Startup of the Year

Which startup company has the biggest potential to transform the shopping experience or make a positive impact on the retail industry?

Each year, NRF searches for the most promising rising stars in the retail world. A team of venture capitalists, prominent retailers, industry analysts and NRF Digital Council members selects the winner of the Digital Commerce Startup of the Year competition, presented live at

This competition identifies and showcases not just the most innovative and creative startup, but the one that experts across the spectrum agree will significantly improve or radically alter how retailing is done.

Finalists benefit from visibility, exposure and unparalleled opportunities to connect with retail and technology executives. And the winning startup receives access to exclusive resources and introductions — and a $20,000 prize.

The Prize

Three finalists will receive two free passes to 2017 and will have an opportunity to deliver a TechTalk at the conference in L.A. One finalist will be named Digital Commerce Startup of the Year on the keynote stage at

Starup of the Year photo
The winner receives:
  • Recognition and marketing mentions on NRF’s digital channels, which may include, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, STORES Magazine and the Retail Gets Real podcast
  • Introductions to the competition judges and NRF Digital Council 
  • One year of free NRF membership (October 2017 through October 2018)
  • Two free passes to Retail's BIG Show 2018 in New York for your team
  • Two free passes to 2018, to be held in Las Vegas, for your team
  • A $20,000 prize

Requirements and Criteria

Startup pictures
  • Company applying must be a retailer or technology company based in the United States.
  • Company applying must submit a complete application online. (Applications for 2017 is now closed. Preview all four steps of this year's application.)
  • Company applying must have been incorporated for less than five years (as of January 2017) and be the CEO/founders' full-time work. (i.e., no side projects, school projects or concept-stage companies)
  • Company applying, as well as their parents and affiliates, if any, must have earned less than $100 million in total revenue in calendar year 2016.
  • Finalists will be determined based on the strength and creativity of the application and potential to transform the shopping experience and/or make a positive impact on the retail industry, as determined by judges with industry expertise.
  • Finalists selected by the judges must have a company executive, preferably CEO/founder, attend to present to the judging panel.

Finalists that are selected will be required to:

Startup pictures
  • Make their Founder or CEO available for a 5-10 minute presentation to judges during
  • Join the NRF team and our judges for at least two calls to learn more about your startup in August
  • Accept their selection as a finalist for the competition within TWO business days of being notified
  • Submit a guest article or participate in a Q&A to be published by NRF on Medium
Contest Rules:

For more details on requirements and criteria please review the NRF Contest Rules (PDF).