Top 15 Student Business-Plan Competitions

Say you have an awesome idea for a startup, something with real potential. There is, however, a pretty big problem: launching a business isn’t cheap, and as a student or recent graduate, it’s difficult to finance a business on your own. But, your idea is good. So what happens next? We’ve compiled a list of 15 competitions aimed at current undergraduates, graduate students and recent alumni from all over the world to not only help you test your business model against what your peers are doing (and gain meaningful experience in the process), but also transform your idea into a reality.

1. Rice University Business Plan Competition

Description: A three-day competition that accounts for pitches, feedback and judge interaction, designed to give entrepreneurs real-world experience.

What you need: A business in the seed, startup or early growth stages

Who can apply: Any full-time or part-time U.S. graduate students. Teams must have at least one graduate student and a faculty advisor, but only students can present.

Where: Rice University in Houston, Texas.

What you could win: The grand-prize winner receives $125,000 in equity capital from a Houston investment group as well as $20,000 in cash and about $80,000 in services. This includes a year’s worth of office space.

2017-18 Deadline: Not available when we published this information. Next competition will take place April 5-7, 2018.


2. New Venture Championship, University of Oregon

Description: This competition attracts students who want to “create something extraordinary,” and can bridge the gap between a market need and a real solution.

What you need: A business majorly owned by students that has a faculty advisor, looking for seed capital.

Who can apply: Teams of two or more that include at least one graduate student from any university in any field of study.

Where: Portland, Oregon.

What you could win: The first prize winner receives $25,000 in cash; the second place finisher gets $10,000. If you don’t make it to the top round, you can still compete in a lightning round for prize money during the finals.

2017-18 Deadline: Not available when we published this information.


3. MIT Clean Energy Prize

Description: A competition aimed at any student who wants to change the way we handle energy.

What you need: A business focused on one of four categories: generating energy, delivering energy, improving energy usage or energy for developing economies.

Who can apply: University teams from across the United States.

Where: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What you could win: The top two teams in each category go on to compete for a $200,000 Grand Prize and a $75,000 Clean Energy Prize. Every team selected to compete initially, however, automatically gets $1,000 and mentoring, no matter if they advance or not.

2017-18 Deadlines: Applications due in January, 2018. Click here for instructions to apply.


4. Baylor Business New Venture Competition

Description: Hosted by Baylor University, this a two-track competition is nationwide.

What you need: A business in one of two competition tracks: internet and consumer technology and non-internet and consumer technology companies. Internet and consumer technology companies must aim to impact one of the following industries: internet services, internet security, info tech, software cloud, mobile tech, mobile apps, mobile commerce, web/e-commerce, social commerce, social networking, social media, social gaming, video gaming.

Who can apply: Current students or recent alumni (within the last 15 months) in teams with 2-4 members

Where: Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

What you could win: All prizes are in cash. Grand prize: $60,000. Second place: $35,000. Third place: $20,000. 4th-12th: $1,500.

2017-18 Deadlines: Not available when we published this information.


5. Innovation World Cup Series

Description: This is a global competition split into categories where participants connect and compete in a convention setting.

What you need: A business that is involved in the internet of things or wearable technology in the fields of home, city, lifestyle, industrial, transportation, healthcare and retail.

Who can apply: If you are 18 or older and in no way affiliated with Navispace, the host, you can apply.

Where: Munich, Germany.

What you could win: Prize pool of $500,000, with networking and exposure included

2017-18 Deadlines: Applications are open now, and due by November 18, 2017.


6. Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

Description: Utah only competition managed by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah. If you win your college’s version of Opportunity Quest, you automatically advance to the top 20. The competition also has a branch competition for youth called the High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge.

What you need: A business model of any type.

Who can apply: University students currently enrolled in Utah colleges.

Where: University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What you could win: Grand prize is $40,000 in cash, with additional prizes, like Best Speed Pitch, ranging in dollar amounts

2017-18 Deadlines: Not available when we published this information.


7. Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

Description: One of the largest sustainable entrepreneurship competitions, participants compete with international entrepreneurs for the best green business plan.

What you need: A business must have the potential to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a measurable amount, should be developed enough to execute should be realizable as a usable product or service within the next two years.

Who can apply: Anyone 18 years or older.

Where: The finals are hosted in Amsterdam, where you will present your idea to the jury (reasonable expenses covered for one person).

What you could win: Grand prize winner receives €500,000. Second place receives €200,000.

2017-18 Deadlines: Not available when we published this information.


8. University World Cup

Description: This competition is hosted and organized by a Danish non-profit, Venture Cup. Their mission is to establish connections among student entrepreneurs internationally, as well as teach and advise young people about the world of business.

What you need: Preferably, a business that fits into one of the following categories: healthtech, greentech, fintech, hightech and robotics or information communication technology. However, if your idea is cool enough, they’ll accept anything.

Who can apply: Only student startups may enter. Therefore, all teams must have at least one person who is a student, faculty member or recent graduate (within the year they’re applying).

Where: Finals are hosted in Copenhagen and last one week.

What you could win: Grand prize is $25,000.

2017-18 Deadlines: Not available when we published this information.


9. Get in the Ring

Description: One-on-one, regional and global face off between startups that takes place in a literal ring.

What you need: A “high potential” startup that is 8 years or younger with an innovative and scalable business idea or model.

Who can apply: Anyone with a business fitting the above-described model.

Where: The beginning stages of competition are regional, and vary based on your location. Finals are hosted in a different location internationally every year. Travel cost to finals is covered.

What you could win: GITR offers immense exposure for your business by placing you in a ring where you “battle” other entrepreneurs using your business pitch in front of investors and businesspeople. Grand prize winners receive a seat at the table with hand picked advisors and investors, and title.

2017-18 Deadlines: Dates vary by region.


10. Pitch

Description: This national competition brings university students from all disciplines together to contend for the best 90-second pitch.

What you need: A company or idea to start a for-profit company with headquarters in the U.S.

Who can apply: Current university students or graduates within the last six months.

Where: Chicago, Illinois.

What you could win: Grand prize is $5,000.

2017-18 Deadlines: Applications open late summer 2017 in preparation for the competition on Nov. 16, 2017.


11. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

Description: This competition brings women from six regions of the world to showcase their ideas.

What you need: A for-profit startup between 2 and 3 years old.

Who can apply: Only women may apply for this competition.

Where: Finalists attend awards week in Singapore, where the final round commences.

What you could win: Grand prize is $100,000. All runner-ups receive $30,000.

2017-18 Deadlines: Applications are open now, due Aug. 31, 2017, at 2 p.m. Paris time.


12. G-Startup Worldwide

Description: This is a global competition that supports young entrepreneurs in the early stages of a startup with funding and a network of investors.

What you need: A product that is making a positive impact, showing traction in the market, and is involved in AI, mobile, IoT, wearables, fintech, cyber security, smart cars, AR/VR, space, robotics/drones, education, enterprise, health, aggtech, or social and e-commerce.

Who can apply: Any startup meeting the previous requirements.

Where: First rounds are regional. Finalists compete in Silicon Valley.

What you could win: Winners of regional competitions receive $50,000 and a trip to Silicon Valley for the finals, competing for $250,000.

2017-18 Deadlines: Dates vary by region.


13. Axel Springer Plug and Play

Description: While competitive, this 100-day program is more of an accelerator than an outright competition. They require 5 percent equity in exchange for participation.

What you need: A business model for digital entrepreneurship.

Who can apply: Anyone with an early-stage company and a pitch deck.

Where: Location varies. Check the website below for more details.

What you could win: €25,000, valuable time to pitch in front of investors, and experience.

2017-18 Deadlines: Due July 23, 2017, for the competition in September, 2017.


14. Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition

Description: Inspired and promoted by the United Nations, this competition takes place through three stages of online submission and selection.

What you need: Innovative ideas and projects with a societal impact. Must involve one or more of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Who can apply: Anyone aged 18-35.

Where: Winners are invited to the Summit in Berlin in October of every year.

What you could win: Recognition at the Summit and the UN’s acknowledgment.

2017-18 Deadlines: Applications are open now, and the final submission is due July 31, 2017.


15. CodeLaunch

Description: Annual seed accelerator for people and groups with ideas for “apps” who are seeking seed funding. Entries are submitted online.

What you need: Any software ideas are taken, even just having an idea for an app is acceptable.

Who can apply: Anyone that fits the previous criteria.

Where: Finals are hosted in Texas, dates change every year.

What you could win: Applicants chosen to attend CodeLaunch pitch day compete in front of judges poised to invest. Overall winner receives custom software design, development, and/or website development, hosting services, and a partnership with Code Authority. Winners may also judge the following year’s competition.

2017-18 Deadlines: Applications open Jan. 1, 2018.


About the Author:

Jacqueline Mumford Jacqueline is a marketing and political science double major and frequent Lassonde contributor. You can find her on LinkedIn.

One thought on “Top 15 Student Business-Plan Competitions

  1. Thanks Jacqueline for this comprehensive list. I wish I had this information 15 years ago. Had a great idea, pitched it to some venture firms and was turned down and saw the same idea skyrocket to the top two years later when someone else came with the same idea and presented it in a much more convincing way to the investors.

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