- Business contests are a great way to test your idea, build a network, and win cash.
- Insider rounded up competitions where founders can connect with investors and win up to $1 million.
- Check back periodically as this calendar will be updated with new information as we find more.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Business contests are a great way to test your idea, grow your network, and win cash to help grow your startup.
Insider has rounded up the best competitions that offer entrepreneurs an opportunity to connect with investors and win prizes up to $1 million.
Many competitions are geared toward student businesses, and several have deadlines coming up fast. Most require you prepare a pitch deck and a detailed business plan to submit for consideration.
Continue reading to see when you need to apply, what the awards emphasize, and important eligibility considerations.
As deadlines pass, listings will be moved to the end of the post. If there’s a competition you think we should include, please get in touch via email.
Last updated: March 22
March 23: Klarna x Female Founder Collective Big Pitcher Contest, $10,000
Deadline: Six finalists will be chosen to participate in a pitch workshop on March 29. They will then pitch their startup ideas during a two-day Female Founder’s Day event from March 30 to March 31. Entries for the pitch competition portion of the event must be submitted by March 23.
- Originality of the product or service and its unique ability to solve a well-defined problem
- Thoughtfulness of the marketing and sales strategy and pitch executive summary
- Business model viability
- Creativity and succinctness of the pitch
Eligibility: Female founders of start-up or early-stage companies, located in the United Sates. Must have an annual revenue of $100,000 or less.
April: Startup World Cup, $1 million
Deadline: Regional competitions are open now through September. Forty winners from each region are eligible to participate in the final competition in San Francisco on November 12, 2021.
Emphasis: Startups in any domain, at any stage, from any geography.
The 2020 Startup World Cup has been underway for several months in cities around the world, but is just getting rolling in the US. New York and LA have passed, but Chicago, Dallas, Silicon Valley, Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle are still on deck as of this update.
- Startups must compete and win in one of over 40 regional competitions in order to receive an invitation to the main event, where the grand prize is $1 million.
- The competition is open to startups in any domain, at any stage, with any amount of funding, but the business be a real legal entity, not just a concept.
- The organizers accept applications to any regional competition, regardless of your location, but they encourage you to apply to the closest city to you.
- You can also apply to more than one regional, as long as your startup is not already a regional champion.
- It’s not exactly a requirement, but part of the judging criteria will be based on startup’s activity level on Twitter.
The application window has closed for these competitions, but they will remain online for reference.
January 8: SXSW Hatch Pitch and Cyber Hatch
Deadline: January 8, 2020
Emphasis: Information Technology, Cyber Security
These competitions take place during SXSW in Austin on March 16, and the Houston Cyber Summit on April 28 and 29.
- Must have launched within the past two years, or be launched within six months after the event.
- Founders must retain some portion of ownership in the company.
- Received less than $5 million in funding from 3rd party investors.
- Presenter must actively participate in Hatch Pitch coaching.
January 13: MIT100K Launch, $100,000
Deadline: January 13, 2020, 11:59 pm EST
Emphasis: Comprehensive business plans, ready for market
Launch is the flagship competition of the MIT100K competitions. The other two, Pitch and Accelerate, offer prizes up to $5,000.
- One idea per team, and one team per MIT student. Student member must have equity in the company.
- Currently registered MIT students include all full-time and part-time undergraduates and graduate students, including PhD/doctoral candidates.
- Equity funding limit is $250,000 if applying to Launch.
January 27: Rice Business Plan Competition, $350,000
Deadline: January 27, 2020, 11:59 pm CST
Emphasis: Energy, health, tech, and innovation
Forty-two teams will be selected to compete for a prize pool worth more than $1.5 million, including a $350,000 grand prize.
- Must have at least two current student founders or management team members, and at least one of those is a current graduate-degree-seeking student.
- Teams are capped at four members, and all members must be students.
- Ideas must fall into one of four sector categories: Energy/Cleantech/Sustainability; Life Science/Digital Health/Medical Devices; Tech/Digital/IoT; and Other Innovations.
- Equity funding limit is $250,000 as of July 1, 2019.
- Competing teams must submit a business plan and other materials by March 4.
February 12: New Venture Championship, $20,000
Deadline: February 12, 2020
Emphasis: Business ideas conceived and developed during an academic program
Hosted by the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business, the NVC draws teams from around the US and the world to compete for a prize pool of $50,000.
- Teams must have two to five students, with at least one enrolled in a graduate program, and have at least 50% of equity allocated to student members.
- Submissions should be prepared under faculty supervision, and a faculty advisor must attest to the eligibility of the team.
- Ventures that have generated revenue or raised equity capital from sources other than the members of the student team before the current academic year are not eligible.
- Companies must have real corporate structures and financial statements that reflect real operating revenues and expenses.
February 24: Rise of the Rest 9.0 Pitch, 5 competitions, each for $100,000
Deadline: February 24, 2020, 11:59 pm EST
Emphasis: Remote work, internet of things, ag tech, future of food
This is the ninth iteration of AOL cofounder and former CEO Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” bus tours that seek out startup investments beyond the dominant centers of San Francisco, New York, and Boston.
- Early-stage startups (angel, seed, Series A) based in-state for Wichita, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Northwest Arkansas.
- Entrants for the St. Louis stop may be from anywhere in the country, but must have a core focus on agriculture tech or the future of food.
- Companies will be evaluated on their idea, market, team, execution, and business model.
- C-corps, LLCs, and B-corps are eligible. S-corps are ineligible. Startups with a valuation of $15 million are not eligible.
- Applicants must include a pitch deck, and can download a template from their website.
February 26: Harvard New Venture Competition, $75,000
Deadline: February 26, 2020
Emphasis: New businesses, social impact
The Harvard Business School NVC features two tracks, Business and Social Enterprise, each with a $75,000 grand prize.
- Must have at least one Harvard MBA student founder, with additional requirements for the Social Enterprise track.
- Teams may only compete in one track, but individual students can participate on two teams to compete in both tracks.
- Previous winners may not compete with the same idea as an earlier entry, but non-winners who can demonstrate significant growth may try again.
- Seed capital is limited to $1.5 million, and revenue is capped at $2 million.
- There is an early deadline on January 29 to receive written feedback from experts on your entry.
March 20: Orgain's Grants For Greater Good, 3 awards of $50,000
Deadline: March 20, 2020
Emphasis: Nutrition, active lifestyle, mindfulness
Natural health-food maker Orgain is awarding three grants of $50,000 to businesses that align with its mission of helping people live healthy, vibrant lives.
- Entrants must be legally registered and operating in the United States
- Business must be two years or older, with 15 employees or fewer
- After the initial application, up to six finalists will be announced for a public vote.
March 25: Visa Everywhere Initiative, $50,000
Deadline: March 25, 2020
Emphasis: Fintech and startups developing payment processing solutions
The Visa Everywhere Initiative focuses on payment and commerce challenges that are reshaping the businesses of Visa’s global merchant partners. In addition to the $50,000 grand prize, two runners-up and an audience favorite will be recognized and awarded.
- Startups and fintech companies from around the world.
- Respond to at least one of the five detailed business challenge questions about how your business will provide breakthrough digital payments or commerce solutions.
- Solutions must offer new functionality, features, or tools that incorporate with existing products or services.
- Products must be potentially commercially viable and integrated into Visa’s current business.
September 14-16: TechCrunch Disrupt SF Startup Battlefield, $100,000
Deadline: September 14-16
Emphasis: Tech companies leading innovation in apps and hardware.
Startup Battlefield takes place during the TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference from September 14 to 16, 2020, which will be entirely remote this year. Early-stage startups demo their business plans to compete for a $100,000 grand prize.
- Pre-Series A tech startups
- Must have a functional prototype to demo to the selection committee
- Companies can be in closed beta, private beta, or limited release
- Preference is given to companies that launch to the public through the competition
Oct. 19: Jumpstarter 2020 Global Pitch Competition, $1 million
Deadline: Oct. 19, 2020
Emphasis: Startups looking to scale on a global level.
- Operating for less than 5 years
- Raised less than $20 million in funding to date.
- Currently between the seed and Series C stages of funding.
- Desire to make Hong Kong part of their future plans.
- Possess an innovative product or service.
Oct. 25: Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour, Equity Edition, $2 million
Deadline: Oct. 25, 2020
Emphasis: Black-founded companies throughout the US, not located in Silicon Valley, Boston, or New York
- Founders must be at least 18 years of age
- Member(s) of the founding team must identify as Black
- Must be US-based
- More details can be found here
- Prize money will be allocated three ways: $1 million to the winning team, and $500,000 to the second- and third-place teams
December 23: Hult Prize Accelerator, $1 million
Deadline: December 23
Emphasis: Profitable social or environmental impact through education, healthcare, energy, and innovation.
In the Hult Prize Accelerator, teams from around the world compete for $1 million in seed capital. Their businesses must set out to make social or environmental impact on a global scale.
- Students from any college or university in the world
- Business must be environmentally and socially responsible, aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
- Focused on large, untapped markets
- Pursues revenue and sustainability
July: Women Startup Challenge, $75,000
Deadline: Grants are rolling throughout the year. The first round closed May 31. Sign up here for updates on the next round.
Emphasis: Women-led tech startups in any vertical
Women Who Tech, founded by Allyson Kapin, has pivoted its program to adjust for social-distancing protocols and a severe change in the investment atmosphere. This year, $10,000 equity-free grants will be awarded throughout the year on a rolling basis.
The grant comittee will select 20 applications, which they will narrow down to five. The remaining five teams will pitch virtually for one of the $10,000 grants.
- Startups located in North America
- Must have at least one female founder or cofounder
- Business should use technology to rapidly scale and innovate
- Raised no more than $4 million
July 15: Startupfest Investment Prizes, $100,000
Deadline: July 15, 2020
Emphasis: A founder-focused event with an emphasis on inclusion
Startupfest was forced to go virtual due to COVID-19 in what the organizers call “Pitch From Home.”
There was $1.6 million in prizes and investment money available at the 2019 StartupFest in Montreal, with the flagship $100,000 Investment Prize and a $100,000 prize solely for a female-led startup.
- Prizes are open to any startup at the event, with no pre-registration required.
- Female-led startups are those with the most senior member of the executive team identifying as female.
- Startups will be able to pitch online and must include basic company information, as well as written or video pitches.
July 31: Visa iFundWomen, $10,000
Deadline: Extended to July 31, 2020
Emphasis: Black women entrepreneurs
Small businesses on average require about $10,000 to get started, so Visa and iFundWomen will offer several grants to promising U.S. small businesses run by Black women.
Three winners will each receive a $10,000 cash prize and become eligible to participate in a pitch competition in Washington, D.C. during National Small Business Week in May.
- Black women-owned businesses, from home-based passion projects to early stage tech startups.
- Businesses must have been in operation for two years and have a minimum annual revenue of at least $24,000
- Application requires the completion of a written form and submission of 60-second video.
July 31: Cartier Women's Initiative, $100,000
Deadline: July 31
Emphasis: Women-owned businesses creating industry solutions with global social impact.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative awards women entrepreneurs leading innovative and sustainable businesses that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Seven laureates win $100,000 in prize money and 14 finalists receive $30,000.
- The woman entrepreneur applying must own a significant stake and hold the main leadership position.
- Early-stage independent businesses (between one to five years of licensed or registered operations)
- Business should not have raised more than $2 million in dilutive funding
- An impact-driven business that aligns with at least one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
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