The 20 Best Business Plan Competitions to Get Funding [Updated 2021]

The 20 Best Business Plan Competitions to Get Funding

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Business plan competitions can provide valuable feedback on your business idea or business plan, in addition to providing an opportunity for funding for your business. This article will discuss what business planning competitions are, how to find them, and list the 20 most important business planning competitions.

 

What is a Business Plan Competition?

A business plan competition is a contest between startup and/or growing businesses. The goal of the business planning competition is for participants to develop and submit an original idea or complete their existing business plan based on specific guidelines provided by the organization running the contest.

Companies are judged according to set criteria including creativity, feasibility, execution, and the quality of your business plan.

 

How Do I Find Business Plan Competitions?

find real-world experience

A quick Google search will lead you to several websites that list business planning competitions. 

Each site has a different way of organizing the business planning competitions it lists, so you’ll need to spend some time looking through each website to find opportunities that are relevant for your type of business or industry.

Below we’ve highlighted 20 of these popular competitions, the requirements and how to find additional information.

 

20 Popular Business Plan Competitions

The following list is not exhaustive; however, these popular competitions are great places to start if you’re looking for a business competition.

 

Rice Business Plan Competition

The Rice Business Plan Competition is designed to provide collegiate entrepreneurs a real-world platform on which to present their businesses to investors, receive coaching, network with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, fine-tune their entrepreneurship plan, and learn what it takes to launch a successful business.

Who is Eligible?

Initial eligibility requirements include teams and/or entrepreneurs that:

  • are student-driven, student-created and/or student-managed
  • include at least two current student founders or management team members, and at least one is a current graduate degree-seeking student
  • are from a college or university anywhere in the world
  • have not raised more than $250,000 in equity capital
  • have not generated revenue of more than $100,000 in any 12-month period
  • are seeking funding or capital
  • have a potentially viable investment opportunity

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The Rice Business Plan Competition is hosted in Houston, TX at Rice University, the Jones Graduate School of Business.

What Can You Win?

In 2021, $1.6 Million in investment, cash, and in-kind prizes was awarded to the teams competing.

 

Get Seeded

This two-part milestone grant funding program is designed to assist students with measurable goals in launching their enterprises.

Who is Eligible?

Teams must be made up of at least one student from an institution of higher education in Utah and fulfill all of the following requirements:

  • The founding student must be registered for a minimum of nine (9) credit hours during the semester they are participating. The credit hours must be taken as a matriculated, admitted, and degree-seeking student.
  • A representative from your team must engage in each stage of Get Seeded (application, pre-pitch, and final pitch)
  • There are no restrictions regarding other team members; however, we suggest building a balanced team with a strong combination of finance, marketing, engineering, and technology skills.
  • The funds awarded must be used to advance the idea.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The competition will be hosted in Salt Lake City, UT at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah.

What Can You Win?

There are two grants opportunities:

  • Microgrant up to $500
  • Seed Grant for $501 – $1,500

 

Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards is a worldwide competition for students from all majors. The GSEA aims to empower talented young people from around the world, inspire them to create and shape business ventures, encourage entrepreneurship in higher education, and support the next generation of global leaders.

Who is Eligible?

  • You must be enrolled for the current academic year in a university/college as an undergraduate or graduate student at the time of application. Full-time enrollment is not required; part-time enrollment is acceptable.
  • You must be the owner, founder, or controlling shareholder of your student business. Each company can be represented by only one owner/co-founder – studentpreneur.
  • Your student business must have been in operation for at least six consecutive months prior to the application.
  • Your business must have generated US $500 or received US $1000 in investments at the time of application.
  • You should not have been one of the final round competitors from any previous year’s competition.
  • The age cap for participation is 30 years of age.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

Regional competitions are held in various locations worldwide over several months throughout the school year. The top four teams then compete for cash prizes during finals week at the Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York City.

What Can You Win?

At the Global Finals, students compete for a total prize package of $50,000 in cash and first place receives $25,000. All travel and lodging expenses are also covered. Second place gets US $10,000, while third place earns US $5,000. Additional prizes are handed out at the Global Finals for Social Impact, Innovation, and Lessons from the Edge.

 

The Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization Business Plan Competition

The Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization Business Plan Competition (COEBPC) exists to help early-stage entrepreneurs develop their business skills, build entrepreneurial networks, and learn more about how they can transform ideas into reality. It also offers cash prizes to reward entrepreneurship, provide an opportunity for recognition of top student entrepreneurs around the world, and provide unique opportunities for networking.

Who is Eligible?

To compete, you must:

  • Be a currently enrolled student at an accredited institution
  • Have a viable business concept or be the creator of an existing business that generates revenue.

If you are among the top three finalists of the competition and successfully receive prize money, you will be required to submit a class schedule under your name for the current academic semester. Failure to do so will result in the forfeit of the prize money.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

All competitions are held online. The finalist will receive a trip to the International Career Development Conference, where they have an opportunity to win additional prizes from CEO’s sponsors.

What Can You Win?

  • First Place – $7,000
  • Second Place – $5,000
  • Third Place – $3,000
  • People’s Choice Award – Collegiate Entrepreneur of the Year – $600

 

MIT 100k Business Plan Competition and Expo

The MIT 100K was created in 2010 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to foster entrepreneurship and innovation on campus and around the world. Consists of three distinct and increasingly intensive competitions throughout the school year: PITCH, ACCELERATE, and LAUNCH. 

Who is Eligible?

  • Submissions may be entered by individuals or teams.
  • Each team may enter one idea.
  • Each team must have at least one currently registered MIT student; if you are submitting as an individual, you must be a currently registered MIT student.
  • Entries must be the original work of entrants.
  • Teams must disclose any funding already received at the time of registration.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

Hosted in Cambridge, MA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology beginning in October through May of each academic year.

What Can You Win?

PITCH

Top finalists will have a chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at a live event for the chance to win the $5,000 Grand Prize or the $2,000 Audience Choice Award.

ACCELERATE

20 Finalists are paired with industry-specific professionals for mentorship and business planning and a $1,000 budget for marketing and/or business development expenses.

The 10 Top Finalists participate in the Showcase and compete for the $10,000 Audience Choice Award while the 3 Top Finalists automatically advance to LAUNCH semi-finals.

LAUNCH

The grand prize winner receives a cash prize of $100,000 and the runner-up receives $25,000.

 

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Business Plan Competition

The FAU business competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate student entrepreneurs. The competition covers topics in the areas of information technology, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, operations management, etc.

Who is Eligible?

All undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to participate.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The competition will be held at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.

What Can You Win?

  • First prize: $5,000 cash
  • Second prize: $500 cash

 

Network of International Business Schools (NIBS) Business Plan Competition

The Network of International Business Schools (NIBS) Business Plan Competition is designed to offer an opportunity to develop your business plan with the guidance of industry experts. It provides the opportunity for you to compete against fellow entrepreneurs and explore big ideas.

Who is Eligible?

  • Participants must be the legal age to enter into contracts in the country of residence.
  • Participants may not be employed by an organization other than their own company or business that they are launching for this competition.
  • The plan should be for a new business, not an acquisition of another company.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The Network of International Business Schools (NIBS) Business Plan Competition is held in the USA.

What Can You Win?

There is a cash prize for first, second, and third place. There is also a potential for a business incubator opportunity, which would provide facilities and assistance to the winners of the competition.

 

Washington State University Business Plan Competition

The Washington State University Business Plan Competition has been serving students since 1979. The competition is a great opportunity for someone who is looking to get their business off the ground by gaining invaluable knowledge of running a successful business. It offers a wide range of topics and competition styles.

Who is Eligible?

  • Any college undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree-seeking student at Washington State University
  • The company must be an early-stage venture with less than $250,000 in annual gross sales revenue.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The Washington State University Business Plan Competition is held in the Associated Students Inc. Building on the Washington State University campus which is located in Pullman, Washington.

What Can You Win?

There are a wide variety of prizes that could be won at the Washington State University Business Plan Competition. This is because the competition has been serving students for over 30 years and as such, they have offered more than one type of competition. The common prize though is $1,000 which is awarded to the winner of each class. There are also awards for those who come in second place, third place, etc.

 

Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition is one of the most well-known competitions in the country. They have partnered with many prestigious institutions to provide funding, mentorship, and expertise for the competition.

Who is Eligible?

Education ventures with innovative solutions to educational inequity from around the world are encouraged to apply, especially those ventures founded by and serving individuals from marginalized and historically underrepresented communities.

We encourage applicants working in every conceivable educational setting–from early childhood through corporate and adult training. We also welcome both nonprofit and for-profit submissions.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The competition is held at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

What Can You Win?

All finalists receive $1,000 in cash and $5,000 in Amazon Web Services promotional credits.

 

Next Founders Business Plan Competition

Next Founders is a competition geared towards innovative startups with a social impact, looking to transform society by addressing key global human needs. The competition inspires and identifies energetic, optimistic entrepreneurs who are committed to achieving their vision.

Who is Eligible?

Next Founders is for Canadian business owners of scalable, high-growth ventures.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

Next Founders is held at the University of Toronto.

What Can You Win?

You could win up to $25,000 CAD in cash funding for your startup business.

 

Hatch Pitch Competition

This competition is one of the most prestigious business competitions in the US. The winners of the Hatch Pitch Competition are given access to mentorship courses, discounted office space with all amenities included, incubators for startups, tailored education programs, financial counseling & more.

Who is Eligible?

The competition is for companies with a business idea.

  • The company’s product/service must have launched within the past 2 years, or be launched within 6 months after the Hatch Pitch event.
  • Founders must retain some portion of ownership in the company.
  • Received less than $5 million in funding from 3rd party investors.
  • The presenter must actively participate in Hatch Pitch coaching.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The Hatch Pitch Competition is located at the Entrepreneur Space in Dallas.

What Can You Win?

The top prize for this competition is access to resources like incubators and mentorships that could prove invaluable in bringing your startup company to the next level.

 

TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield

The Startup Battlefield is a competition that is sponsored by TechCrunch.  It awards the winner $50,000. There are two different rounds to this competition:

  • First Round – 15 companies from all of the applicants that submitted their business plans for this round.
  • Second Round – Two finalist companies compete against each other at TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s main stage.

Who is Eligible?

At the time of application, companies must have a functional prototype to demo to the selection committee. In selecting final contestants, we will give preference to companies that launch some part of their product or business for the first time to the public and press through our competition. Companies that are in closed beta, private beta, limited release or generally have been flying under the radar are eligible. Hardware companies can have completed crowdfunding but those funds should have been directed to an earlier product prototype. Existing companies launching new feature sets do not qualify.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield is held at different locations.

What Can You Win?

The Startup Battlefield rewards the winner with $50,000. In addition, the two runner-ups get a prize of $5,000 each.

 

New Venture Challenge

New Venture Challenge is a competition hosted by the University of Chicago. There are 3 main categories that will be judged:

  • Innovative Concept – Arguably the most important category, this focuses on uniqueness, originality, and suitability.
  • Market Fit/Business Model – Are you solving an actual problem for your target market? Does your project have the potential for profit?
  • Presentation – Did you make a compelling, impactful presentation? Did you clearly communicate your goals and vision to potential investors?

Who is Eligible?

You can find eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The New Venture Challenge competition is held in Chicago, IL.

What Can You Win?

Finalists are awarded:

  • First Place: $50,000 equity investment and access to industry mentors and other resources.
  • Second place: $25,000 equity investment and access to industry mentors and other resources.
  • Third place: $15,000 equity investment and access to industry mentors and other resources.

 

New Venture Championship

The New Venture Championship is hosted by the University of Oregon and has been since 1987. The championship brings new ventures and innovative business ideas to life and the competition offers plan writing as a service to those who need it.

Who is Eligible?

The University of Oregon New Venture Championship is open to university student teams with 2-5 members that have at least one graduate student involved with their venture. Students should be enrolled in a degree program or have finished their studies in the current academic year.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The New Venture Championship hosted by the University of Oregon is held in Eugene, Oregon.

What Can You Win?

Every business plan has a chance of winning a cash prize from $3,000 to $25,000 and additional benefits like plan coaching and office space rental.

 

Climatech & Energy Prize @ MIT

The Climatech & Energy Prize @ MIT is a competition that focuses on companies that are involved in the area of energy, environment, and climate change.

Who is Eligible?

  • Participants must be a team of two or more people.
  • At least 50% of formal team members identified in the competition submission documentation must be enrolled as half-time or full-time college or university students.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The Climatech & Energy Prize @ MIT is held in Cambridge, MA.

What Can You Win?

The grand prize winner receives $100,000 and other winners may receive other monetary prizes.

 

Baylor Business New Venture Competition

This competition has been offered by Baylor for the last 20 years. It is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs refine business ideas, and also gain valuable insights from judges and other entrepreneurs.

Who is Eligible?

Must be a current undergraduate student at Baylor University or McLennan Community College.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The Baylor Business New Venture competition will be held at the Baylor University, Waco, TX.

What Can You Win?

The grand prize winner will receive $6,000. There are also other prizes given out to the other finalists in each category which are worth $1,500 – $2,000.

 

13th IOT/WT Innovation World Cup

The 13th IOT/WT Innovation World Cup was organized by the 13th IOT/WT Innovation World Cup Association. It was organized to provide a platform for innovators from all over the world to showcase their innovative ideas and projects. The competition aimed at drawing the attention of investors, venture capitalists, and potential business partners to meet with representatives from different companies and organizations in order to foster innovation.

Who is Eligible?

The revolutionary Internet of Things and Wearable Technologies solutions from developers, innovative startups, scale-ups, SMEs, and researchers across the world are invited to participate. Eight different categories are available: Industrial, City, Home, Agriculture, Sports, Lifestyle, and Transport.

Only those submissions that have a functional prototype/proof of concept will advance in the competition, mere ideas will not be considered. 

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The competition is held in Cleveland, Ohio also an important center for innovation and cutting-edge technology.

What Can You Win?

Win prizes worth over $500,000, connect with leading tech companies, speed up your development with advice from tech experts, join international conferences as a speaker or exhibitor, and become part of the worldwide IoT/WT Innovation World Cup® network. 

 

U.Pitch

The U.Pitch is a competition that gives you a chance to share your idea and for the community of budding entrepreneurs, startup founders, CEOs, and venture capitalists to invest in your enterprise. It also provides mentoring by experts in the field.

Who is Eligible?

  • Currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program
  • Applicants may compete with either an idea OR business currently in operation
  • Applicants must be 30 years of age or under

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The U.Pitch is held in San Francisco, California.

What Can You Win?

Enter to win a part of the $10,000 prize pool.

 

CodeLaunch

At the core of CodeLaunch is an annual seed accelerator competition between individuals and groups who have software technology startup ideas.

Who is Eligible?

If your startup has raised money, your product is stable, you have customers, and revenue, you are probably not a fit for CodeLaunch.

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

CodeLaunch is based in St. Louis, Missouri. 

What Can You Win?

The “winner” may be eligible for more seed services from some additional vendors.

 

New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition

The New York StartUP! is a competition sponsored by the New York Public Library to help entrepreneurs from around the world to develop their business ideas.

Who is Eligible?

  • You must live in Manhattan, The Bronx, or Staten Island
  • Your business must be in Manhattan, The Bronx, or Staten Island
  • All companies must have a big idea or business model in the startup phase and have earned less than $10,000

You can find additional eligibility information on their website.

Where is the Competition Held?

The New York StartUP! competition is held in New York, NY.

What Can You Win?

Two winners are chosen: 

  •  First Prize – $15,000  
  •  Runner-up – $7,500  

 

Tips for Winning Business Plan Competitions

tips for successBefore you enter a business competition, we recommend that you do your research.

First, determine if the competition is worth your time and money to participate.

  • What is the prize money?
  • Who will be on the judging panel?
  • Will there be any costs associated with entering and/or presenting at the competition (e.g., travel and lodging expenses)?

Once you’ve determined the worth of the competition, then shift to focusing on the details of the competition itself.

  • What are the rules of the competition?
  • Are there any disqualifying factors?
  • How will you be judged during the different parts of the competition?

After conducting this research, it’s best to formulate an idea or product that appeals to the judges and is something they can really get behind. Make sure you thoroughly understand the rules and what is expected from your final product. Once you know what is expected from you, you’ll be able to refine and practice your pitch to help you move through the stages of the competition.

 

Conclusion

These competitions are a fantastic method to get new business owners thinking about business possibilities, writing business plans, and dominating the competition. These contests may assist you in gaining important feedback on your business concept or plan as well as potential monetary prizes to help your business get off the ground.
 

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