The Garage’s Pre-Accelerator program, Jumpstart (formerly known as Wildfire), aims to develop students as both leaders and founders by introducing new ways of thinking and problem solving.

The Jumpstart Pre-Accelerator program (formerly known as Wildfire) at The Garage seeks to accelerate early-stage student teams by giving them additional resources and coaching over a period of 10 weeks –  June 20 through August 23, 2023. We aim to help them to reach problem solution fit, and prepare them for the next phase of their ventures whether it’s customer acquisition, growth, fundraising, or applying to accelerators. Jumpstart culminates with Demo Day, where students will present their proposal and gain feedback from established judges. This is a program designed to help early-stage ventures learn, grow, and overcome obstacles preventing the launch of their ventures.

Like all programs at The Garage, Jumpstart welcomes all ideas: for-profit, nonprofit, arts-based, technology, or anything that students wish to see come to life through innovation and hard work.


Jumpstart is comprised of three vital pillars: development of the entrepreneurial toolkit, learning to sell yourself and your idea via pitch practice, and gaining an entrepreneurial mindset. Through thoughtful content workshops, team building activities, and one-on-one guidance, students learn the ABC’s of entrepreneurship, master the art of storytelling, and develop important soft skills like resiliency and the ability to have difficult conversations. Student teams are also offered a stipend to sustain their ventures through the summer.

After Jumpstart wraps, student teams pitch their ventures at Demo Day, where a prize pool of $10,000 is up for grabs.

2022 Student Teams

BearRoom – We elevate the traditional tabletop experience by creating a space for people to play their favorite board games by transforming their phone into a controller and a tablet, laptop, or TV into the board.

JupiterDX – Building a platform for patients with chronic illnesses to share data with loved ones, care providers, and researchers.

The Late Knight – Delicious, cheap, late-night food delivery service for college towns – starting with Northwestern! 

Overture Games – Developing video games for music students that they play with their instrument. 

Renota – Building software to help math students receive more high-quality feedback on their work while saving teachers time in the process. 

Squair One – Increasing equity in higher education through one on one mentoring sessions by and for lower income students. 

SteadyScrib – Designing a pen to increase ability and independence for people with Parkinson’s Disease, specifically counteracting the most writing-inhibitive Parkinson’s symptoms. 

Wudv – Second-hand fashion marketplace of blank price tags. 

Yitzy – Platform that helps young adults connect better through social journaling.


In order to apply, a team must include at least two members. The lead team member must be a full-time student (undergraduate or graduate, at any Northwestern school) during the duration of the program. Priority is given to students that will still be enrolled in the following academic year. Teams can include members from other universities as long as all participating team members commit to the 10 weeks of the program (June 20 through August 23, 2023).

At least two members of the team, with at least one of those members being a co-founder, are expected be dedicated to participate in Jumpstart on a full time basis during the summer. Participants are expected to participate in lieu of other employment, an internship, travel, etc. and dedicate 40 hours per week, per team member, to the program.

To be notified when Jumpstart applications open next year, sign up for The Garage’s newsletter here. If you have any questions, please contact us here.


Teams are offered half of their total summer award at the start of Jumpstart, and earn the other half throughout the summer.

In order to participate in Jumpstart, you must have a team of at least two people, including a founder or co-founder. If you are a solo founder, we strongly encourage you to seek a co-founder to join your team when preparing to apply.

Students participating in the program are expected to treat the program like a full-time job, with each member of a team spending at least 40 hours per week on their startup or in Jumpstart programming, including special workshops and team meetings. Time off is not be granted for personal activities or travel.

Jumpstart is a pre-accelerator program. This means it is designed for early-stage ventures or ideas seeking resources and opportunities to discover customer fit, iterate on a product, etc. It’s not ideal for startups already engaged in fundraising or working on later stage startups.

This program is designed for students who are committed to working on their startups full-time. Therefore, it is expected admitted participants do not have or seek other employment, internships, or travel during the 10 weeks that Jumpstart takes place. This applies to every team member.

The programming and schedule vary, and will be detailed at the start of Jumpstart. Typically, two days each week are dedicated to workshops and other content. A third day is reserved for team check-ins with staff and/or mentors. The remainder of each week can be used for pitch practice, customer interviews and other venture-related work. The 4th of July is a holiday.

Normally, yes! However, during remote programming, we aren’t able to feed you. 

No. We welcome all Northwestern students with an idea to apply.

You can use your award however your team likes–some teams opt to pay themselves or use their award for living expenses throughout the summer. You may also save your award or put it toward your venture.


Jumpstart 2022: Demo Day Wrap-Up

A New Name for The Garage’s Pre-Accelerator: Introducing Jumpstart!

Wildfire Check-in: Halfway through Wildfire 2020!

Wildfire 2020: (Virtual) Demo Day Wrap Up

Student entrepreneurs ignite their ideas at Wildfire

Northwestern University Wildfire Summer Demo Day at The Garage

Unplugg’d pivots brand strategy, wins pitch competition at The Garage


Open: Monday, April 3, 2023 at 9:00 AM CT

Close: Sunday, April 16, 2023 at 11:59 PM CT