The Top 20 University-Sponsored Collegiate Entrepreneurship Competitions in the U.S.
What are the best schools for student innovators and entrepreneurs to raise seed money?
Many people are familiar with university rankings. Each year, publications analyze endowments, standardized test scores, peer feedback, and more to determine the best universities and programs. A consideration for aspiring entrepreneurs and changemakers: which universities award the most seed funding for students to launch business, startup, or social venture while in school?
The George Washington University’s Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship researched and ranked the top 20 U.S. university business plan competitions in terms of annual non-dilutive cash prizes awarded. The University of Pennsylvania leads the list, with over one million dollars awarded in the last academic year.
“The Penn Wharton Startup Challenge is the largest entrepreneurship competition of the year at the University of Pennsylvania, and its goal is to cultivate Penn’s amazing student ventures while inspiring others to pursue their own entrepreneurial path,” said Cathy Ogur, Associate Director at Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship. “Run by Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship, the Startup Challenge engages Penn student founders and team members, connecting them with resources and reinforcing the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.”
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Rice, Harvard, and NYU round out the top five spots, with a cumulative $2.5M+ awarded to student entrepreneurs annually.
The George Washington University makes the top ten at number eight. Alejandra Leiva, a GW graduate student and founder of a food-focused startup, shared how crucial collegiate funding was to her business. “Soon after I launched my company, an investor offered me 5-figure funding for a 50% stake of my business. After winning GW’s New Venture Competition and securing $35,000 in funding from the university for my business, I’ve received a much higher valuation from the same investor. Collegiate funding has been incredibly valuable to my business.”
For student innovators exploring funding for their ideas while in college or graduate school, the list below can be important to consider.
The Top 20 University-Sponsored Collegiate Entrepreneurship Competitions
1. University of Pennsylvania: $1,060,000
2. University of Minnesota Twin Cities: $505,000
3. Rice University: $362,000
4. Harvard: $305,000
5. New York University: $275,000
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $252,000
7. Columbia University: $250,000
8. George Washington University: $212,250
9. University of Notre Dame: $209,500
10. University of North Carolina, Charlotte: $150,000
11. University of Michigan: $141,000
12. Baylor University: $130,250
13. University of California, Berkeley: $121,000
14. Texas Christian University: $105,705
15. Smith College: $102,750
16. Northwestern University: $102,000
17. Babson College: $97,000
18. SUNY Polytechnic Institute: $96,000
19. University of Massachusetts Amherst: $90,000
20. Purdue University: $88,000
By Scott Stein, Associate Director, Student Entrepreneurship Programs at the George Washington University, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Methodology notes: GW considered non-dilutive cash grants, as reported by the schools’ websites. The amounts are overall totals of all competitions held the last academic year (fall 2018 to spring 2019) at each school. GW did not include competitions not affiliated with a university program and did not consider in-kind prizes.