The 15 Largest College Business Plan Competitions

by / ⠀Startup Advice / November 21, 2011

Business plan competitions are a great way for students to get experience working on their idea and win resources to help develop it. While you may not want to pick your school based on a business plan competition alone these schools also have great business and entrepreneurship programs. Most school competitions are for students only but if you live nearby the finals could be a great event to attend to learn and network. Here are 15 of the largest competitions and the total amount of money up for grabs.

1. Rice Business Plan Competition – $1.3 million

The Rice University Business Plan Competition is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level business plan competition. It is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which is Rice University’s flagship initiative devoted to the support of entrepreneurship, and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business. This is the 12th year for the competition. In that time, it has grown from nine teams competing for $10,000 in prize money in 2001, to 42 teams from around the world competing for more than $1.3 million in cash and prizes.

2. MIT Clean Energy – $200,000

The goal of the competition is to provide learning opportunities for and reward student ventures that demonstrate a high potential of successfully making clean energy more affordable, with a positive impact on the environment. By focusing on student ventures, we aim to train the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs.

3. NYU Stern New Venture and Social Venture Competitions – $200,000

Discover what it really takes to launch a startup. Enter the $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge, the premier platform for identifying, nurturing and showcasing emerging entrepreneurs at NYU. At stake in our three competitions is a combined up to $200,000 in startup money plus pro bono services and technical assistance to help your venture succeed.

4. Harvard Business Plan Competition – $170,000

An annual event since 1997, the Business Plan Contest aims to provide an integrative learning experience for participating students. The Contest has spawned hundreds of business plans, and winners and non-winners alike have gone on to implement their plans and start successful enterprises. Examples include 3plex.com, Bang Networks, Chemdex, EyeViewDigital.com, Good Start Genetics, Low-Cost Eyeglasses, MyHappyPlanet, suppliermarket.com, Potentia Pharmaceuticals, and Zefer, among others.

5. MIT $100k Entrepreneurship Competition – $100,000

Now in its 22nd year, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition is a leading-edge forum for students and researchers in the MIT community to act on their talent, ideas and energy to launch tomorrow’s leading firms.  A year-long educational experience, the MIT $100K brings together a network of resources (feedback from top VCs and entrepreneurs, media exposure, mentorship, educational guidance, networking and more than $350K in cash and prizes) to help participants through the new venture construction process.

6. Tufts 100k Business Plan Competition – $100,000

Since 2004, the Entrepreneurial Leadership program sponsors an annual business plan competition that awards a total of $100,000 in cash and in-kind services (legal and advisory services) to the winning teams. Participants can choose to compete in the Classic Competition or the Social Entrepreneurship Competition. Anyone part of the Tufts community is encouraged to enter and take action on their ideas for business or social ventures.

7. Purdue University’s Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition – $100,000

The goal of the Purdue University’s Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition is to provide an opportunity for Purdue students to learn about entrepreneurship through the development and presentation of a business idea to a panel of judges.

Participants in the competition will have an opportunity to define their ideas in commercial terms and to compete for substantial cash prizes that could be used to further the commercialization of their inventions.

8. New Venture Challenge at University of Chicago $75,000

Launched in 1996, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) is one of the nation’s premier business competitions, allowing students to act upon their entrepreneurial ideas within a supportive and highly rewarding environment. It is just one of the many ways the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship fosters hands-on learning.

9. Wharton Business Plan Competition – $70,000

The Wharton Business Plan Competition (WBPC) is not just about ideas. The WBPC is a comprehensive, 7-month platform to help entrepreneurs and their teams launch their new business ideas. The WBPC is structured in four stages to help teams develop their plans in both a collaborative and competitive environment. The WBPC’s entrepreneurship workshops feature entrepreneurship experts including Wharton entrepreneurship professors and Wharton graduates who have started their own businesses. The WBPC provides a network for brainstorming, feedback, and future business opportunities.

10. Mcginnis Venture Competition – Carnegie Melon – $60,000

The McGinnis Venture Competition is a global competition with a global impact. In its eighth year, the McGinnis Venture Competition is hosted by the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the David A. Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. We are proud to offer the first graduate-level, new venture competition that focuses exclusively on bringing new technologies to the marketplace through entrepreneurship.

11. University of Dayton Business Plan Competition – $60,000

A three stage competition that includes the elevator pitch, the cameo round and the final round. The competition starts with 125 entries due by mid October. First prize in the finals round is $25,000 and money is won in each stage of the competition for the whole team.

12. Duke Start-Up Challenge – $50,000

The Duke Start-Up Challenge is an entrepreneurship competition that runs the course of the academic year, from November to April. The competition includes an Elevator Pitch Competition in November, an Executive Summary Competition in February, a Business Plan Competition in March and the DSC Grand Finale in April. Refer to the calendar below for the key events and dates.  Several cash and in-kind prizes are awarded to participants in every phase of the Duke Start-Up Challenge. Teams are also provided with feedback at every phase by a panel of reputed judges, to help them progress to the next stages of the Duke Start-Up Challenge and beyond.

13. New Venture Championship – University of Oregon – $50,000

The core mission of Oregon NVC is to develop skilled and knowledgeable entrepreneurial leaders who will successfully confront the ever-changing business environment with creative and innovative solutions. This graduate investment competition provides a unique opportunity for new, independent ventures, in the seed, start-up or early growth stages to accelerate their launch processes.

14. The UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition – $50,000

The UC Berkeley Startup Competition (BPlan) is one of the foremost events for budding entrepreneurs: a forum providing entrepreneurs with the best possible resources – including education, networking, team creation, mentorship and new venture financing – to help turn innovative ideas into real businesses.

If you have a great business idea in biotech, software, cleantech, consumer goods, computing services, mobile applications, financial services, e-commerce or any other industry, we want to hear from you!

15. Panasci Business Plan Competition – Syracuse University – $45,000

The Panasci Business Plan Competition is a campus-wide student business plan competition, hosted by the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship in the Whitman School of Management, and made possible by long-time Whitman School supporter, the late Henry A. Panasci, founder of Fay’s Drugs.

While there are many steps involved in translating great ideas into great businesses, a key step is the creation of a business plan. A business plan may address the uncertainties surrounding the many decisions you have to make about your businesses. It is a blueprint and a roadmap.

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