Sunday, April 13, 2014

University Business Plan Competitions--A Viable Funding Source for Startups

I just returned from the Rice Business Plan competition where the total prize money in funding topped $1.6M.  The program grows every year in funding and number of mentor and judge participants.  I've been judging for seven years and have seen the competition expand its reach. This year I judged the Social Impact flight.  

The state of Texas has other business plan competitions as well such as Texas Venture Labs run by Rob Adams.  Formerly called the Global Moot Corp, it was renamed a few years ago to the Jon Brumley Venture Labs Competition, which hosts not only a business plan competition but also an accelerator, a SxSW-style expo program, and scholarships. 

Baylor University launched it's business plan program, called the Baylor University New Venture Competition three years ago. I've had the privilege of working with their leadership to bring this new competition onto the scene.  This years program brought teams from Harvard, MIT, UT Dallas, and Case Western Reserve. 

TCU runs the Values and Ventures Business Competition focusing on social impact. This competition focuses primarily on undergraduates.

Texas A&M runs the MBA Venture Challenge. The challenge asks teams of MBA students to quickly and effectively evaluate early stage startup firms, providing a clear,unbiased, and business-oriented evaluation of the businesses’ market and financial viability. 

These are just a few of the programs in Texas offering financial support to student-led startups coming out of the university environment.  When I first started judging the competitions, it was rare that a student would join a startup after graduation full-time.  Today.  a student's first job is often in a startup and their university provides them the vehicle to build a team and a product so they can launch full-time after graduation.  

There are hundreds of business plan competitions throughout the US.  It's not uncommon to see teams run the "circuit" across the country with their plan picking up $10K to $50K checks to fund their startup.  It's a viable funding source for many startups.

Best regards,
Hall T.