, 2024 Mel Woodward Cup Finals


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1. What are the requirements to be considered a “Memorial University student”?

You must be enrolled and verifiable in the Memorial University system as a current, active student either at the undergraduate or graduate level.


2. Why will having people from diverse genders on your startup team increase your chance of success?

There are many well-documented and well-researched reasons that team diversity greatly improves a company/organization’s likelihood of success. Learn more about those reasons here.

Women and non-binary individuals are strongly under-represented in the startup world, particularly in tech startups. To that end, we strongly encourage women  and non-binary entrepreneurs to apply for the Mel Woodward Cup.

Newfoundland and Labrador boasts many examples of highly successful and diverse startup co-founders and/or CEOs, including Gina Pecore of Genoa Design, Emily Bland of Sucseed, Dr. Nikita Kendyala of Nucliq Biologics, Deanne McCarthy of Swiftsure Innovation, Holly Hill of SiftMed, among many others.


3. What types of ideas are you looking for?

We are looking for ideas that are truly innovative and clearly different from what is currently available on the market. We want ideas that can have big impact on a pan-Canadian or, ideally, global scale. Technology- and non-technology-based ideas are encouraged. All sectors are welcome (food, hospitality, health, finance, manufacturing, etc.).


4. I’m not sure where to start with my idea. Can someone help me?

Absolutely! At MCE, everything starts with our startup coaches. Book a meeting with one of our startup coaches HERE - it doesn’t matter what stage you’re at. Even if you don’t have a startup idea at all - grab a meeting with one of our coaches to get some tips on getting started. You can book as many meetings as you need, and they are always free.


5. Can you give me some more detail on the two Fry Family Foundation Awards?

The Fry Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for an Early-stage Idea ($2,500) goes to a startup that is extremely promising, but was not yet ready for the finals largely because it was simply at too early a stage. For example, maybe there’s a great idea behind the startup, but without much validation behind it yet because it’s new.

The Fry Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for Women or Non-binary Leadership ($2,500) to the most promising startup led by a woman or non-binary student. For a team, a woman or non-binary student co-founder must be the CEO (or equivalent).


6. What are some of the in-kind prizes that one may be able to win?

In-kind prizes vary from year to year but typically include things like legal, marketing, and finance support, free software subscriptions, and business consulting. All are critical elements to helping an early stage startup learn and grow.


7. Do I need to be a part of a team to win?

Not at all. Participants may compete as individuals. We do, however, encourage you to create teams with strong diversity and complementary skill sets.


8. What are some keys to success?

Take your time with the application. Every question in the application will require a thoughtful (and concise) response. It’s not something that can be completed quickly - it may take considerable work.

Also, utilize the resources we have here at the MCE. We provide a multitude of services that can help assist you at all stages of your business idea. We encourage you to book a meeting with one of our startup coaches HERE.



9. I was one of the winners/finalists for one of the previous Mel Woodward Cups. Can I participate again in this year’s cup?

Former winners of the Mel Woodward Cup (i.e. winners of $10,000 prize or more) can only be part of a new application if they are applying under a new startup.

Former Mel Woodward Cup finalists can apply with the same startup if they did not secure one of the winning grants (i.e. $10,000 prize or more) in a previous Mel Woodward Cup competition.


10. How is the funding given out? Do we need to describe how we intend to spend said funding?

The funding will be awarded by the MCE in one of the following ways:

For individuals: funding will be awarded directly to that person.

For teams: winning teams must provide account information of a shared, personal bank account to which the funding will be wired. If a team is selected as a winner, it is required that an agreement is created within the team to determine the use of the funding in furthering the objectives of the startup.

Winning teams need to provide a signed document detailing how they commit to spending the funding. All the funding needs to be put into the startup. Winners are required to report back one year after the competition to verify how the funds were spent.