Wildfire Pre-Accelerator

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

The Wildfire Pre-Accelerator Program at The Garage seeks to accelerate student teams by giving them additional resources and coaching over a period of 10 weeks. 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. Wildfire 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.

Wildfire 2020 Teams

  • Alva: Alva is your online personal jeweler.
  • Amasu: Founded by a clinical pharmacist and practitioners, Amasu offers natural herbal wellness products designed to be integrated seamlessly into daily routines to prolong a healthy life.
  • Cerer: Cerer is an e-commerce platform dedicated to revolutionizing the fashion industry and shifting it towards a more sustainable environmental and economic path.
  • Crawl: Crawl is a create your own bar crawl experience that utilizes an extensive filtering system and a centralized database to access events from bars across Chicago in order for the user to map out their night in advance for the best deals and events Chicago nightlife has to offer.
  • FILO: An internet-based collective that serves as a creative agency, specialized and catered for various forms of entirely independent artistry.
  • FinLit: FinLit is a personal finance education platform that enables organizations to deliver an easily-digestible, video-based curriculum to individuals and effectively measure comprehension.
  • Induction Learning: Enabling students the time for the things that truly matter.
  • Innovestments: Empowering everyday people to become investors in residential real estate through innovative financing.
  • Nooks: The social platform where people share cool places.
  • Qade: Qade is a platform that allows gamers to easily keep track of gaming records and their cash winnings.


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


In order to apply, the 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 Wildfire. 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.

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


Wildfire applications are currently closed.


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

In order to participate in Wildfire, you must have a team. If you are a solo founder, we strongly encourage you to seek a co-founder to join your team.

This summer, Wildfire will be held remotely. However, students participating in Wildfire are expected to treat the program like a full-time job, spending at least 40 hours per week on their startup or in Wildfire remote programming, including special workshops and team meetings. Time off will not be granted for personal activities.

The programming and schedule vary, and will be detailed at the start of Wildfire. 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, due to a remote program this summer, 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.

Questions about Wildfire?

Please contact us at thegarage@northwestern.edu