Student business plan competitions

Top 20 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 the top competitions aimed at current college undergraduates, graduate students, recent alumni, and high school students 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. High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

Hosted by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah with sponsorship from Zions Bank, this competition is targeted at high schoolers with big ideas.

  • What you need: A business idea that includes the following: a problem, a proposed solution, a targeted audience/customer and a prototype.
  • Who can apply: Any Utah high-schooler aged 14-18. Teams are not required but can include up to 5 members.
  • Where: This year’s events are expected to be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win: Prizes vary in amount and type based on award received.
  • 2020-21 Deadline: Apply by Feb. 17, 2021.
  • Website:

2. Blue Ocean High School Entrepreneurial Leaders

A global, virtual pitch competition for high school students aimed to provide feedback, advance ideas, and launch students’ futures.

  • What you need: A 3-5 minute pitch for a big idea.
  • Who can apply: Any student currently in high school.
  • Where: This is a virtual event conducted through video submissions.
  • What you could win: The grand prize winner receives $1,000, with other awards receiving up to $750. There are also opportunities for high schools to receive grant money, too.
  • 2020-21 Deadline: Apply by Feb. 19, 2021.
  • Website:

3. Get Seeded

Designed to help get ideas off the ground, this two-part milestone grant funding program seeks out students with measurable goals and helps fund the entrepreneurial process. This program is managed by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah and sponsored by Chad and Kristen Anselmo and

  • What you need: A startup with short-term measurable milestones (prototyping, marketing, etc.) that can be achieved within 30-90 days.
  • Who can apply: Any college student in Utah.
  • Where: The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, though location is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win: There are two grants opportunities: a microgrant of up to $500, and a Seed Grant for $501-1,500.
  • 2020-21 Deadline: Regular grant intervals. See website for details.
  • Website:

4. TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield

A competition for early-stage startups to receive equity-free prize money, as well as general investors and media attention.

  • What you need: A mid-stage startup with clear ideas and product or service in the development stages.
  • Who can apply: Anyone with a startup idea is invited to participate.
  • Where: The first round of competition is regional, and is subject to change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win: Global competition winners receive $100,000 in prize money.
  • 2020-21 Deadline: Application dates have not yet been updated, as they vary by region.
  • Website:

 5. Hatch Pitch

Hosted with SXSW in Austin, Texas, until 2016, this is a competition focused on startups with information technology angles.

  • What you need: A company in which the founders retain some portion of ownership, as well as a product or service that launched sometime in the past 2 years (or within 6 months after the Hatch Pitch event.)
  • Who can apply: Anyone who meets the above criteria. There is no specific age limit or education requirement.
  • Where: Houston, Texas, though location is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win: Winners can receive any amount of funding based on investors’ interest. All contestants receive active coaching and mentoring, as well as publicity for their concepts.
  • 2020-21 Deadline: Applications are received on a rolling basis.
  • Website:

6. Rice University Business Plan Competition

A virtual 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.
  • 2020-21 Deadline: Apply by Feb. 2, 2021, for the April 5-9, 2021 competition.
  • Website:

7. New Venture Championship, University of Oregon

This virtual 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 2-5 students who created, manage, and own their ventures and who are allocated at least 50% of the startup’s equity. At least one member of the team is required to be enrolled in a graduate program from any field.
  • Where: Portland, Oregon.
  • What you could win: Up to $50,000 in prize money is up for grabs. If you don’t make it to the top round, you can still compete in a lightning round for prize money during the finals.
  • 2020-21 Deadline: Applications are due by Feb. 14, 2021, to compete in the qualifying round (Feb. 15 – March 20).
  • Website:

8. ClimateTech & Energy Prize @ MIT

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 $100,000 Grand Prize and other monetary prizes.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Applications due on Feb. 5, 2021.
  • Website:

9. Baylor Business New Venture Competition

Hosted by Baylor University, this 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 and range from a grand prize of $60,000 to $1,500 for second and third-round winners.
  • 2021-2022 Deadlines: Dates have not yet been updated for the following year. The 2021 competition can be streamed from Mar. 25-27, 2021.
  • Website:

10. Innovation World Cup Series

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
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Applications are open now, and due by Sept. 22, 2021.
  • Website:

11. Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

A business-model competition for all college students in Utah. This competition is hosted by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah and sponsored by Zions Bank.

  • What you need: A business model of any type.
  • Who can apply: University students currently enrolled in Utah colleges.
  • Where: The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, though location is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win: Grand prize is up to $40,000 in cash, with additional prizes, like Best Speed Pitch, ranging in dollar amounts
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Applications close on Feb. 8, 2021.
  • Website:

12. Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

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 whose business is located in Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, or Sweden.
  • 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, and other finalists receive €100,000.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Dates have not yet been updated.
  • Website:

13. University Startup World Cup

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, Greentec, Fintech, Hightec & 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). However, if you’re looking for team members, Venture Cup can help connect you to people with similar ideas.
  • Where: The location is not certain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win: Grand prize is $15,000.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Dates have not yet been updated.
  • Website:

14. Get in the Ring 

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 the 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.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Dates vary by region.
  • Website:

15. U. Pitch

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: 100% virtual.
  • What you could win: Up to $10,000 in prizes and cash.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Applications open in the fall of 2021. You can sign up to get notified here.
  • Website:

16. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

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

  • What you need: A for-profit startup with at least one year of revenue.
  • 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.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Application deadlines have not yet been updated.
  • Website:

17. G-Startup Worldwide 

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 eCommerce.
  • Who can apply: Any startup meeting the previous requirement that is registered as a company.
  • Where: First rounds are regional. Finalists compete in Silicon Valley.
  • What you could win: Winners of regional competitions receive cash prizes, travel opportunities, and networking invites.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Dates vary by region.
  • Website:

18. Axel Springer Plug and Play

While competitive, this 100-day program is more of an accelerator than an out-right competition. They require 5% 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: €50,000, valuable time to pitch in front of investors, and experience.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Deadlines vary based on location and stage of company.
  • Website:

19. Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition

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

20. CodeLaunch

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 and might be impacted by COVID-19.
  • 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.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines: Dates have not yet been updated.
  • Website:

About the Author:

Jacqueline Mumford Jacqueline is a master of accounting graduate from the University of Utah. Specializing in tax, she works as an accountant studying the intersection of government and business. In her free time, she runs, plays Candy Crush, and reads novels. Twitter: @jacqmumford and LinkedIn here.

2 thoughts on “Top 20 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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