If you have any questions, please check out our application FAQs here.



Cleantech Open provides tangible benefits:

  • World-class mentoring: receive intensive, tailored mentoring from experienced business experts and gain access to one of the world's only cleantech-specific expert networks.
  • Hands-on training: 12-week series of intensive workshops, bootcamps, and webinars to launch your startup to the next level.
  • Prizes: In 2020, U.S. Cleantech Open plans to award a mix of cash and in-kind services to the winners of its showcasing events. This includes:
    • Up to $75,000 in cash investment* to winners of our regional and national showcasing competitions in the U.S.
    • Up to $50,000 of in-kind services - each cash/investment award will be matched with up to an equal amount in services.
    • The opportunity to win more prizes as they are announced.
  • Networking: connect to a powerful national network of influencers and entrepreneurs.
  • Visibility: showcase your startup to investors, strategic partners, and customers through specialized connection events as well as through social media and press releases.
  • Alumni: on-going engagement for teams who’ve completed Cleantech Open, including introductions to investors and corporate partners, participation in Challenges, networking events.

As with most endeavors, what you get out of Cleantech Open is based on the effort and intensity of what you put in.  Don’t expect to simply sign up and expect to win a prize!

*All awards are subject to change at Cleantech Open’s sole discretion, and may vary from region to region. The cash component of each award may be provided as a grant or as seed capital (investment). The grand prize is provided as seed capital (investment) in the form of a convertible note.

To qualify as a student-led company, the company must have a full-time student as the lead for the Accelerator and at least half the company must be students.

Yes - as long as you fall within the funding guidelines at the time of your application, your startup is still eligible.

No - we accept startups at all stages of development. We have had winning teams who started the program with only a concept and no prototype, and we had winning teams who were already selling a product to customers!

That being said, the curriculum and program of Cleantech Open is most useful for companies who are still doing Customer Discovery, creating their Business Models and forming their products.

No - you can be a team of at least two individuals or a company (eg corporation or LLC), although in order to pay out any prize money at the end of the competition, you would need to be a company and provide a W9 form.

You may form a brand new team in order to apply, but we recommend applying with an existing team (you will get more out of the Accelerator with a team that is already established and has a clear definition of roles).

No. However, a US legal entity (corporation, LLC, or similar) must be created prior to receiving any prizes (we can't write checks to individuals). Any such legal entity must have an ownership structure typical of an independent startup.

No. We don't typically offer fee waivers nor do we refund the application fee.  Please read through all FAQs and ask Cleantech Open HQ for clarification before paying the application fee.

One of our basic requirements is that there needs to be a minimum of two people per company. However, sometimes the second company member doesn't have to participate in the program full-time. Most often, only one company member needs to attend most events.

If you are really pressed for a second company member, check out sites like AngelList.co or  CoFoundersLab to find other entrepreneurs, or try to enlist an advisor/mentor from outside Cleantech Open to join your team.

As with most activities, you will get out of Cleantech Open what you put into it. We've tried to design the program so that it integrates into your schedule rather than takes time out of it.

Alumni have said they spend 2-8 hours per week on Cleantech Open-related activities at any given point during the accelerator. The required National Academy (in June) and Global Forum (in November) events are typically 2-3 days in conjunction with a weekend day.

We hear frequent concerns on both sides of this issue (see below). Yes, it's true, at its heart this program supports early stage startups, but we actually work with a wide range of companies in different developmental stages. We frequently work with teams that have slugged it out for several years and are in need of a few key connections, some new inspiration, that one big seed opportunity, and some great visibility to get their idea to market.

A big part of our program is focused on finding and speaking with customers:  finding them, learning about their needs and determining how your company and technology can fulfill those needs.  Cleantech Open is about finding the best of the next crop of companies that have put in blood, sweat, and tears and are primed to take advantage of the massive opportunity that our program provides.

We love early stage ideas - many of us take a great personal interest in finding out about these and doing what we can to make them real ventures. Often people are too modest or not sure they're ready to get their idea out there and act on what they have to offer. But if you are just starting up, there is no better way than the Cleantech Open Accelerator to focus on business strategy, with guidance from some of the best professionals in the field! Some of our most successful companies came through the Cleantech Open at a very early stage in their process and are now off and running.

Great - then Cleantech Open is perfect for you because it is all about growing your business! Trust us, no one can understand being busy better than us. In many ways, Cleantech Open is like a startup ourselves, with only TWO full-time staff people year-round! Our volunteers give up a huge chunk of their free time because they care about companies like yours.

Our alumni will tell you that the exercises that they went through in the Cleantech Open were what they would have had to do anyway, just on a structured time frame with guidance from mentors. This is not an academic exercise or passive program of lessons.

Cleantech Open is a structured, in-depth and COMMUNITY-DRIVEN process where we expect you to come out a stronger and more primed company on the other end. The core of the program can take as little as a few hours each week, but you'll find that the accelerator's ongoing intangible benefits reach far beyond that. If you don't put your company out there, you'll miss out on the serendipitous, unexpected connections that can occur as a program participant.

Some of our most successful alumni are repeat applicants! Often, companies apply before they're completely ready, and sometimes companies just don't come across well in their first application attempt. That's why we encourage people to re-apply even if they've been passed over before - please let us know how things have changed and what milestones you've hit.

Cleantech Open is a bargain. We aren't just saying that. We've heard of one-day pitch events charging more than what we charge for a 5-6 month program. If we were to charge you full price for everything we were offering, the cost would be >$10,000 per company. If you come to every event, you will get paid back in food alone.

Our large community of professionals are all contributing their time pro-bono to create value for your startup. By paying a participation fee, you're covering the bare minimum of hard costs that this non-profit organization incurs to run smoothly. The value that's added, the jobs that are created, the millions in funding that are raised by our startups all come because of the massive investment in time and expertise of our community.

About 30-50% of applicants are accepted as participants.

This is not a hard number as it is important to understand that it depends on the quality of applications we receive each year. 

It takes only a few moments to create your user profile - the first step. If you have done grants or other accelerator applications in the past, the Cleantech Open application should be a breeze. Most of your time will be spent editing down to our character limits.

If you are starting from scratch, it will take about 2-5 hours total to complete.

Six to seven months, with the three months in the middle being most intense.

Applicants will hear back from Cleantech Open by May 6th whether or not they have been selected to participate in the accelerator. This is the official starting point of the accelerator.

Regional Final Judging and the Innovation Expo and Awards Gala for the Accelerator happen in late September to early October. Nationally, the Accelerator ends at the Global Forum with National Final Judging, Innovation Expo, Investor & Partner Connect, and an Awards Gala in late October.