business plan competition ideas

The 20 Best Business Plan Competitions to Get Funding

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What is a Business Plan Competition?

How do i find business plan competitions, 20 popular business plan competitions, tips for winning business plan competitions, other helpful business plan articles & templates.

Business plan competitions can provide valuable feedback on your business idea or startup business plan template , 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.

A business plan competition is a contest between startup, early-stage, and/or growing businesses. The goal of the business plan 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.

find real-world learning 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.

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 University Business Plan Competition is designed to help collegiate entrepreneurs by offering 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 prizes, and in-kind prizes was awarded to the teams competing.

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

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 process, 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.

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

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 business plan 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.

  • 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.

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.

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.

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 business plan 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.

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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

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

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.

20 Finalists are paired with industry-specific business 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.

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 plan 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.

All undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to participate.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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.

  • 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.

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.

There are a wide variety of prizes that could be won at the Washington State University Business Plan Competition. This is because the business plan 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.

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.

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

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.

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

Next Founders is held at the University of Toronto.

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

Hatch Pitch Competition

The Hatch Pitch 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.

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.

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

The grand prize for this business plan 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 business plan 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.

At the time of the application process, 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.

TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield is held at different locations.

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?

You can find  eligibility information on their website.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

  • 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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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. 

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

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. 

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.

  • 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

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

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

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

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

CodeLaunch is based in St. Louis, Missouri. 

The “winner” may be eligible for more seed capital and business 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.

  • 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

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

Two winners are chosen: 

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

tips for success

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?

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here

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.

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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Business Plan Template & Guide for Small Businesses

Student business plan competitions

Top 20 Student Business-Plan Competitions

Say you have an awesome idea for a startup, something with real potential. There is, however, a pretty big problem: launching a business isn’t cheap, and as a student or recent graduate, it’s difficult to finance a business on your own. But, your idea is good. So what happens next? We’ve compiled a list of the top competitions aimed at current college undergraduates, graduate students, recent alumni, and high school students from all over the world to not only help you test your business model against what your peers are doing (and gain meaningful experience in the process), but also transform your idea into a reality.

1. High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

Hosted by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah with sponsorship from Zions Bank, this competition is targeted at high schoolers with big ideas.

  • What you need : A business idea that includes the following: a problem, a proposed solution, a targeted audience/customer and a prototype.
  • Who can apply : Any Utah high-schooler aged 14-18. Teams are not required but can include up to 5 members.
  • Where: This year’s events are expected to be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win : Prizes vary in amount and type based on award received.
  • 2020-21 Deadline : Apply by Feb. 17, 2021.
  • Website :

2.  Blue Ocean High School Entrepreneurial Leaders

A global, virtual pitch competition for high school students aimed to provide feedback, advance ideas, and launch students’ futures.

  • What you need : A 3-5 minute pitch for a big idea.
  • Who can apply : Any student currently in high school.
  • Where: This is a virtual event conducted through video submissions.
  • What you could win : The grand prize winner receives $1,000, with other awards receiving up to $750. There are also opportunities for high schools to receive grant money, too.
  • 2020-21 Deadline : Apply by Feb. 19, 2021.
  • Website :

3.  Get Seeded

Designed to help get ideas off the ground, this two-part milestone grant funding program seeks out students with measurable goals and helps fund the entrepreneurial process. This program is managed by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah and sponsored by Chad and Kristen Anselmo and

  • What you need : A startup with short-term measurable milestones (prototyping, marketing, etc.) that can be achieved within 30-90 days.
  • Who can apply : Any college student in Utah.
  • Where: The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, though location is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win : There are two grants opportunities: a microgrant of up to $500, and a Seed Grant for $501-1,500.
  • 2020-21 Deadline : Regular grant intervals. See website for details.
  • Website :

4. TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield

A competition for early-stage startups to receive equity-free prize money, as well as general investors and media attention.

  • What you need : A mid-stage startup with clear ideas and product or service in the development stages.
  • Who can apply : Anyone with a startup idea is invited to participate.
  • Where: The first round of competition is regional, and is subject to change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win : Global competition winners receive $100,000 in prize money.
  • 2020-21 Deadline : Application dates have not yet been updated, as they vary by region.
  • Website :

 5.  Hatch Pitch

Hosted with SXSW in Austin, Texas, until 2016, this is a competition focused on startups with information technology angles.

  • What you need : A company in which the founders retain some portion of ownership, as well as a product or service that launched sometime in the past 2 years (or within 6 months after the Hatch Pitch event.)
  • Who can apply : Anyone who meets the above criteria. There is no specific age limit or education requirement.
  • Where: Houston, Texas, though location is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win : Winners can receive any amount of funding based on investors’ interest. All contestants receive active coaching and mentoring, as well as publicity for their concepts.
  • 2020-21 Deadline : Applications are received on a rolling basis.
  • Website :

6. Rice University Business Plan Competition

A virtual three-day competition that accounts for pitches, feedback, and judge interaction, designed to give entrepreneurs real-world experience.

  • What you need : A business in the seed, startup, or early growth stages
  • Who can apply : Any full-time or part-time U.S. graduate students. Teams must have at least one graduate student and a faculty advisor, but only students can present.
  • Where: Rice University in Houston, Texas.
  • What you could win : The grand prize winner receives $125,000 in equity capital from a Houston investment group as well as $20,000 in cash and about $80,000 in services. This includes a year’s worth of office space.
  • 2020-21 Deadline : Apply by Feb. 2, 2021, for the April 5-9, 2021 competition.
  • Website :

7. New Venture Championship, University of Oregon

This virtual competition attracts students who want to “create something extraordinary,” and can bridge the gap between a market need and a real solution.

  • What you need : A business majorly owned by students that has a faculty advisor, looking for seed capital.
  • Who can apply : Teams of 2-5 students who created, manage, and own their ventures and who are allocated at least 50% of the startup’s equity. At least one member of the team is required to be enrolled in a graduate program from any field.
  • Where : Portland, Oregon.
  • What you could win : Up to $50,000 in prize money is up for grabs. If you don’t make it to the top round, you can still compete in a lightning round for prize money during the finals.
  • 2020-21 Deadline : Applications are due by Feb. 14, 2021, to compete in the qualifying round (Feb. 15 – March 20).
  • Website :

8. ClimateTech & Energy Prize @ MIT

A competition aimed at any student who wants to change the way we handle energy.

  • What you need : A business focused on one of four categories: Generating Energy, Delivering Energy, Improving Energy Usage or Energy for Developing Economies.
  • Who can apply : University teams from across the United States.
  • Where : Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • What you could win : The top two teams in each category go on to compete for a $100,000 Grand Prize and other monetary prizes.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Applications due on Feb. 5, 2021.
  • Website :

9. Baylor Business New Venture Competition

Hosted by Baylor University, this two-track competition is nationwide.

  • What you need : A business in one of two competition tracks: Internet and Consumer Technology and Non-Internet and Consumer Technology Companies. Internet and Consumer Technology companies must aim to impact one of the following industries: Internet Services, Internet Security, Info Tech, Software Cloud, Mobile Tech, Mobile Apps, Mobile Commerce, Web/e-Commerce, Social Commerce, Social Networking, Social Media, Social Gaming, Video Gaming.
  • Who can apply : Current students or recent alumni (within the last 15 months) in teams with 2-4 members.
  • Where : Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
  • What you could win: All prizes are in cash and range from a grand prize of $60,000 to $1,500 for second and third-round winners.
  • 2021-2022 Deadlines : Dates have not yet been updated for the following year. The 2021 competition can be streamed from Mar. 25-27, 2021.
  • Website :

10. Innovation World Cup Series

This is a global competition split into categories where participants connect and compete in a convention setting.

  • What you need : A business that is involved in the internet of things or wearable technology in the fields of Home, City, Lifestyle, Industrial, Transportation, Healthcare, and Retail.
  • Who can apply : If you are 18 or older and in no way affiliated with Navispace, the host, you can apply.
  • Where : Munich, Germany.
  • What you could win: Prize pool of $500,000, with networking and exposure included
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Applications are open now, and due by Sept. 22, 2021.
  • Website :

11.  Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

A business-model competition for all college students in Utah. This competition is hosted by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah and sponsored by Zions Bank.

  • What you need : A business model of any type.
  • Who can apply : University students currently enrolled in Utah colleges.
  • Where : The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, though location is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win : Grand prize is up to $40,000 in cash, with additional prizes, like Best Speed Pitch, ranging in dollar amounts
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Applications close on Feb. 8, 2021.
  • Website :

12. Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

One of the largest sustainable entrepreneurship competitions, participants compete with international entrepreneurs for the best green business plan.

  • What you need : A business must have the potential to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a measurable amount, should be developed enough to execute should be realizable as a usable product or service within the next two years.
  • Who can apply : Anyone 18 years or older whose business is located in Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, or Sweden.
  • Where : The finals are hosted in Amsterdam, where you will present your idea to the jury (reasonable expenses covered for one person).
  • What you could win : Grand prize winner receives €500,000. Second place receives €200,000, and other finalists receive €100,000.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Dates have not yet been updated.
  • Website :

13. University Startup World Cup

This competition is hosted and organized by a Danish non-profit, Venture Cup. Their mission is to establish connections among student entrepreneurs internationally, as well as teach and advise young people about the world of business.

  • What you need : Preferably, a business that fits into one of the following categories: Healthtech, Greentec, Fintech, Hightec & Robotics, or Information Communication technology. However, if your idea is cool enough, they’ll accept anything.
  • Who can apply: Only student startups may enter. Therefore, all teams must have at least one person who is a student, faculty member, or recent graduate (within the year they’re applying). However, if you’re looking for team members, Venture Cup can help connect you to people with similar ideas.
  • Where: The location is not certain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What you could win : Grand prize is $15,000.
  • Website :

14. Get in the Ring  

One-on-one, regional, and global face-off between startups that takes place in a literal ring.

  • What you need : A “high potential” startup that is 8 years or younger with an innovative and scalable business idea or model.
  • Who can apply : Anyone with a business fitting the above-described model.
  • Where : The beginning stages of the competition are regional, and vary based on your location. Finals are hosted in a different location internationally every year. Travel cost to finals is covered.
  • What you could win : GITR offers immense exposure for your business by placing you in a ring where you “battle” other entrepreneurs using your business pitch in front of investors and businesspeople. Grand prize winners receive a seat at the table with hand-picked advisors and investors, and title.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Dates vary by region.
  • Website :

15. U. Pitch

This national competition brings university students from all disciplines together to contend for the best 90-second pitch.

  • What you need: A company or idea to start a for-profit company with headquarters in the U.S.
  • Who can apply : Current university students or graduates within the last six months.
  • Where : 100% virtual.
  • What you could win : Up to $10,000 in prizes and cash.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Applications open in the fall of 2021. You can sign up to get notified here .
  • Website :

16. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

This competition brings women from six regions of the world to showcase their ideas.

  • What you need : A for-profit startup with at least one year of revenue.
  • Who can apply : Only women may apply for this competition.
  • Where : Finalists attend awards week in Singapore, where the final round commences.
  • What you could win : Grand prize is $100,000. All runner ups receive $30,000.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Application deadlines have not yet been updated.
  • Website :

17. G-Startup Worldwide  

This is a global competition that supports young entrepreneurs in the early stages of a startup with funding and a network of investors.

  • What you need : A product that is making a positive impact, showing traction in the market, and is involved in AI, Mobile, IoT, Wearables, FinTech, Cyber Security, Smart Cars, AR/VR, Space, Robotics/Drones, Education, Enterprise, Health, AggTech, or Social and eCommerce.
  • Who can apply : Any startup meeting the previous requirement that is registered as a company.
  • Where : First rounds are regional. Finalists compete in Silicon Valley.
  • What you could win : Winners of regional competitions receive cash prizes, travel opportunities, and networking invites.
  • Website :

18. Axel Springer Plug and Play

While competitive, this 100-day program is more of an accelerator than an out-right competition. They require 5% equity in exchange for participation.

  • What you need : A business model for digital entrepreneurship.
  • Who can apply : Anyone with an early-stage company and a Pitch-Deck.
  • Where : Location varies. Check the website below for more details.
  • What you could win : €50,000, valuable time to pitch in front of investors, and experience.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Deadlines vary based on location and stage of company.
  • Website :

19. Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition

Inspired and promoted by the United Nations, this competition takes place through three stages of online submission and selection.

  • What you need : Innovative ideas and projects with a societal impact. Must involve one or more of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals .
  • Who can apply : Anyone aged 13-29 (or 30+ in the Adult Citizen Entrepreneurship category).
  • Where: Winners are invited to the Summit in Berlin in October of every year.
  • What you could win : Recognition at the Summit and the UN’s acknowledgement.
  • 2020-21 Deadlines : Applications open in Spring 2021.
  • Website :

20. CodeLaunch

Annual seed accelerator for people and groups with ideas for “apps” who are seeking seed funding. Entries are submitted online.

  • What you need : Any software ideas are taken, even just having an idea for an app is acceptable.
  • Who can apply : Anyone that fits the previous criteria.
  • Where : Finals are hosted in Texas, dates change every year and might be impacted by COVID-19.
  • What you could win : Applicants chosen to attend CodeLaunch pitch day compete in front of judges poised to invest. Overall winner receives custom software design, development, and/or website development, hosting services, and a partnership with Code Authority. Winners may also judge the following year’s competition.
  • Website :

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About the author: jacqueline mumford, 2 thoughts on “ top 20 student business-plan competitions ”.

Thanks Jacqueline for this comprehensive list. I wish I had this information 15 years ago. Had a great idea, pitched it to some venture firms and was turned down and saw the same idea skyrocket to the top two years later when someone else came with the same idea and presented it in a much more convincing way to the investors.

The Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs is another event that provides microfinancing for undergraduate women-led ventures. Total cash prize pool is $100,000.

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  • Business Planning

How To Win A Business Plan Contest


A well-developed business plan creates the foundation on which a successful startup will be able to establish itself, and is especially necessary when considering participation in a business plan contest or pitch event. When every factor is considered – market and industry, finance, marketing, operations, and etc. – success becomes a long-term plan as opposed to a hope for a stroke of startup luck. Along with a solid pitch and pitch deck, a business plan is a critical element in your journey to landing a successful seed funding round. Writing an  investor-ready business plan  can be difficult, but securing funding without a solid plan in place is pretty much impossible.

Once you finally get the perfect business plan written, what’s next? For those who are far enough along in their business, submitting the plan directly to investors might be a wise step. For those who aren’t quite ready to approach VCs yet, but could use a financial boost to get things going, participating in business plan contests can be a tremendous help. Not only do these competitions often provide significant rewards for the winners, but they also often draw the attention of angels, VCs, and even corporations looking to invest in or partner with the next billion-dollar startup.

Unfortunately, where there is honey there are bees – business plan contests often attract some of the brightest minds, and the higher the reward, the more competition you can expect. In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know to find a great business plan contest, enter it with confidence, and win against other participating startups!

The Benefits of Winning A Business Plan Contest

Business plan competitions are beneficial platforms that allow entrepreneurs to showcase their idea, product, or startup to a group of judges. Often, these competitions involve pitching the idea or startup to judges over one or more rounds. Once each competing startup has presented, judges vote on which business (or businesses) will receive the offered reward.

While business plan competitions highly benefit winning startups, they offer immense benefits to investors who attend them also – access to early-stage businesses that they can invest in before others have the opportunity. Furthermore, these competitions work to even out the playing field for entrepreneurs who otherwise may not have access to investors – winning a business plan contest could be the difference between funding your business’ launch or failing before you even get the chance to begin.

The most obvious benefit of winning a business plan contest is winning the offered reward. The reward value of these contests can vary from small amounts to extremely large amounts.  For example, the Panasci Business Plan Competition by Syracuse University offers around $35,000 in total rewards, while the Rice Business Plan Competition offers over $1.2 million in seed funding to its winners and runner-ups. Winning the right competition can impact your business greatly; providing you with the  app funding  required to progress your business from the app idea phase to launch and beyond. There is something that should be considered though – some business plan competitions may come with specific conditions that must be met to receive the funding; such as headquartering the business in a certain location, offering up an equity percentage, or being involved in a startup incubator for some length of time.

High-profile angels and VCs often attend larger business plan competitions, and even participants that don’t win the contest may attract the attention of an investor. In some cases, teams that don’t win may end up with larger investments than those that the judges selected for first place. Investors aren’t always looking for the same things in a startup; your idea might not be of much interest to the judges, but may be exactly what an attending investor was looking for! These investors aren’t only good for the funds they bring – some of them may provide a critical mentorship component to your startup; helping to advise your team for greater success down the line.

Lastly, one of the least recognized but most effective benefits of participating in a business plan competition is having your business plan and startup critically reviewed by experienced judges, entrepreneurs, and investors. Even if you don’t win, the insight provided by the panel of judges will offer different perspectives regarding your startup. Ultimately, by applying this insight, you can further position your startup for success when participating in future events.

Finding The Right Business Plan Contest

The unique beauty of business plan contests is that they are relatively ubiquitous – and today, more competitions are popping up than ever before. A variety of organizations, educational institutions, and even individuals organize business plan competitions to seek out investable and fundable business ideas. In general, most business plan contests can be grouped into two categories:

  • University Competitions: Many major universities organize some type of business plan contest through their business school. Eligibility may vary from contest to contest, but these contests are typically only available to those connected to the business program – students, alumni, and in some cases, even on-staff professionals. Due to these eligibility requirements, competition is generally limited – which means that participants have a much larger chance of winning when compared to contests with less regulation. Furthermore, universities know that any successful startups launched through these contests will give their business program a major boost in visibility and credibility. As a result, universities often go a step above to support winners of these programs – providing additional on-campus resources or even access to alumni professionals that can help them advance their businesses.
  • Sponsored Contests: Sponsored business plans are those that are planned and hosted by an organization, corporation, individual or other entity. Specifically, these organizers ‘sponsor’ the competition – organizing the event, involving investors and judges, and securing rewards to incentivize winners and participants. Sometimes, these competitions may be sponsored by companies within a specific sector such as biotech, healthcare, urban transit, architecture, and etc.; while other times they may be part of a larger  startup incubator  or accelerator program.  

Business plan and  pitch deck  competitions take place several times each year in most major cities – and even in many less popular upcoming startup regions. If you are a student or alumni, check with your university to see if they have a business plan competition in place – if not, maybe you can help them organize one! For those who are not eligible to join a university-sponsored competition, a simple Google search will provide you with several options. Search for “industry name + business plan contest” or “city + business plan contest” to see what upcoming business plan contest events you may be eligible to participate in.

Winning Big At Your First Business Plan Contest

Participating in a business plan contest can be extremely valuable, but the real goal is to win – and to win big! The key to winning a business plan competition of any type is to know what the judges are looking for and to position your startup, business plan, and pitch to exceed their expectations.

Judging The Judges

In general, whether you win a business plan contest or not will hinge upon how your business idea is perceived by the panel of judges, and how they perceive you as an entrepreneur and presenter. It is worth noting that judges often come from various backgrounds with varied experiences; what may be a top consideration for one judge may make little difference to another. However, most judges compare businesses on at least the following three factors:

  • Originality: Successful business ideas need to be original in nature and able to improve upon an existing solution, solve a wide-scale problem, or effectively meet the current market demand. Businesses that simply spin-off from other successful ideas are not looked upon favorably by judges or investors – since they usually have little advantage to compete against already established players. To win a business plan contest, it is essential that your idea is fresh, scalable, sustainable and eventually, profitable.
  • Ability To Generate Profit: Even the most creative ideas need to be able to turn a profit at some point. Understandably, most investors aren’t interested in funding businesses that won’t provide them with a return in the long-run. In order to gain interest in your business during a contest, your business plan should show exactly how your business will provide a return for investors in the long-term. While some investors may be interested in other aspects of a business, such as their social consciousness or involvement, the majority of investors are looking for opportunities to grow their portfolio by investing in businesses that are capable of generating strong profits.
  • Effective Presentation : It’s not always the best idea that wins a business plan competition. A perfect business plan and an exciting idea means very little if an entrepreneur can not properly convey their message during their presentation. In most contests, participants are given a set time limit (such as 10 minutes) to present – and expressing all the necessary information within this time period can be rather difficult. Judges look for confident entrepreneurs who can articulate their business enough to convey the efficacy and scalability of their idea properly. The knowledge an entrepreneur needs to possess doesn’t end with just the text presented in their business plan or  pitch deck . Most often, there is a Q&A portion during these events in which the entrepreneur will be required to answer specific questions by judges and investors. The inability to answer these questions properly and confidently can quickly dissuade an investor from investing, or can cause a judge to give a lower score than they would have otherwise.

Preparing For Business Plan Contest Success

Success at these events is often linked to how well an entrepreneur has prepared themselves beforehand. One thing is certain – your competitors will be prepared; and if you aren’t, it will be embarrassingly noticeable. Unfortunately, in a business plan contest, there is no way to mask unpreparedness, especially among an audience of experienced entrepreneurs and investors. To best prepare for an upcoming business plan competition, consider the following tips:

  • Sell A Strong Team:  There is one thing that’s more important than having a great business plan – having a strong and experienced team that can actually execute it. Management teams are what bind all the elements of a business plan together; combining the skills necessary to put the plan into action successfully. It is vital that your team encompasses a broad range of skills and that each team member has a specific job that will lead to the startup’s success.
  • Present The Problem First : Startups that win (in contests and in general) are those that truly solve an existing problem – whether the problem is shared by a mass group of people, or by a niche audience. There’s a lot of “cool tech” out there, but even simple ideas can solve major problems. Taxis have existed for decades, but a simple idea like ride-sharing changed the way the world views personal transportation. Prepare a pitch that is challenge/solution heavy by focusing on what the problem is, why individuals experience the issue, why current solutions don’t solve the challenges effectively, and why your product/service is the right solution for the problem.
  • Know Your Funding Requirements : Investors don’t want their funds to just sit in an account; they want to know that there is a plan in place to use these funds and effectively scale a startup from its current position. Have a funding plan in place – know how much funding is required, what actions need to be completed to successfully progress the business, and how each dollar will be spent to meet your launch or growth objectives.
  • Be The Expert : If there is any gap in your business plan, it will be uncovered during the Q&A stage. Investors and judges are highly experienced in asking the right questions to get a full picture of your startup and to gauge whether you are well-informed about your business, market and the issue that you are attempting to solve. It’s not a good sign when an investor or judge knows more about your business than you do. Ensure that your business plan is all-encompassing with vital information, and that you can answer any necessary questions without needing to reference your business plan. During the Q&A session, you should be able to answer questions proficiently, confidently, and with enough expertise to prove that you know exactly what you are talking about.
  • Listen, Learn and Apply : You can’t win every business plan or pitch contest, but you can definitely take the insights given during one competition and use it to propel your potential for success in future contests. It’s not everyday that you’re able to receive critical feedback from a group of investors, and when you can, you should take advantage of it as much as possible. Even if you don’t win anything in a business plan competition, the insights gained can be used to catapult your business to the next level.

Writing A Business Plan That Wins

Even if everything else is perfect – if you want to win, you must begin with a well-thought-out, perfectly articulated, and investor-ready business plan that tells your startup’s story in an effective manner. There are many factors to consider when writing a business plan from proper market analysis to financial projections – and any weak point in your plan will decrease your chances of winning. If you need more advice on writing a business plan, contact one of our experts today for a free business plan consultation!


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alphagamma best business plan competitions to apply for in 2021 opportunities

The best business plan competitions in 2021

📝  Editor’s note:  Make sure to bookmark this page as we keep on adding and reviewing new business plan competitions to the list.

It has become a tradition of ours to share an annual overview of new ways you how you can raise funds to start and grow your venture.

Business plan competitions are great  opportunities  to get funding for your business ideas, feedback on your strategic plan, and exposure to the right audience.

This is also a smart way to expand your network, acquire new talent, partners and clients as well as gain feedback on your idea and your business strategy.

The following list includes competitions for budding and current entrepreneurs and those who just consider  entrepreneurship  as their first career choice.

The list offers a diverse variety of opportunities: business plan competitions, elevator pitches, business student conferences and case competitions that encourage innovation from all imaginable industries and backgrounds.

We have picked the gems that you can apply for in 2021 with your business idea and we have listed them in chronological order. Good luck!

Rice Business Plan Competition

Deadline:  February 2, 2021  | Apply  here Prize:  more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes Eligibility:  Any graduate-student startup, in a broad range of industries, from any university, in any degree program, can apply to the RBPC

The Rice Business Plan Competition is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup competition.

It provides an unparalleled experience for the participants by designing a diverse program over the course of three days, with significant time designated for feedback and interaction with the judging panel.

HBS New Venture Competition

Deadline:  February 3, 2021  | Apply  here Prize:  $300,000 in cash Eligibility:  Participating teams require at least one Harvard Business School MBA student who plays a primary role in the business. The HBS student should be a part of the founding team and a significant equity holder if equity has been distributed. There is a $1,500,000 limit in seed capital raised and a $2,000,000 limit in revenue generated.

business plan competition ideas

New Venture Competition provides a unique opportunity for students to put entrepreneurship principles into practice with an integrative learning experience.

Whether you are a winner of prizes, go on to implement your proposed new venture idea, or simply take advantage of the learning and apply it later in your career, the Competition will be an exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience.

Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

Deadline:  February 8, 2021  | Apply  here Prize:  $100,000 in cash and prizes Eligibility:  The team must be organized and directed by a student from a college or university in the state of Utah; The founding student must be an active student during both semesters of the competition year; The student team members must be involved in all aspects of the UEC competition

business plan competition ideas

The Utah Entrepreneur Challenge (UEC) is a statewide, student business model competition. Teams from universities across the state compete for the best business model and a chance to win $100,000 in cash and prizes.

The grand prize is $40,000. We invite the public and special guests to enjoy the final showcase and awards ceremony in the spring.

New Venture Championship

Deadline:  February 14, 2021  | Apply  here Prize:  more than $50,000 in total cash awards Eligibility:  The competition is for student-created, managed, and owned ventures. Teams of 2-5 students of which least one member of the team is required to be enrolled in a graduate program are encouraged to apply

Presented by the University of Oregon’s Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, the New Venture Championship ( NVC ) is the Pacific Northwest’s original six-round business competition, setting the standard followed by others.

Teams from elite universities come to Portland every year to pitch their venture plans and vie for more than $50,000 in total cash awards.

Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs

Deadline: February 26, 2021, 2021 | Apply here Prize: This year’s competition provides more than $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a $25,000 cash prize as well as a Draper University Scholarship for the Grand Prize winner  Eligibility: The competition is for new, for-profit, independent ventures in the seed, start-up or early growth stages. Ventures with a social impact focus are eligible as long as there is a revenue-generating component to the venture. Ventures that qualify for 501(c) status are not eligible. Each team must have at least one eligible Team Member who is an undergraduate woman at any accredited not-for-profit college or university located in the United States.

business plan competition ideas

The annual Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs is designed to hone the skills that undergraduate women need to advance from idea to venture creation.

Through multiple rounds of competition, students demonstrate an understanding of a problem, why the problem requires a new venture to address it, and how their idea presents the best solution to the problem.

Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition

Deadline: March 7, 2021 | Apply here Prize:  Grand Prize   $10,000  Eligibility:  Teams that include active Seattle University students enrolled either full-time or part-time in degree programs during one or more of the following academic periods: Summer 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, or Spring 2020 and alumni who have graduated from SU prior to the Summer 2019 academic period

The HSBPC is a public event and draws hundreds of investors, advisors, business leaders, community members, students, alumni, and faculty as audience members.

It is designed to help students and alumni in launching new business ventures, including for-profit businesses, not-for-profit businesses, corporate entrepreneurship, and social enterprise

Augustana College Business Plan Competition

Deadline: March 8, 2021 | Apply here Prize: The first-place award is $4,500; second place $3,000, third place $1,500; and $500 each to the remaining two teams. Eligibility:  All current students may submit written business plans, and the best five plans will be invited to compete

business plan competition ideas

The fifth annual Augustana College Business Plan Competition invites teams or individual students to present their ideas to a panel of business professionals.

Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

Deadline:  varies depending on the location |  Apply  here Prize:  Prizes are generally a combination of cash and business services and will vary by location. At the Global Finals, students compete for a prize package of US$25,000 in cash Eligibility:  You must be enrolled for the current academic year in a university/college as an undergraduate or graduate student at the time of application. The age cap for participation is 30 years of age

business plan competition ideas

The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) is the premier global competition for students who own and operate a business while attending college or university.

Nominees compete against their peers from around the world in a series of local and/or national competitions in hopes to qualify for GSEA Finals. Founded in 1998 by Saint Louis University, GSEA is now an Entrepreneurs’ Organization program.

Next Founders

Deadline:  March 17, 2021 | Apply here Prize:  $300,000 in cash Eligibility:  Next founders is for Canadian founders of scalable, high-growth ventures

business plan competition ideas

Next Founders accelerates the growth of Canada’s most promising entrepreneurs by providing mentorship, access to capital, and unparalleled entrepreneurial education taught by world-class faculty.

Next Founders is a flexible program, offering à-la-carte education from some of North America’s top minds that you can opt-into based on your individual needs.

U.Pitch Competition

Applications open:  Fall 2021 Prize:  $10,000

business plan competition ideas

U.Pitch brings together the best students from a cross-section of universities in this ultimate national elevator pitch competition. In just 90 seconds, students compete for national recognition and a prize pool of $10,000.

They also have the opportunity to showcase their idea or startup in front of hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and other students from the entrepreneurial community.

MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition

2021 Applications TBA Prize:  More than $300K in non-dilutive funding is awarded to accelerate the winning ventures Eligibility:  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.

business plan competition ideas

The MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition has brought together students and researchers from across MIT and Greater Boston to launch their talent, ideas, and technology into leading companies.

🏆 Did we miss any of the business plan competitions that you think we should include to our list? Let us know by filling in our  contact  form.

For more business  opportunities , check our  opportunities  section and subscribe to our  weekly newsletters.

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10 business plan competitions for entrepreneurs.

Have a great business idea but not sure what to do next? Luckily there are people all over the world who want to help you get your business off of the ground. We have listed 10 business plan competitions that can help you do just that. Get feedback and maybe even some funds to help you make your dream a reality.

Silicon Valley Boomer Business Plan Competition

Who is it for?

Anyone 18 years or older from around the globe with a business plan that shows the 45-plus market as the primary market for the product or service. Current annual revenues must be no more than $1 million.

How to enter?

Executive summary submissions are due via YouNoodle

Deadline: April 23, 2010

Link to competition: Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit - Business Plan Competition

Cisco I-Prize

Anyone 18 years of age or older submitting an idea or proposal that falls into one of these categories:

The Future of Work: New solutions that accelerate and change the way we do business

The Connected Life: Technological inspirations that dramatically improve living conditions and disseminate culture

New Ways to Learn: Next-generation solutions that transform when, where, and how people learn.

The Future of Entertainment: New solutions that change how people play together

How do you enter?

Register here

Deadline: April 30,2010

Link to competition: Cisco I - Prize

Conoco Phillips Energy Prize Contest

Legal residents of the 50 United States and District of Columbia who are at least 18 years of age or older at the time of entry.

Each individual entrant or team of entrants must submit a comprehensive proposal (no more than 2,000 words) for a Concept, which for purposes of this Contest is defined as follows: a technology, process or method that identifies a new alternative and/or renewable energy source or a new way to develop an alternative and/or renewable energy source; determines a way to use any type of energy source more efficiently; and/or combats climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Enter online -

Enter by mail - send your Submission and Registration Information to:

Conoco Phillips Energy Prize Contest Entries

P.O.Box 9302

Medford, NY 11763-9302

Deadline: May 21,2010

Link to competition: Conoco Phillips Energy Prize Contest

Clean Tech Open Business Competition

United States residents, citizens, or legal aliens looking to turn their clean tech idea into a thriving business can apply. Teams must consist of one Team Leader and at least one other team member (two people total). All entries must meet one of the competition’s six clean technology category definitions and be a startup with less than $500,000 from outside funding (some exceptions apply).

Deadline: May 22,2010

Link to competition: Clean Tech Open

IBM SmartCamp

SmartCamp is open to early stage companies. Early stage means a company not more than 3 years old as of March 1st, 2010 with a maximum turnover of USD $1,000,000 in the last 12 months. Companies invited to the interview stage or beyond must be able to produce a current tax clearance certificate.

Applying to Smart Camp could not be simpler! Simply visit and register your company.

Deadline: Registration opens March 18, 2010 – 5 companies from each participating city will be announced June 3, 2010.

Link to competition : IBM Smart Camp

WJF Socially Responsible Business Plan Competitions

Any business that:

Is for-profit

Is less than one year from your first revenue (or not have launched at all)

Cannot have accepted more than $20,000 in equity or debt investment from individuals who are not part of the day-to-day management team.

Seeks both financial viability and a defined social and/or environmental goal. Our baseline for financial viability is a firm where managers make at least a middle-class living, employees make at least a living wage and vendors and customers are generally satisfied with their interactions with the firm.

Can be described in English. (We hope to remove this requirement eventually.)

To submit your executive summary, send it by email to [email protected] Entries must be readable by Microsoft Word 2003 or Adobe PDF reader.

Deadline: June 4th, 2010

Link to competition: WJF Business Plan Competition


Anyone (although they say their goal to support high-potential seed and early stage start ups) that has:

Less than $500K of aggregate investment to date (grants not included, except for non-profit entrants)

Less than $1M in revenue over last 12 months

Deadline: Mid-June 2010

Shopify Build a Business Contest

Anyone with a Shopify online store, winner will be judged on two highest months of online store revenue

Create a Shopify store account online

Deadline: Competition runs through June 30, 2010

Link to competition: Shopify - Build a Business

NYC Next Idea 2010

Graduate Track:

Teams with 2-5 participants

Team members must be graduate students or alumni of a participating university

Each team must have at least one full time or part-time graduate student

Preference for business ideas in: Financial Services, Green, Not-for-profit, Bioscience, Fashion, and Media and Technology

Business plans must have a NYC operational and/or marketing component

Undergraduate Track:

Team members must be undergraduate students or alumni of a participating university

Each team must have at least one full time or part-time undergraduate student

How to enter

Enter here -

Deadline: October 1, 2010

LES Foundation 2011 Competition

To participate entrants must submit a comprehensive business plan with a core intellectual property (IP) licensing component. Entries are evaluated by seasoned industry professionals, who provide valuable feedback to each team. Entries are judged on a variety of factors including attractiveness of the venture, quality of the product/service offered, market opportunity and investment potential.

How to Enter:

Contact Linda Chao at [email protected]

Deadline: March 4, 2011

Link to competition: LES Foundation 2011 - Business Plan Competition

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The Grasshopper Team loves sharing tips, tricks, advice, and how-tos with entrepreneurs around the world. We're always here to answer questions or just chat.

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  • Business Plan Competitions – Rice University & Others With Large Prize Pools

B-School Search

To help finance an MBA degree that now costs more than $200,000 at some of the best private business schools, future entrepreneurs could do what most MBA students typically do: apply for scholarships or take out student loans—or, they could enter a business plan competition.

In April 2019, two teams from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University won combined prizes from Rice University’s business plan competition that totaled over $500,000. Incredibly, neither of Kellogg’s two teams—one a neurology medical device startup firm and the other a coffee vendor—won the competition. That honor went to a team from Minnesota’s Mitchell Hamline School of Law who walked away with an even larger award for their innovation in helicopter safety: almost $700,000.

What’s even more interesting is that large prize pools for business plan competitions for student startups appear to be increasingly common, including the Hult Prize, the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge, the International Business Model Competition, the Baylor New Venture Competition, and perhaps the most lucrative: the Rice University Business Plan Competition (RBPC).

The Rice Business Plan Competition: A Money Machine for Student Startups?

So just what is this competition, anyway? According to Rice University, the Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC) amounts to “the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup competition.” The event began 19 years ago as a joint initiative between the university’s Jones Graduate School of Business, the Brown School of Engineering, and the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, along with the school’s sponsored projects office. That year, in 2001, only nine teams competed for a paltry $10,000 prize pool.

Times have certainly changed for the RBPC. In 2013, another Northwestern University team that enhanced rechargeable lithium batteries took home almost 100 times that much —$1,000,000—after winning first-place honors. In the most recent 2019 event, the total prize pool amounted to a record $2.9 million, with the top seven finalists winning $355,000 on average and none of these teams receiving less than $100,000.

The RBPC appears to owe many of its larger awards in recent years to a single investor organization. A major sponsor of the competition is the oddly-named GOOSE Society of Texas; the acronym stands for “Grand Order of Successful Entrepreneurs.” Started by Jack Gill—the principal behind Vanguard Ventures, one of Silicon Valley’s first early-stage venture capital firms—this investor network funded $1,275,000 (or about 44 percent of the event’s awards) in 2019.

But the GOOSE gravy train doesn’t necessarily stop at the awards banquet. The network’s executive director, Samantha Lewis, told Houston’s online business magazine InnovationMap that the GOOSE Society may invest more after wrapping up their due diligence investigations . For example, the RBPC’s 2017 winning team from Carnegie Mellon University received a $300,000 GOOSE grand prize during the awards ceremony, but eventually netted $2 million from the network overall.

What is the RBPC’s Track Record in Creating Successful Companies?

Are the RBPC’s contestants mainly student projects or do these ventures live on as successful companies? Clearly, most of these teams experience considerable success long after the competition.

This interesting infographic summarizes the track record of the RBPC’s success stories. It illustrates how about 60 percent of the teams transformed into companies that raised about $2.36 billion in capital. Of the 239 successful firms, 197 continue to operate and 32 firms successfully “exited,” meaning they were acquired or conducted successful initial public offerings (IPOs). The value of these exits amounts to over $1.18 billion.

The chart also shows how two industries (tech innovation and life sciences) have the highest percentages of successful firms, with the life sciences and energy industries accounting for most of the funding.

These success stories are also geographically diverse. RBPC’s alumni teams represent 162 universities from 36 U.S. states and 18 nations on six continents. And despite the way that startups cluster in Western states like California and Washington, only three universities dominate the awards: Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Role of Angel Investors as Judges and Donors

Traditionally, as this classic Harvard Business Review article points out, the venture capital industry has not provided the earliest seed funding to startups . Instead, angel investors typically invest in startups at the earliest stages, long before venture capital firms. Sometimes referenced by names like “angel funders,” “business angels,” or “seed investors,” angel investors often tend to be high net-worth individuals and families , sometimes with personal connections to the entrepreneurs they fund. They typically inject capital into startup firms in exchange for convertible debt —loans that can be converted to stock—or a proportion of the stock in the startup company.

For example, in 1977 former Intel electrical engineer Mike Markkula helped launch Apple with arguably the best investment of any angel in history. According to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak , Markkula provided $250,000 to Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Of that sum, only $80,000 was an equity investment and the balance was a loan. In exchange, Markkula received a third of the company’s stock as the third employee, ran the company as CEO from 1981 to 1983, and served as chairman of the board from 1985 to 1997.

So-called “super angel” investor networks such as the GOOSE Society represent a blend between venture capital firms and angel investors. Here is how Fast Company described this newer breed of firms:

These crafty interlopers represent a hybrid between the two investing models that have long ruled the normally placid world of startup funding. Super angels raise funds like venture capitalists but invest early like angels and in sums between the two, on average from $250,000 to $500,000. By being smaller, faster, and less demanding of entrepreneurs than VCs, super angels are getting first dibs on the best new ideas.

So it’s not surprising that at RBPC’s 2018 competition, 40 percent of judges were angel or super angel investors . That’s more than double the proportion of judges from the venture capital industry and triple the proportion from the next highest sector: legal and financial services. It’s also not surprising that—barring some notable exceptions like Cisco Systems, NASA, and the Texas Medical Center—angel investors donated most of the largest prizes.

Other Business Plan Competitions With Large Prize Pools

Although our research disclosed no other competitions with prize pools quite as substantial as the RBMC’s nearly $3 million, we did find several events offering prizes large enough to provide compelling incentives for starving graduate students. Here are a few examples:

The objective behind the Hult Prize is to “launch a start-up enterprise that can radically change the world and breed the next generation of social entrepreneurs.” The prize is known for the involvement of the United Nations and President Bill Clinton, who presents awards to recipients. The top prize is $1 million for the winner.

Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge

The focus in the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge , a Paris-based competition, encompasses launching “deep tech” emerging technology ventures with funding requirements far greater than cloud- or mobile-based Web applications. The current prize pool is about $235,000.

International Business Model Competition

The IBMC isn’t a business plan competition, per se. Technically, it’s a business model competition, which means that startup teams must adhere to lean startup methodologies and organize their pitches using a lean canvas framework. This Utah-based event offered a 2019 prize pool of $200,000. ( Learn more from our article about how the lean canvas approach provides an alternative to traditional business plans.)

Baylor New Venture Competition

Another Texas-based event, Baylor University’s New Venture Competition only offers about $100,000 in cash prizes. However, IBM has kicked in $120,000 in cloud credits for each of the top three finalists, making this competition especially attractive for cloud-based technology startups.

Douglas Mark

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands , including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.

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15 Best Business Plan Competitions for Startup Entrepreneurs

March 13th 2019

by Marcia Layton Turner

Many members of the WomensNet community have asked us about more opportunities to get start-up money.  Well, here’s an idea that might help you.

Business plan creation is an exercise required of many MBA students, as a teaching tool, which is why many colleges and universities sponsor business plan competitions – to help students apply what they’ve learned in class. Winners of these contests often receive a combination of startup cash, mentoring, and other resources to help them get their venture off the ground.

A number of successful companies have come out of these competitions, which may be why more organizations and institutions of higher education have begun admitting non-students to these events. There are also business plan competitions open to anyone, student or not.

If you’re looking for ways to land early stage funding, or to network with fellow entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, it may be worth your time to enter a business plan competition. Winning means money and bragging rights, which can open doors to other opportunities.

Deadlines for entries vary throughout the year, so if you’ve missed this year’s window, next year’s window of opportunity will be here before you know it. Most have no entry fee, though you’ll want to read the fine print to see what you’re responsible for (such as travel expenses).

Here are 15 of the best business plan competitions worth your attention:

Arch Grants Global Startup Competition

For entrepreneurs currently residing in or willing to move to St. Louis, Missouri. Prizes include a $50,000 equity-free grant and free business support services, as well as becoming eligible to pursue up to $1 million in follow-on funding for winners. Idea-stage to pre-Series A companies are welcome to apply.

“Where software startups are launched” is how Codelaunch bills itself, which is a combination competition and startup networking festival held in Frisco, Texas. You need to have an idea for a software product or app to participate, with the prize being training and mentoring. There is also an annual seed accelerator for entrepreneurs with ideas for apps in search of funding.

Get in the Ring

While not as much as competition as a networking event on steroids, Get in the Ring brings together 150 startups to participate in three days of workshops to “unlock business opportunities” with 350 mentors, investors, and advisors. In Berlin.

Jack Daniels’ Pitch Distilled

According to Jack Daniels, “Pitch Distilled is a multi-city pitch competition…pairing aspiring entrepreneurs with a diverse cast of judges tasked with helping them kick-start the next big idea.” The grand prize is $5,000.

MassChallenge Accelerator

Not quite a business plan competition, MassChallenge involves selecting the “highest-impact and highest-potential startups” to participate in an accelerator program. There are locations in Boston, Rhode Island, Texas, and Switzerland. The accelerator session involves receiving mentoring, business services, and, ultimately, the chance for funding if your company is selected as a finalist.

Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

The Milken-Penn Graduate School of Education (GSE) business plan competition may be the best-funded competition around, having awarded more than $1 million in prize money in the last ten years and sparked more than $135 million in follow-on funding. It is open to anyone in the world, but particularly “entrepreneurs with innovative ideas in education.” Its goal is to foster innovation in the field of education.

New York Start Up! 2019 Business Plan Competition

This competition is for residents of New York City, the Bronx, and Staten Island only. Businesses must not have generated more than $10,000 in revenue since startup. The top prize is $15,000, plus access to guidance and resources available through the New York Public Library.

Next Founders

Canadian entrepreneurs should apply for the annual Next Founders program, which is designed to help build the skills of the company founder(s) and provide training, mentoring, and access to capital to help scale promising business concepts and companies.

North of Boston Business Plan Competition

Entrepreneurs currently operating a business on Boston’s North Shore, or are willing to commit to locating the company in the area, are eligible to compete in this annual competition. “The purpose of the Competition is to identify and support businesses who want to grow and expand on the North Shore and thereby build the region’s economy.” The top prize is $10,000, with runner-up awards of $6,000 and $4,000.

Pistoia Alliance President’s Startup Challenge

This competition is for startups focused specifically on informatics and technology. Two winners receive six months of mentorship from industry experts and $20,000. Five finalists also receive $5,000 each.

This U.K.-based event isn’t so much about winning free cash, but about participating in a free boot camp. The top 300 startups are invited to participate, rubbing elbows with mentors and investors, as well as peers.

Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation New Venture Challenge

The Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge, now based at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center, is one of the leading business accelerators. It is “a year-long business launch program” that involves idea generation, critical feedback from advisors, and pitches to the investing community.

Startup Festival

Dubbed “the music festival for startups,” the 2019 Startup Festival, held in Montreal, provides numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs to pitch their startup concept to potential investors. Those pitches could result in funding or enhanced visibility, with the chance to pitch to the crowd or a group of grandmother judges. More than $750,000 in funding is on the line here.

tecBRIDGE Business Plan Competition

Students are separated into their own division in this competition for companies in the Northeast Pennsylvania region, with non-students in another. Early stage entrepreneurs from the area are welcome and can compete for prizes valued at more than $100,000. Concept must be technology-based and have had sales of no more than $250,000 in the prior 12 months to qualify for inclusion.

Y Combinator

Perhaps the best known business accelerator, Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator sponsors an annual competition to identify startups worthy of funding. Successful applicants are flown out to Mountain View, California for meetings and those funded are expected to spend 90 days in the area receiving support services.

Whether you’re looking for feedback on your new product idea, are looking for an advisory board, need space in which to locate your company, or really just need funding, these competitions will connect you with some of the most supportive startup organizations out there.

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How to Write the Competitor Analysis Section of the Business Plan

Writing The Business Plan: Section 4

Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.

business plan competition ideas

The competitor analysis section can be the most difficult section to compile when writing a business plan because before you can analyze your competitors, you have to investigate them. Here's how to write the competitor analysis section of the business plan.

First, Find Out Who Your Competitors Are

If you're planning to start a small business that's going to operate locally, chances are you already know which businesses you're going to be competing with. But if not, you can easily find out by doing an internet search for local businesses, looking in the online or printed local phone book, or even driving around the target market area. 

Your local business may also have non-local competitors that you need to be aware of.

If you're selling office supplies, for instance, you may also have to compete with big-box retailers within a driving distance of several hours and companies that offer office supplies online. You want to make sure that you identify all your possible competitors at this stage.

Then Find Out About Them

You need to know:

  • what markets or market segments your competitors serve;
  • what benefits your competitors offer;
  • why customers buy from them;
  • as much as possible about their products and/or services, pricing, and promotion.

Gathering Information for Your Competitor Analysis

A visit is still the most obvious starting point - either to the brick and mortar store or to the company's website. Go there, once or several times, and look around. Watch how customers are treated. Check out the prices.

You can also learn a fair bit about your competitors from talking to their customers and/or clients - if you know who they are. Other good "live" sources of information about competitors include a company's vendors or suppliers and a company's employees. They may or may not be willing to talk to you, but it's worth seeking them out and asking.

And watch for trade shows that your competitors may be attending. Businesses are there to disseminate information about and sell their products or services; attending and visiting their booths can be an excellent way to find out about your competition.

You'll also want to search for the publicly available information about your competitors. Online publications, newspapers, and magazines may all have information about the company you're investigating for your competitive analysis. Press releases may be particularly useful. 

Once you've compiled the information about your competitors, you're ready to analyze it. 

Analyzing the Competition

Just listing a bunch of information about your competition in the competitor analysis section of the business plan misses the point. It's the analysis of the information that's important.

Study the information you've gathered about each of your competitors and ask yourself this question: How are you going to compete with that company?

For many small businesses, the key to competing successfully is to identify a market niche where they can capture a  specific target market  whose needs are not being met.

  • Is there a particular segment of the market that your competition has overlooked?
  • Is there a service that customers or clients want that your competitor does not supply? 

The goal of your competitor analysis is to identify and expand upon your competitive advantage - the benefits that your proposed business can offer the customer or client that your competition can't or won't supply.

Writing the Competitor Analysis Section

When you're writing the business plan, you'll write the competitor analysis section in the form of several paragraphs. 

The first paragraph will outline the competitive environment, telling your readers who your proposed business's competitors are, how much of the market they control and any other relevant details about the competition.

The second and following paragraphs will detail your competitive advantage, explaining why and how your company will be able to compete with these competitors and establish yourself as a successful business.

Remember; you don't have to go into exhaustive detail here, but you do need to persuade the reader of your business plan that you are knowledgeable about the competition and that you have a clear, definitive plan that will enable your new business to successfully compete.

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2019 National Business Plan Competition – Top 8 Presentations

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The National Business Plan Competition showcases some of the best and brightest student leaders and budding entrepreneurs in the country. In 2019, 33 VE companies from around the country made it to the 2019 National Business Plan Competition after demonstrating strong written business plans and oral presentations to panels of industry professionals and educators. See below to view the written plans and presentations for the top 8 teams from the 2019 National Business Plan Competition.

View Top 8 Written Plans

View top 8 presentations, top 8 written business plans, 1st place — ikomo, south pasadena high school, ca.

View the iKOMO Written Business Plan

business plan competition ideas

2nd Place — Current Threads, Bakersfield High School, CA

View the Current Threads Written Business Plan

business plan competition ideas

3rd Place —  AstroDough, Syosset High School, NY

View the AstroDough Written Business Plan

business plan competition ideas

4th Place — Ancora Safety, Centennial High School, CA

View the Ancora Safety Written Business Plan

business plan competition ideas

5th Place — Bloom Technologies, Germantown Friends School, PA

View the Bloom Technologies Written Business Plan

business plan competition ideas

6th Place — VEKO, Edward R. Murrow High School, NYC

View the VEKO Written Business Plan

business plan competition ideas

7th Place — Phoenix Wood, Stockdale High School, CA

View the Phoenix Wood Written Business Plan

business plan competition ideas

8th Place — Global Warming, Bearden High School, TN

View the Global Warming Written Business Plan

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Top 8 Business Plan Presentations

3rd Place — AstroDough, Syosset High School, NY

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Benefits of Business Plan Competitions: What You Need to Know

by Dylan Taylor | Apr 20, 2020 | Business |

Benefits of Business Plan Competitions: What You Need to Know

If you believe you have a strong idea for a business, you likely know you’ll need to draft a business plan before turning your idea into a reality. Along with helping you explain your strategy to investors, a business plan will help provide you with a roadmap to success. Consider submitting your draft to a business plan competition once you’ve finished developing it. The potential benefits of doing so include the following:

Obtaining Funding

Business plan competitions vary widely in their parameters. For example, while some involve directly submitting an established idea, others allow teams of entrepreneurs to create fresh ideas based on prompts. In addition, many business plan competitions provide awards to their winners in the form of seed funding and/or mentorship from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.

money funding

Meeting Mentors

A mentor can play a very important role in your future success. This is particularly true if you’re a new entrepreneur. With an experienced mentor guiding you, you’re less likely to make common errors, and more likely to make the right choices during the early stages of growing your business. A mentor may also help you grow your professional network.

This is another reason to participate in business plan competitions. Very often, they match participating entrepreneurs with mentors. Even if you don’t win the competition, if your mentor is impressed with you, they might be willing to continue mentoring you after the competition is over.

A mentor is by no means the only helpful person you can meet through a business plan competition. Very often, investors also participate in these competitions. Networking with them would of course be a valuable experience. Additionally, you could meet other entrepreneurs through the competition who you may wish to collaborate with in the future.

Building Your Confidence

Don’t worry if you secretly (or not-so-secretly) doubt your own strengths as an entrepreneur. This is a common experience. While it is important to honestly assess both your skills and idea before spending time and money trying to grow a business with limited potential, you shouldn’t necessarily feel discouraged because you lack confidence.

Many successful entrepreneurs have been in your shoes before. Luckily, business plan competition participants often find that the experience provides them with a degree of validation. This helps them fully commit to their goals.

Practicing Important Skills

A business plan competition doesn’t typically consist of judges merely reviewing the written draft of your business plan. In many cases, you also need to develop and present pitches for your business idea.

learning materials

This gives you the opportunity to develop an important skill. In the future, you’ll almost certainly need to pitch your ideas to investors. Practicing doing so in a low-stakes environment helps you identify what you must do to improve upon your pitch.

Getting New Perspectives

Odds are good your business plan isn’t perfect. Even if your idea is strong, there is always room for improvement

Many entrepreneurs struggle to identify key weaknesses with their ideas that need to be addressed. Fortunately, during a business plan competition, multiple judges will likely evaluate your pitch. Receiving feedback from multiple sources helps you broaden your perspective and more effectively refine your plan in the future.

Impressing Potential Investors

It’s uncommon for reputable business plan competitions to accept submissions from every interested applicant. Judges don’t have the time to review countless plans.

That’s why they carefully assess applications before selecting participants. Thus, if you were accepted into a business plan competition, you could leverage that fact later by mentioning it to investors. Even if you don’t win, they may be impressed that you participated in the first place. This will at least help you get your foot in the door.

Receiving Media Coverage

Depending on the competition you participate in, your idea may receive attention from business media outlets. This of course provides you with free exposure. If the right person hears about your idea, they might approach you with an offer to invest in it.

These are only a few reasons budding entrepreneurs should consider participating in business plan competitions. Just make sure you don’t assume you’ll be accepted to participate in the first competition you apply to. You may need to try several times before you are selected to compete. When you do, however, the benefits can be substantial.

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Students from all academic departments can participate in entrepreneurship competitions and have access to events, workshops, mentoring that enable them to test and refine their founder skills.

Join an Entrepreneurship competition

Joining a startup pitch competition is an investment for your startup. It gives you a platform where you can pitch your startup in front of fellow students and judges to help you raise the funding needed to launch and scale your startup. We encourage every student to throw their hat in the ring and get some experience pitching their venture – you never know what you’ll end up walking away with!

If you’re a student, faculty or alumni that has launched a startup or has competed in a competition, help us keep our place as #16 best undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the country and #17 best graduate program in the country by taking one of the following brief surveys.

NC State’s Annual Startup Competition awarding over $100,000 of startup money to NC State entrepreneurs.

Tea Blumer holding her award onstage at the Lulu eGames. Kathy Hengen, COO of Lulu is at left, and Tom Miller, senior vice provost for academic outreach and entrepreneurship, is at right.


Our first competition in the spring semester! Students compete in teams to create the best solution to a sustainability challenge. All weekend long, we will provide the food and expert mentors to fuel your creativity. On the final day, you will pitch your prototype to judges from the community and local companies. Prizes include: $2,000 to the winning team, $1,000 to the runner up team and $500 to the third place team.

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Minute to Pitch It at Entrepalooza

Students have one minute to convince the audience their idea is worthy of the $1,000 audience choice award!

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Wolf Den at Global Entrepreneurship Week

Join innovators from NC State and beyond for this Shark Tank-inspired event giving students the opportunity to pitch their business concept for live judges and a live audience during GEW.

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External Competitions Open to NC State Students

Below is a list of external entrepreneurship competitions available to NC State students that offer cash prizes and bragging rights! We encourage our student entrepreneurs to discover and participate in external competitions and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need any mentorship, resources, or anything else – we’re committed to your success and are here to help!


Rice Business Plan Competition The RBPC is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup competition, held annually at Rice University in Houston, Texas. 42 student-led, early-stage companies will be invited to pitch their business ventures and vie for over $1 million in prizes.

Eligible startups will:

  • be student-driven, student-created and/or student-managed
  • have at least two current student founders or management team members, and at least one of those students is a current graduate degree-seeking student
  • have not raised more than $250,000 in equity capital prior to July 1, 2021
  • be seeking funding or capital (or will be in the next 12 months)
  • be a potentially viable investment opportunity

EnergyTech University Prize Sponsored by the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) at the U.S. Department of Energy, the EnergyTech University Prize (EnergyTech UP) is a collegiate competition challenging multidisciplinary student teams to develop and present a business plan that leverages lab-developed and other high-potential energy technologies. Student teams compete for a total of $250,000 in cash prizes.

Venture Capital Investment Competition Calling all startups raising a Series A or later seed round: Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) is an “accelerator for the fundraising process.” Three startups will be chosen as finalists for each region. This is a great opportunity for student startups that need practice pitching to potential investors and will prepare you for a real Series A funding round! This has a rolling deadline.

TiE University Global Business Hackathon Students worldwide register for free and pick a track or subject matter area that they are interested in. Local coaches and global mentors are assigned to assist the teams while they compete to solve real-world business problems. Winners are selected for cash prizes and awards. Application deadline is in early March.

Tulane Business Model Competition Open to early-stage ventures led by teams that include at least one degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate student from any college or university. This competition rewards those that are creating commercially viable ventures through breaking down an idea into a key business model hypothesis; have tested their assumptions with customers; and applied Customer Development/Lean Startup principles to refine the model for improved success. Last year, they awarded $125,000 across 3 ventures, with the first prize team taking home $75,000. Applications are due on Jan. 18, 2022.

Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs Since 2013, the Draper Competition has grown from a single institution business plan contest to a national business model competition with the largest prize pool specifically for female-founded ventures. The Draper Competition is the only one of its kind, focusing specifically on supporting and recognizing the entrepreneurial spirit of undergraduate women. Applications are due in late Feb.

Values and Ventures Competition Innovators (undergrads from around the world) can pitch their business plans and act as investors in the other teams, choosing who they think will advance in the competition. Applications are due in early March.

Baylor New Venture Competition This business plan and elevator pitch competition showcases collegiate entrepreneurs from across the globe. The competition provides participants with personal and professional development through industry-specific mentorship towards sustainable business plans, exclusive access to accomplished experts and fellow innovators, and a chance to compete for over $250,000 in cash prizes and vital resources. Applications are due in early Nov.

McCloskey New Venture Competition The Competition encourages entrepreneurs from the University and the surrounding area to refine their business plans, receive mentorship, and compete for prizes that include resources and funding. Participants gain invaluable feedback from a panel of judges that includes angel investors, venture capitalist, entrepreneurs, and other industry experts, providing the solid foundation needed to launch their ventures. Students from all Colleges, all majors and all programs are encouraged to enter. Applications are due in early Nov.

AWS US University Startup Competition This competition offers higher education student entrepreneurs the opportunity to win equity-free cash prizes to help fund their ventures. The top 10 finalists will pitch their startups to a panel of investors and AWS Startup Team members at a final event. Three winners will win up to $20k in cash prizes and up to $100k in AWS credits. All startups that apply will receive $1,000 in AWS Credits. Applications are due in early Nov.

TCU Values and Ventures Competition This competition invites undergraduate students from around the world to pitch ideas for conscious capitalism ventures that make a profit while also solving a problem. The competition rewards both innovators and investors. Innovators (undergrads from around the world) can pitch their business plans and act as investors in other teams in the Investor Challenge, choosing who they think will advance in the competition. There are many other chances to win and each of the 42 finalists has a chance to win at least $1,000 in the challenge. Applications are due Feb. 1, 2022.

Schneider Go Green Competition Schneider Electric, together with AVEVA, is looking for game changers around the world who dare to disrupt, put your skills to the test, and push the boundaries of digital transformation in Energy Management.Submit your bold idea related to one of the five segments within energy management. Applications are due Dec. 31, 2021.

Amazon Lightsail Containers Hackathon You want to learn how to easily build and run applications on the cloud? You are looking for a quick and reliable way to host containerized apps? Beginner or Expert, this is the perfect opportunity for you! AWS has recently launched Amazon Lightsail Containers: a simple yet scalable, reliable container offering which you can use to deploy, run, and manage containers –all for a low fixed monthly price. For this challenge, they want to see you use Amazon Lightsail container service to build innovative solutions and applications. Regardless of the specific application, no matter how big or small, they want to hear from you! Any solution that uses Lightsail and Lightsail Containers as the main component is welcome. Learn how to create and deploy Container services with this tutorial and learn more about how to use Amazon Lightsail Containers in our documentation. Applications due Jan. 31, 2022.

Atento Capital University Pitch Competition Atento Capital University is hosting a pitch competition targeted towards student founders across the US. The finalists will have an all-expenses-paid trip to our headquarter in Tulsa, OK to compete for non-diluted grants from April 14-17th. The winning team will receive $10,000!

Please email [email protected] if you know of an NC State entrepreneurship competition or an external competition that is open to NC State students so we can add it to our list. We appreciate the help!

Make-A-Thon Goes Virtual for 2021

Going virtual did not stop students from developing real-world solutions in the 2021 Make-A-Thon competition. Students submitted their ideas via video to judges for the chance to win cash prizes.

Four students wearing masks celebrate their make a thon 2021 victory

Watch the ACC 2021 Premier

Watch the broadcast from April 21st to learn about the finalists and see the announcements of the year’s big winners!

Judges talk with ACC winners UV Scope during the final round via zoom


business plan competition ideas

Innovation Blog

18 best startup pitch competitions and events for 2023.

  • Published on: January 27, 2023
  • Author: masschallenge


According to The Wall Street Journal, we are in the “ golden era of venture capital ,” and the fear of missing out is quickly growing. Many investors are winning significant payouts from investing in inspired startups looking to change the world, and entrepreneurs with big ideas are gaining traction.

If you ask several entrepreneurs what the largest obstacle is to launching a seed-stage startup, they’ll likely give you the same answer: funding . Raising money to get your company off the ground is time-consuming and labor-intensive. In addition, frustrations are bountiful when asking people to invest, and rejection is common.

If you’re looking to launch your startup or need investors to support your startup’s expansion, we’ve compiled a shortlist of the best startup pitch competitions and how to pick the ones worth your time based on what your company is working towards.

How to Create a Successful Pitch

Preparation is key when crafting your pitch. Here are some tips to help you create a pitch that will resonate with your audience.

1. Do your research

Not all pitch competitions are the same, many have focused niches or are geared toward a certain stage of a startup’s growth. As you look to find the right pitch competitions for your startup, look inward to make sure your company’s mission or market aligns with the contest. Also consider researching previous companies that have won funding, and keep an eye out for commonalities. These shared traits could be crucial clues to help you craft your perfect pitch.

2. Create a pitch deck

Pitch decks are a story about this business and the founding team that fully explains why they are poised for the opportunity and the right team to win. Your pitch deck is not meant to encompass your entire presentation but to supplement your ideas and provide helpful illustrations to drive your pitch home. Keep in mind text-heavy slides can feel boring to an audience, and you want your pitch to leave a memorable impact. Supplement your text with creative visuals to demonstrate your points.

3. Practice your pitch

While you may have minutes to convince your audience, the first few seconds are the most critical for making an impact and hooking your judges. You want to capture their attention and pique their interest.

The human attention span is short. Keeping your communication concise will help your audience to better remember your pitch.

Preparation is essential, and practice works. Look for events where you can practice your pitch, like the NEF Pitch Pit competition . This competition offers a modest award, along with feedback from three experienced entrepreneur judges. Also be sure to practice good video pitch techniques for our often-virtual times.

4. Learn and revise 

Practice, gather feedback, and revise your pitch as necessary. Remember that rejection is part of the process. Pitches are not a fixed monologue, but similar to the agility most startups need to find their aligned market fit, pitches need to be frequently adapted and updated based on who might be in the room or on the latest notes you’ve received. But certainly, all founders are in agreement that the more you pitch, the better and more confident you become.   

Top 18 Startup Pitch Competitions for 2022

These 18 startup competitions could provide excellent opportunities for pitch practice, connections, and funding.

MassChallenge Early Stage Accelerator

Overview: Since 2010, MassChallenge has helped 2,928 startups raise $8.6 billion in funding, resulting in 186k jobs created and $3.6 billion in revenue. 

MassChallenge is committed to accelerating transformative technologies in tech, business, and science. We help connect top entrepreneurial talent with the resources and organizations they need to launch and accelerate their business.

Who it’s for : Startups in fintech , health technology , sustainable food , and blue technology .

Location/details : MassChallenge has startup accelerators around the world: in Boston , Austin, Houston, and Dallas; Mexico , Israel , and Switzerland .  

Apply : Find more information on our site and learn about the US early stage startup competitions.

FedEx Small Business Grant


Overview : The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest awards US-based small businesses with significant funding to grow their endeavors. This competition was created to get remarkable business ideas off the ground and support entrepreneurs who are making a difference. Past winners include environmental innovators, medical visionaries, and veterans’ advocates.

Who it’s for : You’re eligible as long as your company has fewer than 50 employees, under $5 million in yearly sales, and you have shipped in the last year or plan to ship goods in the next year for business purposes.

Location/details : The competition is remote and awards $5,000 in grants and up to $7,500 in FedEx Office services to each award recipient. Up to 200 grants are available.

Apply : The 2021 winners have already been announced; however, you may apply for the next year once details are posted.

MIT $100K Pitch


Overview : The MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition includes three separate contests held yearly from October to May. The competition gathers a network of resources — venture capitalists, mentors, prototyping funds, and more — to boost fledgling startups.

Applicants submit a 90-second video explaining their ideas and pitching their visions. Then, entrants are whittled down to a few top finalists who will have the opportunity to pitch to a live panel of judges for a chance at the grand prize.

Who it’s for : Teams or individuals can enter submissions. The competition targets students, and while not each team member needs to be a student, at least one needs to be currently registered part-time or full-time at MIT.

Location/details : Located in Cambridge, Mass., the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition has three distinct intensive competitions throughout the year: PITCH, ACCELERATE, and LAUNCH. The winner receives the $100,000 grand prize, and finalists receive considerable prize money. There is no entry fee. In addition, further resources are awarded as well, like mentorships and connections with reputable Boston entrepreneurs.

Apply : Visit the MIT $100K website to learn how to apply.


Overview : Participating in the SXSW Pitch provides more than an opportunity for prize money. Investors worldwide look to the SXSW Pitch competition searching for the best and newest ideas that can change industries. SXSW aims to connect ambitious and innovative talent with leading investors, allowing parties to help each other achieve their goals and more. As a result of SXSW, companies have been acquired by trail-blazing companies like Google, Huffington Post, Apple, and more.

Who it’s for : You’re eligible to apply as long as you’ve launched your product recently ( read more for details ) and are only entering one product to the SXSW Pitch. Furthermore, founders of the company have to hold onto some portion of their ownership.

Location/details : SXSW is held annually in Austin, Texas.

Apply: The application deadline for 2022 has passed, but you can find more details about applying for subsequent years here.


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Overview : U.Pitch is a national competition that helps students and recent graduates present their business dreams to renowned investors and entrepreneurs and get their endeavors the momentum they need. 

Joining the competition allows you to connect with a peer community and build supportive relations with young entrepreneurs across the country. In addition, the high-profile event provides the opportunity to receive valuable recognition and be a part of networking and other essential resources for startups.

Who it’s for : To be accepted to the competition, students or recent college graduates must have an idea to start a for-profit company headquartered in the US or have already started a company that’s generated less than $1 million in capital (not cannabis-related).

Location/details : U.Pitch is located in Chicago and occurs each November. 

Apply : Application is completely free. To apply, you’ll submit a brief description of your plan and a link to a 90-second video in which you explain your idea. See the U.Pitch site for more details. 

America’s Seed Fund


Overview : America’s Seed Fund helps startups navigate early stages of growth in tech. Each startup is eligible to receive up to $2 million to advance its research and development. 

America’s Seed Fund is interested in supporting businesses in nearly all tech areas, including artificial intelligence, biological technologies, advanced manufacturing, and environmental tech. Organizers are specifically looking for startups that can make a global difference and show substantial market pull evidence that a service or product has what it takes to fulfill unmet needs.

Who it’s for : This contest is for US small businesses engaged in deep technologies, with fewer than 500 employees, and at least 50% of the company owned by US citizens or permanent residents.

Location/details : Located in Alexandria, VA., ASF accepts project pitches anytime. According to their website, you can typically expect a reply from NSF staff within one month.

Apply : For more information and details about the competition, see the America’s Seed Fund site . 

Jacobs Startup Competition


Overview : If you have an idea that stands out from the crowd, Jacobs Startup Competition wants to hear it. Contest organizers aim to provide guidance on first-time business ideas to help contestants transform their visions into ventures. 

From the start, you’ll have the opportunity to gain valuable advice from experienced entrepreneurs and professionals. The best teams will be matched with top-tier mentors to coach them on their pitches and guide them through the last application round before the final event.

Who it’s for : Jacobs Startup Competition is searching for truly unique ideas that stand out from the pack and welcomes entrepreneurs and teams from all over the world.

Location/details : Located in Germany, the student-run competition occurs annually in March and offers entrants a chance to connect with an extensive network. Applicants can win a spot in incubator programs, coaching sessions, and 3,000, 1,000, or 500 euros.

Apply : See the website for information on how to apply.

Collision ALPHA


Overview : Collision ALPHA aims to shine a spotlight on seed-stage startups. ALPHA aims to connect budding entrepreneurs with some of the world’s most influential executives, journalists, and investors to get their products and services off the ground.

Collision ALPHA provides a unique platform to share your story with the world. The remarkable network provided to attendees helps startups connect with partners, mentors, and even new hires. 

Who it’s for : Collision ALPHA looks to help startups and investors alike harness their potential, combine their expertise, and make meaningful connections to realize their ventures.

Location/details: June 2023, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Apply : See their website for more information on how to apply.

Startup World Cup


Overview : The Startup World Cup holds over 60 regional competitions across the globe, with the respective winners of each region competing at the final event in San Francisco. The focus is on healthcare, AI, robotics, and improving human life in a meaningful way.

The network associated with the Startup World Cup is full of top-tier investors, making it an ideal platform for startups to get exposure and develop connections. Every year, ambitious entrepreneurs and wealthy investors are brought together providing the opportunity for impactful partnerships. 

Who it’s for : Startups (legal, registered entities) at any stage in any vertical from anywhere in the world are encouraged to apply.

Location/details : Regional competitions are held worldwide in various locations. Applicants are encouraged to apply to whichever location is closest. The winner of the final event, held in San Francisco, receives a prize of $1 million.

Apply : Apply on Startup World Cup’s website.

LG Mission for the Future


Overview : The LG Mission for the Future has announced a new startup competition to bring together fresh ideas that focus on a greener, healthier, smarter, and more connected future. Headquartered at their Innovation Center in Silicon Valley, their strategic team, LG NOVA, aims to connect startups with the entrepreneur community to harness the world’s best innovative ideas and bring them to life.

This annual nine-month challenge program will pair entrants with the LG NOVA team where they’ll collaborate on business proposals leading up to the final selection process in March. Winners will get to work with the LG NOVA team to boost their growth and potentially launch a new business with LG.

Who it’s for: Ideal for tech innovators looking to positively impact global health, mobility, and lifestyle.

Location/details : Annually in Silicon Valley.

Apply : To learn more about how to apply, click here .

Rice Business Plan Competition


Overview : Rice University hosts an internationally recognized event devoted to supporting entrepreneurs. The multi-day event offers an educational program that prepares innovators to succeed. The competition helps students clarify their purpose and realize their potential with access to mentors and investment opportunities.

Students pitch their ideas to investors, collect feedback, and work on advancing their startups. In addition, students can win substantial cash prizes and connect with industry leaders, coaches, and experienced entrepreneurs.

Who it’s for : This competition is open to student teams (at least two student founders/leaders, with at least one student currently enrolled in a degree program), from anywhere in the world. Applicants for the 2023 program must not have earned more than $250,000 in equity capital prior to July, 2022, and must not have generated revenue of more than $100,000 in any 12-month period prior to July, 2022.

Location/details : Hosted by the Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business in Houston, Texas. Prizes change annually; in 2021, more than $1.6 million was awarded in investments, cash, and in-kind prizes.

Apply : Deadline for application is Feb 28, 2023. See the website for details .

Schneider Go Green


Overview : Schneider Electric believes energy is a human right and is dedicated to benefiting humankind through technology. Partnering with AVEVA, a global leader in technology, Schneider is on the hunt for bold game changers looking to transform energy management. 

Sustainability and efficient energy use is a pillar of the Go Green competition, as Schneider is looking to make the most of the world’s resources and energy. They’re seeking individuals and teams who share the desire to re-shape the energy industry and infuse it with smarter, more sustainable solutions.

Who it’s for : The competition is open to Bachelor’s or Master’s students studying engineering, marketing, business, and/or innovation-related studies from all over the world. Applicants must be proficient in English.

Location/details : Applications opened in September, with regional finals occurring from March to April 2023, with global finals in June.

Apply : Visit their website  to learn more.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards


Overview : The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards was founded to provide a platform of support and encouragement for ambitious and inspirational female entrepreneurs worldwide. This women-focused competition selects 21 fellows, representing the top three businesses from seven different areas of the world, for its Regional Awards.

Each of these finalists receives cash prizes, 1:1 mentoring and training, access to peer support, and other non-monetary benefits.

Who it’s for : Women from around the world who are affiliated with for-profit, early-stage startups are encouraged to apply.

Location/details : The 2023 competition will be held in May/

Apply : The application process for 2023 has closed, but check the website for future dates.

SPIE Startup Challenge


Overview : The SPIE Startup Challenge aims to be a point of entry into high tech business development for startups in various stages, from pre-seed stage to a point of generating active market traction. Focusing on several niches within tech each year, SPIE Startup Challenge is accepting applications for startups targeting healthcare and deep tech involving engineering or scientific innovation.

Who it’s for : This competition is open to applicants who have an optics or photonics technology or application that they wish to publicly present as the basis for a viable new business.

Location/details : This annual competition is part of the Photonics West conference in San Francisco.

Apply : See the SPIE website to learn more about eligibility and how to apply.

Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge


Overview : The Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge is a worldwide science and deep tech startup competition that accepts early-stage businesses under two years old that have raised less than 250,000 euros. Various verticals are represented, with 75 startups competing for prizes.

Who it’s for : Startups that are in the early stage of development, based on new technology, have a team of at least two people and have the potential to make a strong impact.

Location/details : The competition is located in Paris every year in December.

Apply : You can apply to be considered for the competition on their website .

Y Combinator Biannual


Overview : Y Combinator is a tech startup accelerator located in northern California that has been hailed for launching heavy hitters like Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit, and DoorDash. Twice a year, Y Combinator chooses a round for startups from a variety of different stages that get $125k investment from the accelerator and get to participate in a three-month program that helps participants strengthen their business ideas.

Who it’s for : Any startup from merely having an idea to seed funding to 50-person sized. 

Location/details : In Silicon Valley, twice a year deadlines are in the late summer and spring.

Apply : Learn more about how to apply on the Y Combinator website .

SevenVentures Pitch Day


Overview : SevenVentures is a European-based competition from parent company ProSiebenSat.1, the media and broadcasting giant with an extensive reach and reputation. The winner of this competition is known to enjoy much-needed exposure and brand promotion.

Who it’s for : SevenVentures Pitch Day is open to existing startups in the pre-seed and seed stage who show ambition and promise.

Location/details : Details about 2023’s schedule have yet to be posted but can be found on their website once announced.

Apply : You can apply on SevenVenture’s website once applications are open.

Shopify’s Sustainability Fund


Overview : If you’re working on a project to fight climate change, Shopify’s Sustainability Fund wants to know about it. Whether it’s just an idea on paper or a fully operational company, Shopify deems any projects or solutions that reduce emissions into our atmosphere worthy of consideration. 

The Sustainability Fund is interested in projects that offer a net carbon negative lifecycle, scalability at an affordable price, and can support social equity.

Who it’s for : Shopify’s Sustainability Fund will consider any endeavor that stores carbon dioxide in a way that will be better for the Earth and reduce negative impact on the atmosphere.

Location/details : Applicants submit proposals online. Top applicants are invited to submit additional details. 

Apply : Visit the website to learn more.

Deciding Which Competition Is the Right Fit

Finding the right startup competition can help you turn your vision into a reality, as well as connect you with business leaders and mentors that can help you perfect your plan. 

At MassChallenge, we offer an excellent alternative to navigating the hurdles of pitch competitions, as we accept applications and offer mentorships throughout the year . In addition, we provide different programs in various verticals where you get expert guidance and tailored partnerships for your early-stage startup. With the tools you need to disrupt the status quo, you can better position your enterprise to create a lasting impact.

Learn more about MassChallenge zero-equity accelerator programs here .  

New to MassChallenge?

Visit the join section of our site to learn more about the organization and how you may benefit by getting involved., upcoming events, innovation advancing adoption of value-based care models.

  • December 7, 2023
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MassChallenge BlueTech Showcase

  • November 16, 2023

Human Potential Startup Showcase

  • November 7, 2023
  • Pegasus Park, Dallas, TX

Business plan competitions and nascent entrepreneurs: a systematic literature review and research agenda

  • Open access
  • Published: 28 February 2023
  • volume  19 ,  pages 863–895 ( 2023 )

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  • Léo-Paul Dana   ORCID: 1 , 2 ,
  • Edoardo Crocco   ORCID: 3 ,
  • Francesca Culasso   ORCID: 3 &
  • Elisa Giacosa   ORCID: 3  

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Business plan competitions (BPCs) are opportunities for nascent entrepreneurs to showcase their business ideas and obtain resources to fund their entrepreneurial future. They are also an important tool for policymakers and higher education institutions to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and support new entrepreneurial ventures from conceptual and financial standpoints. Academic research has kept pace with the rising interest in BPCs over the past decades, especially regarding their implications for entrepreneurial education. Literature on BPCs has grown slowly but steadily over the years, offering important insights that entrepreneurship scholars must collectively evaluate to inform theory and practice. Yet, no attempt has been made to perform a systematic review and synthesis of BPC literature. Therefore, to highlight emerging trends and draw pathways to future research, the authors adopted a systematic approach to synthesize the literature on BPCs. The authors performed a systematic literature review on 58 articles on BPCs. Several themes emerge from the BPC literature, including BPCs investigated as prime opportunities to develop entrepreneurial education, the effects of BPC participation on future entrepreneurial activity, and several attempts to frame an ideal BPC blueprint for future contests. However, several research gaps emerge, especially regarding the lack of theoretical underpinnings in the literature stream and the predominance of exploratory research. This paper provides guidance for practice by presenting a roadmap for future research on BPCs drawing from the sample reviewed. From a theoretical perspective, the study offers several prompts for further research on the topic through a concept map and a structured research agenda.

Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript.


Business plan competitions (BPCs) give nascent entrepreneurs the chance to present their business ideas to an industry and investment peer group tasked with judging each project and picking the most viable one (Overall et al., 2018 ). Winners are awarded various prizes (McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ). The purpose of BPCs is to stimulate new entrepreneurial activity and support novel entrepreneurial ideas (Kwong et al., 2012 ). In return, BPC organizers emphasize the benefits of participating, such as cash prizes and financing (McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ), visibility and reputational benefits (Parente et al., 2015 ), networking with other aspiring entrepreneurs (Thomas et al., 2014 ), and meeting potential stakeholders, including customers and investors (Passaro et al., 2020 ).

BPCs have been used by new entrepreneurs to kickstart their business ideas (Cant, 2018 ). They have been popular throughout the years, especially during the global recession in the first decade of the 2000s. BPCs have become widely popular across both developed (Licha & Brem, 2018 ) and developing countries (Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ; McKenzie & Sansone, 2019 ), as poor economic conditions have driven young entrepreneurs toward any opportunity they can find (Cant, 2018 ). Since the origin of BPCs in the USA in the 1980s (Buono, 2000 ), several universities have implemented them in their educational ecosystem to foster practical learning. From there, BPCs have rapidly spread in Europe (Riviezzo et al., 2012 ) and within developing nations in Asia (Wong, 2011 ) and Africa (House-Soremenkun & Falola, 2011 ). Despite contextual peculiarities, the significance of BPCs is equally pertinent for developed and emerging economies (Tipu, 2018 ), as they contribute to shaping a lively local entrepreneurial fabric (Barbini et al., 2021 ).

Opportunities arising from BPC participation come in various forms, including knowledge (Barbini et al., 2021 ), networking, and promotion (Cant, 2016a ); however, finding economic resources to finance entrepreneurial ventures has proven to be the main concern (Kwong et al., 2012 ; McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ). BPCs are attractive to entrepreneurs, as they can be prime opportunities not only to receive feedback on their ideas, but also to get the monetary funds needed to realize them (Mosey et al., 2012 ). In addition, a successful BPC does not merely identify the most intriguing business idea but also supports entrepreneurs during the early stages of their new ventures, whether or not they win the competition (Watson et al., 2015 ).

Several research streams have emerged around the topic of BPCs (Cant, 2018 ). For example, entrepreneurial education has been investigated in several studies (Licha & Brem, 2018 ; Olokundun et al., 2017 ) as a way to effectively provide learning support to nascent entrepreneurs and boost their chances of success. Moreover, university-based BPCs are being explored in terms of their potential as learning experiences and how specific lessons learned during these competitions may affect future entrepreneurial orientations (Overall et al., 2018 ). For example, some argue that promoting sustainable production during BPCs has a tangible impact on the integration of sustainability practices into future business activities (Fichter & Tiemann, 2020 ).

Start-up competitions have gained global prominence since the 1980s (Kraus & Schwarz, 2007 ; Ross & Byrd, 2011 ). Today, they are a popular form of support for nascent entrepreneurs (Dee et al., 2015 ), featuring steady growth in numbers over recent years (Fichter & Tiemann, 2020 ). Consistent with BPCs’ importance, the literature examining them is growing, with an increasing number of empirical studies published each year. However, despite the attention from policymakers and academics, no attempts have been made thus far to review the literature on BPCs systematically. Additionally, there is a need for a structured research agenda that could shed light on currently unexplored topics in entrepreneurship research, such as the role of institutions in emergent entrepreneurial intentions (Audretsch et al., 2022 ; Barbini et al., 2021 ), contextual factors stimulating nascent entrepreneurial intentions (Zhu et al., 2022 ), and the development of richer theory about practical entrepreneurial training (Clingingsmith et al., 2022 ).

To the best of our knowledge, the only previous attempt at synthesizing BPC literature was performed by Tipu ( 2018 ). While their contribution is of absolute importance, its scope was limited to 22 papers published in the early 2000s and late 90 s, thus leaving a consistent portion of recent academic literature unexplored. Consequently, we believe that a systematic review of the BPC literature could be of interest to both practitioners and academics. Building on previous systematic literature reviews (SLRs) from the entrepreneurship field, we aim to provide a detailed analysis of the relevant literature on BPCs. We focus on several key aspects of BPCs that emerged from the analysis, starting with the ways in which they are currently implemented, the benefits they provide to new entrepreneurs, and the role played by BPC promotion in the early stages of the entrepreneurial life cycle (Cant, 2016a ). Our analysis reveals several factors that influence the successful implementation of BPCs as ways to boost the effectiveness of novel entrepreneurial ventures, including entrepreneurial education for individuals who take part in the program (McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ) and entrepreneurs’ personal traits and dispositions (Kwong et al., 2012 ). Therefore, our study is not limited to a synthesis of the existing literature on the topic; rather, it develops a comprehensive framework for both professionals and academic researchers to guide future projects on BPCs. This study is guided by four main research questions (RQs):

RQ1: What is the current research profile of BPC literature?

RQ2: What are the key emerging topics to be found in BPC literature?

RQ3: What research gaps are currently present in the BPC literature and what future research agenda can be set according to said gaps?

RQ4: Can a comprehensive conceptual framework be synthesized from the literature to help academics, practitioners, and other relevant stakeholders?

Drawing on previous SLR research on entrepreneurship (Kraus et al., 2020 ), we synthesized the literature to reach our research goal and answer the questions listed above. RQ1 was addressed by gathering all the available literature that satisfied the inclusion criteria in terms of research scope, relevance, and keywords. The research profile was then obtained by conducting several descriptive observations meant to understand the volume of annual scientific production, the most cited sources, the geographical focus, the theoretical frameworks used by the authors, and the emerging themes across the sample. RQ2 was addressed by reviewing the literature presented in the sample through in-depth content analysis techniques. From the analysis, the following themes emerged across the sample: (1) BPCs as opportunities for entrepreneurial education, (2) the role of BPCs in the promotion and visibility of nascent entrepreneurs, (3) the contexts surrounding BPCs, and (4) methodological choices and research design in BPC publications. Regarding RQ3, we manually reviewed each document to identify relevant research gaps in the BPC literature. This allowed us to suggest several research questions that could serve as a foundation for future studies. Finally, RQ4 was addressed by developing a framework that synthesized the thematic findings of our SLR.

The present SLR can contribute significantly to both theory and practice. Overall, SLRs critically assess and synthesize extant research, developing a comprehensive theoretical framework that can guide scholars and practitioners. In other words, a systematic review highlights the different thematic areas of prior research, delineates the research profile of the existing literature, identifies research gaps, projects possible avenues for future research, and develops a synthesized research framework on the topic (Dhir et al., 2020 ). Thus, from a theoretical perspective, our study should interest a broad range of researchers, as it links back to the ongoing global conversation regarding BPCs. It does so by synthesizing the knowledge on the topic and formulating a structured research agenda that could serve as a reference for researchers to conduct future studies and address issues of topical interest that have yet to receive sufficient attention from authors. The research agenda is built upon extant gaps found in our in-depth analysis of the sample. Similarly, practitioners can use the findings to recognize the drivers and outcomes of BPC programs and shed light on their core characteristics when designing one. Likewise, policymakers should use the present work as a blueprint for BPC planning, as the findings presented in this paper summarize how to set up a BPC effectively.

The article begins by outlining the scope of the research and explaining what types of studies will be included in the SLR in terms of content. We then explain the methodology used to gather the research sample and provide a descriptive overview of the data. Next, we provide a thematic review of the studies featured in the SLR. We identify gaps in the literature and avenues for further research before finally discussing the study’s limitations, as well as its theoretical and practical implications.

Scope of the review

Specifying the scope of the SLR and outlining its conceptual boundaries enhance the search protocol's transparency and academic rigor (Dhir et al., 2020 ). We achieved the above by clearly defining the theoretical background of the phenomenon under investigation, thus establishing the definition of the term BPC and employing it as the conceptual boundary of the review.

The BPC literature is part of a broader stream of competition-based learning in higher education institutions (Connell, 2013 ; Olssen & Peters, 2005 ). The peculiarities of BPCs consist in the presence of rewards for participation (Brentnall et al., 2018 ), the development of core entrepreneurial competencies (Arranz et al., 2017 ; Florin et al., 2007 ), and the overall effectiveness in terms of entrepreneurial survival (Jones & Jones, 2011 ; Russell et al., 2008 ). Previous research has focused on the core elements of BPC programs, such as mentoring, feedback, and networking; the way they affect future entrepreneurial lives (McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ; Watson et al., 2015 ; Watson & McGowan, 2019 ); and the rewards from BPC participation (Russell et al., 2008 ).

From a geographical perspective, the significance of BPCs is equally pertinent for developed and emerging economies (Tipu, 2018 ), albeit nascent entrepreneurs face unique challenges in developing countries, such as the lack of educational support (Hyder & Lussier, 2016 ) and institutional instability (Farashahi & Hafsi, 2009 ). We find the most significant levels of literary production in the USA (Buono, 2000 ), where BPCs originated back in the 1980s, and Europe (Riviezzo et al., 2012 ). BPC programs are also gaining traction in developing countries, especially in Asia (Wong, 2011 ) and Africa (House-Soremenkun & Falola, 2011 ). In China, for instance, BPCs are recognized as a reasonable means to obtain practical entrepreneurial knowledge (Fayolle, 2013 ). Similarly, in Kenya, there is an unprecedented level of interest in BPCs, especially from stakeholders involved in entrepreneurial education (Mboha, 2018 ). Finally, in Australia, Lu et al. ( 2018 ) noted the importance of funding from the federal government, such as the New Colombo Plan or the Endeavour Mobility funding schemes, in terms of support and promotion of BPC programs.

Despite the broad geographical scope of BPC literature, there is still a considerable paucity of research on the impact of BPCs on local entrepreneurship and enterprise development. Additionally, the few published studies feature mixed results. For instance, the study by Russell et al. ( 2008 ) reported a positive impact of the MI50K Entrepreneurship Competition in terms of job creation and overall funding obtained. However, the results of the study by Fayolle and Klandt ( 2006 ) are contradictory, as they note how entrepreneurial training via BPC participation does not always equate to a successful future venture. In this regard, BPC literature echoes decades-old controversial stances in entrepreneurship research, such as the perceived usefulness of business plans (Gumpert, 2003 ; Leadbeater & Oakley, 2001 ).

At this juncture, we also consider it prudent to formulate the definition of BPC that will be used as a conceptual boundary for the present study. While BPCs worldwide share a core definition and essence, they come in various forms (McKenzie, 2017 ). We adopted Passaro et al.'s ( 2017 ) definition of BPC, highlighting three essential structural and procedural features. The first is the presence of an organizing committee overseeing the competition and sponsors willing to invest in the most promising entries (Bell, 2010 ). Second, the participants are required to submit business plans to participate in the competition, and participants often consist of teams, as knowledge sharing across multiple people is deemed a crucial component of entrepreneurial success (Weisz et al., 2010 ). Third, after an initial screening, only participants with the most promising ideas are asked to further develop their business plans in the final stages of the competition (Burton, 2020 ). Thus, with the above conceptual scope in mind, our study includes contributions that have examined BPCs, their core characteristics, their implications for entrepreneurship education, and both the antecedents and consequences of BPC participation. However, we do not include studies investigating entrepreneurship education, universities' incubators, and generic entrepreneurial themes. Such studies have already been discussed at length by previous researchers.

The SLR approach was undertaken in an attempt to present the current literature in a comprehensive and extensive way. SLRs have been widely used in entrepreneurship research, and we use previously published SLRs as a methodological reference to guide our study (Mary George et al., 2016 ; Paek & Lee, 2018 ; Tabares et al., 2021 ). In accordance with previous work (Hu & Hughes, 2020 ), we performed a systematic review of BPC literature divided into two distinct steps. We first extracted the dataset required to perform the study, in what we will refer to as the data extraction phase. We later profiled the sample obtained in terms of descriptive statistics, such as annual scientific production, most cited countries, authors’ networks, and collaborations. Additional analyses were conducted by using the VOSviewer software tool (version 1.6.10., Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands) and Microsoft Excel (Dhir et al., 2020 ). The tools make use of bibliographic data to determine the frequencies of the published materials, design relevant charts and graphs, construct and visualize the bibliometric networks, and calculate the citation metrics.

Data extraction

The three central databases utilized for the present study are Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, and Google Scholar, as per the suggestions by Mariani et al. ( 2018 ). The first step in order to conduct the extraction of data was to identify the appropriate set of keywords. Based on the conceptual boundaries of the SLR, we determined an initial set of keywords. The keywords included ‘business plan competitions', ‘business plan contests’, and ‘business creation competitions’. The above keywords were used to perform an initial search on Google Scholar to examine if our keywords were sufficient. The first 50 results were taken into consideration (Dhir et al., 2020 ). We also searched the exact keywords in top journals, such as Entrepreneurship, Theory and Practice ; Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal ; International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal ; and Entrepreneurship Research Journal . Subsequently, we updated the list with keywords from the above sources. We consulted the panel to finalize the set of keywords, which ultimately resulted in the following: business plan competition*, business creation competition*, social business plan competition*, business plan contest*, business creation competition*, pitch competition*, pitch contest*. Data were collected from two databases, Scopus and WoS, which are generally well renowned in previous SLR studies on entrepreneurship (Hu & Hughes, 2020 ). Then, a rigorous set of inclusion and exclusion criteria was established. As for the inclusion criterion, we wanted to include only peer-reviewed works. This decision was made to strengthen the validity of the findings. Consequently, all forms of literature that may not have been subjected to a rigorous review process were excluded. This exclusion criterion thus filtered out conference proceedings, book chapters, editorials, websites, and magazine articles from the sample. The English language was used as an additional inclusion criterion to avoid language bias (Dhir et al., 2020 ). A complete list of the inclusion/exclusion criteria can be found in Table 1 .

Data collection and screening of literature

The search for keywords, abstract, and title was done in selected databases using the search string featured in Table 2 . An initial search in Scopus attained 195 distinct records, including full-length articles, book chapters, conferences proceedings, review articles, and research notes. We filtered out three publications written in languages other than English. Further, after manually reviewing each record, we excluded 36 publications that were not related to BPCs and 29 publications other than peer-reviewed journal articles. This step allowed us to reduce the overall number to 76 unique records. The same research protocol was performed on the WoS database and provided an initial total of 68 records, all of which were published in English. We filtered out 24 records as they were conference proceedings, review articles, book chapters, or meeting abstracts. Subsequently, we merged the two collections and removed any duplicate records we found in the process. As a final step, we performed chain referencing to identify further relevant studies that were not found in the previous steps. We then reviewed each publication title to identify and exclude journals that could be referred to as gray literature. This brought the total number of publications to 58, which we agreed to as the definitive number to be considered for the SLR. While somewhat limited, the final sample size is in line with the standards set for management studies (Hiebl, 2021 ) and previously published SLRs in entrepreneurship research (Paek & Lee, 2018 ; Poggesi et al., 2020 ).

Research profiling

Research profiling allowed us to review the sample in terms of several descriptive statistics meant to give us a comprehensive understanding of the current state of the art of BPC research (Dhir et al., 2020 ). Starting with Fig. 1 , we address the annual scientific production of papers included in the sample. Data suggest how BPC literature has been steady over the past two decades, with a sharp increase in recent years. The year 2018 features a significant spike in publications, with 11 distinct records to consider. These trends are in line with the consistent growth in broader entrepreneurship literature, as policymakers have shown increasing levels of interest in BPCs as effective means to create new jobs, foster innovation, and recover from economic crisis (Barbini et al., 2021 ).

figure 1

Year of publication of the selected studies

Figure 2 shows the distribution of articles throughout the various sources included in the sample. The International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal , International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior and Research , Journal of Entrepreneurship Education , and International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business rank at the top.

figure 2

Journals publishing the selected studies

In terms of publishing outlets, the variety of journals publishing relevant research on BPC further highlights the increasing attention scholars have devoted to this domain. Through a closer analysis, we note how leading entrepreneurship journals feature most of research articles on BPCs, thus testifying the intersection between the BPC stream and entrepreneurial education literature.

figure 3

Establishments examined by the selected studies

The examination of the geographic scope of the prior studies is featured in Fig. 3 and it suggests that the majority focused on a single country, with most conducted in the United States. The United Kingdom, China, and Germany also feature a significant number of publications in terms of corresponding authors’ nationality. Other countries include South Africa, Australia, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, France, Nigeria, and Venezuela. The above results corroborate extant research, as it sees the USA as predominant due to them being where BPC first originated (Buono, 2000 ), thus having a more prosperous and profound history. Consistently with previous research, we also find a solid scientific presence in Europe (Riviezzo et al., 2012 ; Waldmann et al., 2010 ) and China (Fayolle, 2013 ). However, developing countries are lagging, possibly because BPCs have only recently become popular there (House-Soremenkun & Falola, 2011 ).

Figure 4 illustrates the top 10 most cited publications. The three most cited papers were published over a decade ago, thus acting as a theoretical foundation for development of the literature stream. More specifically, the work of Liñán et al. ( 2011 ) on factors affecting entrepreneurial intention levels and education is the most cited. In their work, Liñán et al. ( 2011 ) consider and establish empathy as a necessary precursor to social entrepreneurial intentions. At the time of publication, their findings were exploratory in nature, thus prompting several additional studies to expand upon their results and further develop their conclusions.

figure 4

Most cited global documents

Furthermore, the study by Russell et al. ( 2008 ) on the development of entrepreneurial skills and knowledge by higher education institutions ranks at second place. Russell et al. ( 2008 ) noted that BPCs provide fertile ground for new business start-ups and for encouraging entrepreneurial ideas. Russell et al. ( 2008 ) were among the first to suggest a positive correlation between BPCs and entrepreneurial development, thus becoming a theoretical cornerstone for studies willing to further explore the benefits of BPCs for nascent entrepreneurs (Passaro et al., 2017 ).

The study by Lange et al. ( 2007 ) is the third most cited work. Lange et al. ( 2007 ) supported the hypothesis that new ventures created with a written business plan do not outperform new ventures that did not have a written business plan. Their work is often cited among BPC literature when discussing theoretical assumptions against the effectiveness of business plans and, consequently, BPCs (Watson & McGowan, 2019 ).

Several research methods have been adopted in the sample, both qualitative and quantitative. Figure 5 illustrates the methodological choices found within the sample, distinguished as qualitative, quantitative, mixed, and experimental research designs. The amounts shown in Fig. 5 are in absolute value and equal to n = 33 for qualitative research studies, n = 19 for quantitative research, n = 2 for mixed research, and n = 4 for experimental research. The most common choice in research design is the use of a specific BPC as a single empirical case study (Barbini et al., 2021 ; Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ; Li et al., 2019 ). For instance, Jiang et al. ( 2018 ) investigated the “Challenge Cup” BPC to subsequently develop a longitudinal analysis on creative interaction networks and team creativity evolution. Similarly, Barbini et al. ( 2021 ) investigated data from a BPC in Rimini through the use of a mixed-method analysis. On the other hand, studies that focus on the educational implications of BPCs tend to use students as respondents, instead of BPC participants (Licha & Brem, 2018 ; Olokundun et al., 2017 ).

figure 5

The research designs used in the selected studies

In terms of methodological choices, qualitative research on BPCs is dominated by semi-structured interviews and surveys (Burton, 2020 ; Watson & McGowan, 2019 ; Watson et al., 2018 ). The above is due to how in-depth, open-ended interviews fit a case study research design, thus explaining their popularity in BPC literature (Watson et al., 2015 ). Additionally, amid qualitative research, we find focus groups (Lu et al., 2018 ), fuzzy-set (Lewellyn & Muller-Kahle, 2016 ), content analysis, and cross-sectional research (Passaro et al., 2017 ). Moreover, quantitative studies include partial least squares models (Fichter & Tiemann, 2020 ; Overall et al., 2018 ), regression analysis, longitudinal studies (Jiang et al., 2018 ; Watson et al., 2018 ), and descriptive empirical research based on surveys. Partial least squares regression models are the most popular choice in regards to quantitative BPC research (Fichter & Tiemann, 2020 ; Overall et al., 2018 ), as they have allowed authors to, among other research, test the impacts of several variables on the entrepreneurial activity of BPC participants (Fichter & Tiemann, 2020 ) and to measure the effectiveness of universities’ promotion of entrepreneurship through events, BPCs, and incubators (Overall et al., 2018 ).

Figure 6 was made with the VOSviewer tool and shows the interactions between the most prolific countries in BPC literature. It showcases the co-citation network between the authors in the sample, sorted by their country of origin. In other words, countries appearing near within the diagram have closer collaboration. The size of each bubble indicates the relevance of each country within the network in terms of overall citations. Several main collaboration groups were found, each highlighted in a distinct color. Consistently with the geographical scope of the sample illustrated in Fig. 3 , the UK and the USA play a predominant role in the collaboration network.

figure 6

The cross-country co-citation network

VOSviewer can also analyze the co-occurrence year between keywords. Through the co-occurrence chronology of keywords, the first co-occurrence time between keywords can be clearly displayed, which helps to understand the research in the field of BPC and how it has evolved over time. The co-occurrence chronology view is shown in Fig. 7 . The color of the line between the keywords in the figure indicates the first co-occurrence time of the two. The thicker the line, the greater the intensity of the two co-occurrences and the greater the number of co-occurrences between the two keywords. We notice how the field initially started around the topic of entrepreneurial education, as highlighted by the purple and blue clusters. Progressively, the focus has shifted towards social media, business development, innovation, and marketing, most likely due to the growing relevance of digital transformation throughout the past decade.

figure 7

The co-occurrence chronology view of keywords

To provide readers with a comprehensive and in-depth overview of the BPC literature, we analyzed and synthesized the sample using qualitative content analysis. This technique allows researchers to identify key emerging themes from a sample and to group the records depending on their similarities (Baregheh et al., 2009 ). Three researchers conducted the content analysis independently to uncover the thematic structure of the sample. Later, we shared our findings and discussed divergent thoughts and interpretations. The discussion was aided by a senior researcher with relevant expertise in entrepreneurship research. After much debate, we agreed to arrange the results according to four themes: (1) BPCs as opportunities for entrepreneurial education, (2) benefits of BPC participation, (3) the ideal BPC blueprint, and (4) methodological choices and research design in BPC publications. This classification allowed for a more structured overview of the sample that also afforded enough space and detail to adequately review each literature stream. The research questions that emerged from each theme are presented in Table 3 , and they could act as the backbone for future studies on the topic.

BPCs and entrepreneurial education

While entrepreneurship education existed prior to the 1960s, it only became more significant in the second half of the 20th century. Entrepreneurship education was also much more popular in the USA than in the rest of the world, due to a much greater variety of courses at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels (Dana, 1992 ). Greater academic interest in entrepreneurship was sparked at the beginning of the 21st century, however, and it has increased rapidly over the past two decades, in terms of both scientific publications and courses available to nascent entrepreneurs (Liñán et al., 2011 ).

Overall et al. ( 2018 ) emphasize the importance of universities in entrepreneurial education and BPCs. Oftentimes, universities combine traditional lectures with more practical activities, such as BPCs, to provide students with a more practically oriented schedule. Similarly, Licha and Brem ( 2018 ) highlight the tools and services available to nascent entrepreneurs via universities, including incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurship-specific teaching methods. The findings of Licha and Brem ( 2018 ) also suggest that universities tend to give their own spin to entrepreneurial programs and that different cultures lead to different results for BPC participants and nascent entrepreneurs in general. While differences may emerge across programs based in different countries (Lewellyn & Muller-Kahle, 2016 ; Zhou et al., 2015 ), the core elements of such competitions remain stable (Parente et al., 2015 ).

Entrepreneurial programs have steadily increased in popularity over the past decade, thus prompting a newly found interest in BPCs as core components of said programs (Laud et al., 2015 ). Raveendra et al. ( 2018 ) identified several skills that universities can transfer to BPC participants, such as time management, problem solving, communication skills, and brainstorming. Although the development of these skills is not, strictly speaking, universities’ prerogative, both governments and employers want skilled entrepreneurs in society (Russell et al., 2008 ). Indeed, BPCs are a prime opportunity for novel entrepreneurs to develop entrepreneurial skills thanks to the potential for networking with peers and a practice-focused competitive environment. Such an opportunity appears to be tied to the historical appeal of BPCs, as they have attracted students from a plethora of disciplines and sectors throughout the decades (Russell et al., 2008 ).

When BPCs are approached with positive attitudes and open minds, participants can actively benefit from what they learn during their entrepreneurial journeys (McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ). The results of their learning experiences tend to emerge during their entrepreneurial careers, as entrepreneurial skills are held in high regard by various stakeholders and shareholders alike, including investors and business angels (Olokundun et al., 2017 ). Several empirical case studies strengthen these findings, illustrating the importance of BPCs as learning opportunities and their importance in terms of future entrepreneurial life (Cervilla, 2008 ; Li et al., 2019 ; Mancuso et al., 2010 ). It is worth mentioning that some studies in the sample had contradictory results, as universities are not always able to promote entrepreneurship with satisfactory results (Wegner et al., 2019 ).

However, the conversation around entrepreneurial education is still developing. For example, not much has been said about interdisciplinary personalized training and self-learning activities (Li et al., 2019 ). Cervilla ( 2008 ) echoes the same necessity in terms of creating and nurturing an interconnected environment around universities and spin-offs. A first set of exploratory findings suggests that the intervention of external professionals could benefit the entrepreneurial education of students; however, much remains to be said about which skills are valued the most by nascent entrepreneurs (Raveendra et al., 2018 ), incentives and returns for universities that host BPCs (Parente et al., 2015 ), and BPCs as a means to instill proactive entrepreneurial intentions in students (Olokundun et al., 2017 ).

Additionally, the debate surrounding the role of higher education institutions in entrepreneurial education remains very active. While universities’ support for BPCs has been proven to benefit participants in the past (Saeed et al., 2014 ), the findings of Wegner et al. ( 2019 ) suggest that the actions of universities have little to no impact on students’ entrepreneurial intentions. Contradicting results can also be found in other studies (e.g., Coduras et al., 2016 ; Shahid et al., 2017 ), which suggests that additional research is needed to expand this literature stream further. Authors have stressed the importance of intangible benefits gained from BPCs, as participants view them as valuable learning experiences and hold the competencies gained from them in high regard, albeit not entirely useful in day-to-day routines (Watson et al., 2018 ). Still, on the topic of competence development, studies have highlighted that stressing the importance of specific skills during BPCs can seriously impact future entrepreneurial ventures (Overall et al., 2018 ).

Finally, several points of contention emerge when discussing the educational outcomes of BPCs. The literature suggests that nascent entrepreneurs rely on BPCs to refine their business ideas and get feedback (Grichnik et al., 2014 ; Tata & Niedworok, 2018 ); however, empirical and theoretical contributions to BPCs as learning experiences are limited and unclear (Schwartz et al., 2013 ). To address this issue, Watson et al. ( 2018 ) claim that researchers need to understand how participation in university-based BPCs affects entrepreneurial learning outcomes among nascent entrepreneurs. So far, the results have been contradictory. Fafchamps et al. ( 2014 ) found little to no impact on the growth of such entrepreneurial ventures.

Non-educational benefits of BPC participation

It goes without saying that winning a BPC implies a significant increase in visibility, which could lead to finding new stakeholders who could prove useful to the project (Parente et al., 2015 ). However, gray areas still exist. As Parente et al. ( 2015 ) suggest, the role of media coverage could be further improved by involving experts specialized in business and entrepreneurship, instead of generalist media alone. Competition promoters should also invest considerably more time and resources into social media promotion, as social media platforms have become more and more prominent over the years for both entrepreneurs and their potential market (Cant, 2016b ; Palacios-Marqués et al., 2015 ). This is especially relevant for tech-savvy entrepreneurs who are active on social media platforms and could benefit from social media exposure, but they need institutions to act accordingly in this regard (Botha & Robertson, 2014 ). Cant ( 2016b ) found that participants in BPCs were satisfied with the exposure they received from the event, noting that it was worth the effort. However, the author also stressed the importance of event promoters being savvy with social media promotion, which was not always the case.

More broadly speaking, BPC winners have been shown to possess a greater survival rate in entrepreneurial life due to a number of factors, including financial aid, attractiveness in the eyes of stakeholders, and a positive impact on investors (McKenzie, 2017 ). Additionally, McKenzie ( 2017 ) analyzed the YouWiN! competition and noted its impact on the survival rates of established firms and start-ups. The main effect of the competition was to enable firms to buy more capital, innovate more, and hire more workers, hence making the BPC an effective tool for long-term growth. The above results add to a pre-existing debate that has characterized entrepreneurship research in the past, as authors do not seem to reach a universal consensus on the perceived usefulness of business plans (Gumpert, 2003 ; Leadbeater & Oakley, 2001 ). Still, on the topic of firm survival, the results of the study conducted by Simón-Moya and Revuelto-Taboada ( 2016 ) are especially interesting for policymakers responsible for aid programs aiming to foster entrepreneurship, as they show how the quality of a business plan alone can be a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition to explain firm survival. Hence, there is a need for policymakers and institutions to foster entrepreneurship via institutional aid and programs, BPCs included.

Moreover, Fichter and Tiemann ( 2020 ) found that the promotion of sustainability in competitions leads to the integration of sustainability practices into future entrepreneurial activities. However, they warn that policymakers need to effectively plan the integration of sustainability with the entrepreneurial mindset of BPC participants, as generic sustainability orientations do not automatically lead to the integration of sustainability goals into future business activities (Cornelissen & Werner, 2014 ). This sentiment has been echoed in more recent research (Daub et al., 2020 ). The debate on the importance of BPC participation still features a few areas that have yet to be fully explored and discussed. For example, Tata and Niedworok ( 2018 ) claim that the evaluation of business plans changes throughout the phases the idea undergoes, which leads to a more prominent role of subjective feedback in the very early stages of their development. Much like business plan evaluators, nascent entrepreneurs change the way they value their competencies over time (Watson et al., 2018 ): what appeared most useful during their time spent educating themselves might not coincide with what is deemed most relevant during their actual entrepreneurial life; however, more evidence is required to get a proper understanding of this phenomenon.

The ideal BPC blueprint

Several studies have been conducted to explore the contexts in which BPCs thrive and the traits they need to possess to successfully shape future entrepreneurs. Cant ( 2018 ) was one of the first authors to provide a tentative blueprint for future competitions, which included a call for a more structured approach and better planning via a set of universal traits that a BPC should possess regardless of the country or culture in which it is set. Drawing on Bell ( 2010 ), Cant ( 2018 ) also stresses the importance of a go-to model as a means for inexperienced institutions to organize and manage a BPC properly without the need for previous experience.

Additionally, several common trends have emerged that could help determine a generalized BPC blueprint as accurately as possible. First, it is important to ensure that the BPC is embedded in an entrepreneur-friendly ecosystem in which both nascent entrepreneurs and professionals, such as venture capitalists, business angels, and generic investors, can interact and network with each other in a seamless way (Passaro et al., 2017 ). The formulation and development of a business plan is an extremely important yet delicate step for new entrepreneurs, and being able to effectively assess their opportunities and make use of feedback from established professionals is crucial (Botha & Robertson, 2014 ). This two-way feedback mechanism can be implemented both in the early stages of competitions via workshops and lectures and after the winner is picked so that everyone has the chance to understand their results and improve (Cant, 2018 ).

Cant’s ( 2018 ) blueprint stresses the importance of industry specialists aiding participants with their submissions. This finding is supported by a case study by Moultry ( 2011 ), in which industry professionals effectively participated in lectures, provided panel discussions, and helped conduct a BPC for pharmacy students. The vast majority of students who took part in the experiment claimed that the help of industry professionals significantly increased their understanding of business plans and consequently increased their chances of future entrepreneurial success. Moreover, establishing a collaboration network that ties BPC participants to industry professionals greatly increases the chances of survival for university spin-offs (Cervilla, 2008 ).

Finally, an effective BPC should provide winners and, when possible, participants in general with enough resources to fund the early stages of their entrepreneurial journeys (Feldman & Oden, 2007 ; Kolb, 2006 ). Funding nascent entrepreneurs through BPCs could provide several benefits that significantly increase their chances of survival, while also providing them with new opportunities, such as access to debt and equity capital (Burton, 2020 ). However, nascent entrepreneurs themselves need to be able to convince investors that their business ideas are worthy of their funding and resources, and in that regard, opportunity templates vary among people who occupy different professional roles (Tata & Niedworok, 2018 ). While expressing their concerns about founders speculating on financial rewards in the business-idea phase and proposing their own BPC evaluation framework, Tata and Niedworok ( 2018 ) call for a balanced number of jurors from each professional domain to mitigate unfair rating biases. However, much about BPC blueprints remains to be determined. Cant ( 2018 ) explains that there are no set rules applicable to all competitions and that, given the increase in popularity of BPCs all over the world, evaluating similar competitions in Europe and Asia would be a natural progression for this specific literature stream.

Methodological choices and research design in BPC publications

The BPC literature features several research design choices, with both qualitative and quantitative approaches to data collection. Generally speaking, there is a noticeable predominance of empirical research based on case studies and descriptive analysis of BPC scenarios (Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ; Li et al., 2019 ), with little emphasis on theoretical underpinnings or theory development. Multiple longitudinal studies were identified in the sample (Mosey et al., 2012 ; Watson et al., 2018 ; Jiang et al., 2018 ). We were not able to find SLRs on the topic of BPCs, other than the one performed by Tipu ( 2018 ).

From a qualitative perspective, there were several case studies from both developed (Licha & Brem, 2018 ) and developing countries (Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ; McKenzie & Sansone, 2019 ). A few qualitative studies have also taken an experimental approach (Fafchamps & Quinn, 2017 ; Fafchamps & Woodruff, 2017 ), which was made possible by the availability of students and higher education institution facilities at the authors’ disposal. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in a few studies, mostly with exploratory intentions (Burton, 2020 ; Watson & McGowan, 2019 ).

Only one study can be labeled as mixed methods research (Barbini et al., 2021 ), whereas the remaining studies were quantitative. Methodological approaches using partial least squares regression are prevalent in BPC research (Overall et al., 2018 ; Wegner et al., 2019 ; Fichter & Tiemann, 2020 ) in which authors attempted to test the impacts of several variables on the entrepreneurial future of BPC participants. For example, Fichter and Tiemann ( 2020 ) used structural equation modeling to test whether the integration of sustainability goals into BPC programs affects the future business outcomes of nascent entrepreneurs, especially in terms of the inclusion of sustainability topics. Moreover, Wegner et al. ( 2019 ) applied a similar research design to determine whether universities’ role in promoting entrepreneurship contests such as BPCs positively affects students’ entrepreneurial intentions. Finally, Overall et al. ( 2018 ) used the theory of planned behavior (TPB) as a theoretical framework to measure the effectiveness of universities’ promotion of entrepreneurship through events, BPCs, and incubators.

Additionally, the topic of BPCs is multi-theoretical in nature, allowing scholars to use various theoretical underpinnings to investigate their nature. The sample features several theoretical frameworks used by authors, including screening and signaling theory for the analysis of early-stage venture-investor communication (Wales, et al., 2019 ); the Fishbein–Ajzen framework to predict planned behavior based on four components of reasoned action (Overall et al., 2018 ); institutional theory as a means to explain variation in entrepreneurial intention (Lewellyn & Muller-Kahle, 2016 ); and variations of the psychological model of “planned behavior” (Liñán et al., 2011 ). It is worth noting that while theoretical perspectives are plenty, records featured in the sample do not use multiple theoretical lenses in the same study. Finally, we find a few studies synthesize and develop their unique theoretical frameworks based on extant theory and empirical observations (Wen & Chen, 2007 ; McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ), even though a considerable portion of the sample features purely empirical results (McKenzie, 2017 ; Moultry, 2011 ).

Research gaps

Several research gaps were identified in the sample. To give a more thought-out structure to the presentation of these results, we classified the gaps into two categories: gaps related to the data and gaps related to the analysis.

Data-related gaps

A few studies had generalizability problems. The exploratory nature of some case studies presented intrinsic limitations to generalizability, as the findings were sometimes not applicable to different contexts (Cervilla, 2008 ; Li et al., 2019 ). For example, Licha and Brem’s ( 2018 ) study features two universities located in Germany and Denmark. Future research could expand upon their findings by investigating several other universities in different countries to strengthen and confirm their results.

Several studies have employed qualitative research methods using exploratory (Parente et al., 2015 ) or experimental approaches (Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ; McKenzie, 2017 ). There are inherent weaknesses in such research, as self-reported surveys cannot guarantee unbiased responses (Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ). Similarly, semi-structured interviews feature the same bias; however, their results can be verified with follow-up quantitative research on a larger scale (Licha & Brem, 2018 ; Watson et al., 2015 , 2018 ).

Some studies were also limited due to their sample sizes. Small-scale studies are valuable for exploratory research, as they allow for an initial step into a novel investigation, but they lack in terms of representativeness (Tornikoski & Puhakka, 2009 ; Watson et al., 2018 ; Barbini et al., 2021 ). For example, Wegner et al. ( 2019 ) warn readers of the intrinsic limitations of small sample sizes and ask for larger-scale surveys that could potentially test and expand the results of their initial exploratory research. Moreover, Watson et al. ( 2018 ) claim that it is important to investigate other types of competitions and not limit the scope of BPC research to university-based competitions. In doing so, future research could yield new insights and even adopt comparative perspectives to determine the differences between the two worlds (Watson et al., 2018 ).

Gaps related to analysis

Several main gaps were identified related to analysis, including a narrow focus of prior research, limited geographic scope, and a lack of theoretical underpinnings. A few studies were conducted with very narrow foci, effectively leaving the door open for future studies to bridge the gaps they highlighted. For example, Barbini et al. ( 2021 ) focused on the educational backgrounds of nascent entrepreneurs without considering the implications of their work experience. This gap could be addressed in some capacity by future research. Furthermore, Wegner et al. ( 2019 ) point out that their research shared the same limitation, as they focused on comparing individual students’ entrepreneurial intentions rather than comparing the same individual’s intentions over time. They suggest that future research could explore the influence of universities and BPCs on students’ entrepreneurial intentions (Liñán et al., 2011 ).

Another issue related to the analysis was the limited geographic scope of the sample. While the BPC literature includes contributions from both developed and developing countries (Olafsen & Cook, 2016 ), contextual empirical evidence from both sides of the spectrum is limited. Cross-cultural analysis from different countries could lead to new findings and a more comprehensive look at the BPC phenomenon, especially in developing countries, as thus far only one study exists.

Finally, another gap identified in the sample was the lack of theoretical underpinnings in many of the studies. Most of the selected manuscripts featured qualitative case studies or empirical survey-based data (Cervilla, 2008 ; Li et al., 2019 ). Although their findings were insightful, the authors themselves note that the exploratory nature of most of the studies reflects the need for more theory-building studies on BPCs or the implementation of behavioral theories to strengthen the hypotheses developed by researchers.

Potential research areas

We identified several research areas that could be explored in the future by entrepreneurship researchers. Our selection was based on a combination of our manual review of the content included in the sample and the need for further research expressed by the authors themselves. The suggestions refer primarily to the replication of exploratory research, the need for further longitudinal research, and the testing of hypotheses and measures developed by the authors, each of which is discussed below.

Replication of exploratory studies

The lack of representativeness in the studies was the most evident and recurrent gap highlighted in the sample. Scholars could start from the preliminary research findings provided by current BPC research and replicate studies in different geographical contexts. Although BPCs share several similarities in the way they function and are managed, differences in their efficacy and the survival rate of winners and participants in general can arise. However, replicability is useful for demystifying not only the entrepreneurial lives of winners, but also BPC designs themselves. For example, the blueprint developed by Cant ( 2018 ) can be replicated and tested in several contexts to validate its effectiveness and to provide novel insights into it. Future research is required to explore this ongoing debate and to find as much information as possible on how to plan the support of professionals from outside of universities accordingly (Burton, 2020 ) and how they affect BPC participants’ attitudes and entrepreneurship intentions (He et al., 2020 ).

Longitudinal studies on BPC participants’ entrepreneurial survival

Multiple authors have called for longitudinal studies designed to follow the lives of BPC participants both prior to and after the contests take place. A few longitudinal studies already exist; however, they have also called for more studies with similar research designs. For example, Watson et al. ( 2018 ) call for longitudinal research to test the notion of competition competency they introduced in their study. Similarly, Jiang et al. ( 2018 ) claim that their longitudinal approach was severely limited by being narrowly focused on a single competition. Therefore, they call for further longitudinal studies to strengthen the validity of their findings.

Collecting longitudinal data seems to be a fitting way to contribute to BPC research, specifically, and to entrepreneurial research, more broadly, as metrics could help researchers understand the development of nascent entrepreneurial ventures over time while highlighting the effects of factors such as entrepreneurial education or institutional support for BPC participants at the beginning of their journeys (Wegner et al., 2019 ). Currently, little research has been conducted on a longitudinal basis; thus, there is still a severe lack of understanding of BPCs’ impacts on the entrepreneurial teams and businesses that emerge from them (McGowan & Cooper, 2008 ).

Utilization of diverse research methods

Scholars could make use of a more diverse set of research methods in future BPC studies to overcome the paucity of theoretical contributions and quantitative research in general. While several exploratory studies serve as a strong starting point for BPC research (Burton, 2020 ; Parente et al., 2015 ), it is important to approach the topic in a more multidisciplinary manner, for instance, by including more mixed-method studies in the future (Barbini et al., 2021 ). This could lead to more comprehensive results and a more holistic understanding of the BPC literature among academics and practitioners (Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ).

Diverse theoretical perspectives

Little theory is currently available on BPCs (Cant, 2018 ). Although multi-theoretical in nature, BPC literature draws on a limited number of existing theories, such as the quadruple-helix model (Parente et al., 2015 ) and the TPB (Overall et al., 2018 ). While the results from exploratory research are interesting and valuable, most of these studies are not underpinned by theory or theoretical frameworks of any kind. Furthermore, the paucity of theoretical underpinnings in our sample can be used as a prompt for future research. To date, only a few studies have grounded their research in established theories (Lv et al., 2021 ; Overall et al., 2018 ). Future research could try to bridge this gap, especially with behavior-centered theories and frameworks, which could be used to address several research questions in terms of BPCs’ impacts on future entrepreneurial lives and the way nascent entrepreneurs incorporate what they learn during competitions into their everyday professional practice (Watson & McGowan, 2019 ).

Theoretical framework

After reviewing the theoretical underpinnings found within the sample, we find a predominance of the conceptual framework developed by Fishbein and Ajzen ( 1975 ), namely the theory of reasoned action (TRA), which allows for a systematic theoretical orientation on beliefs and attitudes to perform a certain behavior. By using the TRA as a base reference, we synthesized extant theoretical research found in the BPC literature. We listed several independent and dependent variables depicted in previous work, reviewed the connections found between them, and illustrated the role played by moderating variables. The framework also serves as a reference to determine the impact each factor has on BPC participants in their entrepreneurial futures. The framework is illustrated in Fig. 8 .

figure 8

BPC theoretical framework

In the context of BPC, several antecedents can be identified as determinants of future entrepreneurial behavior. Our framework draws on previously published theoretical underpinnings to define both the antecedents of entrepreneurial activity and the multiple intrinsic factors that contribute to its multifaceted nature. We start by identifying entrepreneurial intention and entrepreneurial competence, which have been investigated in the literature through the theoretical lens of the TPB (Ajzen, 1991 ). Then, drawing on the theoretical model Lv et al. ( 2021 ) developed, we expect entrepreneurial teaching and practice support to positively impact future entrepreneurial intention and the development of entrepreneurial competencies. This theoretical assumption is backed by a few studies (Liñán et al., 2011 ) and deemed worthy of further attention. For example, future research could adopt a hierarchical multiple regression to determine the impact of entrepreneurial teaching on future entrepreneurial intention (Olokundun et al., 2017 ). Alternatively, the impact could be investigated through multiple regression models by developing a set of factors tailored to the entrepreneurial education programs and extracted via questionnaires (Liñán et al., 2011 ).

Drawing on entrepreneurial research, we find the perceived desirability of entrepreneurship and the perceived feasibility of entrepreneurship (Schlaegel & Koenig, 2014 ) as the two main attitudes toward entrepreneurial intentions (Ajzen, 1991 ; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975 ). In other words, per the theoretical model proposed by Overall et al. ( 2018 ), entrepreneurial orientation leads students and nascent entrepreneurs to the desirability of an entrepreneurial career and the perceived feasibility of said career, which subsequently influence their entrepreneurial intentions. Then, drawing on the TRA and TPB frameworks, we propose that when individuals possess strong desirability toward an entrepreneurial career and perceive said career as feasible, they will most likely form entrepreneurial intentions (Overall et al., 2018 ).

We define entrepreneurial teaching as the essential aspect of entrepreneurship education. Research suggests that educational support affects nascent entrepreneurs by providing them with adequate skills to tackle better entrepreneurial life (Grichnik et al., 2014 ; Tata & Niedworok, 2018 ). In other words, entrepreneurial education programs actively contribute to entrepreneurial development (Škare et al., 2022 ). The positive effects of educational support on entrepreneurial success and intention can be found in empirical studies (Thomas et al., 2014 ; Passaro et al., 2020 ). More specifically, we note entrepreneurial education as a key factor in influencing innovation and development. The entrepreneur’s competencies are seen as an individual and organizational resource that needs to be properly developed through educational programs in order to bring out its potential for the entrepreneurial future (Salmony & Kanbach, 2022 ). Overall, drawing on the theoretical framework of Lv et al. ( 2021 ), we find both entrepreneurial teaching and entrepreneurial practice, intended as BPC participation, to affect their entrepreneurial intention significantly.

A set of moderating control variables can be used to provide a more comprehensive overview of the influence played by the stakeholders mentioned above. Wegner et al. ( 2019 ) suggest that future research could specify how age moderates the relationship between entrepreneurial support variables and the outcomes of BPC participants. Other studies have also supported the use of age as a moderator of the effectiveness of BPC support on entrepreneurial intention (Cant, 2018 ; Passaro et al., 2020 ). Furthermore, McGowan and Cooper ( 2008 ) claim that entrepreneurs’ levels of knowledge could be tested as moderating variables of entrepreneurial intention and behavior, as BPC participants might have different backgrounds and levels of expertise, which could influence the outcomes of their entrepreneurship activities. Additionally, Lewellyn and Muller-Kahle ( 2016 ) propose using gender as a moderator of entrepreneurial activity. Finally, Terán-Yépez et al. ( 2022 ) discuss the use of affective dispositions as variables influencing entrepreneurial activity. Future research could expand upon their findings and use hope, courage, fear and regret as moderating variables of entrepreneurial intentions.

Entrepreneurial intention as a variable that affects entrepreneurial behavior is backed by a theoretical study conducted by Overall et al. ( 2018 ), underpinned by the TPB (Ajzen, 1991 ). A positive correlation between the two was deemed consistent and statistically significant. In conclusion, the above framework could help explore the connection between BPC participation and the development of entrepreneurial activity, which thus far has received little empirical attention in research. Future research could delve further into the impact of BPC participation and institutional support on entrepreneurial activity to give proper closure to a long-lasting debate on the usefulness of BPC as a stimulant for entrepreneurial practice (Fayolle & Klandt, 2006 ; Russell et al., 2008 ). In addition, many methodological approaches could effectively encapsulate the impact described above, as seen in entrepreneurship research. For instance, future studies could employ a longitudinal case study approach (Overall et al., 2018 ) to follow nascent entrepreneurs in their journey and determine the impact of BPC participation. Longitudinal studies have proven effective in capturing the factors and variables influencing entrepreneurial life over the years (Petty & Gruber, 2011 ).


The purpose of this SLR was to critically analyze the literature related to BPCs and set the future research agenda for the area of entrepreneurship. To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first SLR to review research focused on recent BPC literature (Tipu, 2018 ), thus making our contribution original in its approach. The originality of the study lies in it being the first attempt at conducting an SLR on the topic of BPCs and contributing to science in several ways, as depicted below. Our study on BPC research has several implications for both academics and practitioners. From a theoretical perspective, our study makes several contributions to BPC and entrepreneurship literature. It does so by not only synthesizing extant research, but also by providing a structured research agenda built upon the several gaps found amid BPC literature. A further contribution to science is the development of a theoretical framework that will enable future researchers to have a bird’s-eye view of the domain and structure their future contributions accordingly. From a practical perspective, the study is of interest to practitioners and nascent entrepreneurs, as it provides policymakers and practitioners with a BPC blueprint featuring state-of-the-art characteristics and several key implications on how and why participating in BPCs is beneficial to nascent entrepreneurs. We propose a more detailed look at both theoretical and practical implications below.

Implications for research

Our main research contribution is a detailed review of the recent literature on BPCs, which can be deemed original, as no authors have attempted to systematically synthesize the existing BPC research. Our approach to the design of the SLR was twofold. We first provided a descriptive overview of the sample in terms of annual scientific production and geographical relevance. We then applied qualitative content analysis to highlight key emerging themes that were used to identify foci for future research directions. Based on our classification, we contend that the theoretical advancement of this research area requires greater attention to both antecedents and consequences of BPC attendance.

Our second contribution was the development of a research framework to synthesize existing knowledge on BPCs and to provide new and original insights into the BPC literature stream. Our framework explicates the role played by BPCs in the professional lives of nascent entrepreneurs (McKenzie, 2018 ; Overall et al., 2018 ) in terms of how it affects their entrepreneurial behavior (Burton, 2020 ; Passaro et al., 2017 ) and identifies the specific characteristics BPCs should feature to be as effective as possible. The same framework also helps define the scope for future research, as it identifies several avenues that future entrepreneurship scholars should explore (Fichter & Tiemann, 2020 ; Li et al., 2019 ). The framework provides future researchers a bird’s-eye view of the existing knowledge base in the area, indicating, at the same time, what remains underexplored or ignored. Additionally, by profiling extant research on BPCs, we offer scholars a comprehensive overview of potentially appropriate outlets for their studies, along with the most widely used methods and theories that could help them design their future research.

Finally, we contribute by systematically uncovering crucial research gaps in the reviewed literature on BPCs from both a methodological and a content perspective. From a methodological perspective, our analysis has revealed the need for future research to broaden the methodological scope of BPC research (Efobi & Orkoh, 2018 ). Thus far, the BPC literature stream has been dominated by empirical research featuring case studies and experimental designs (Cervilla, 2008 ; Li et al., 2019 ; Mancuso et al., 2010 ). Quantitative and mixed-method research is needed to further expand upon the findings of exploratory BPC research and to test their validity on a larger scale. From a content perspective, our study has defined a structured research agenda synthesized from extant gaps. We have identified and listed several research questions that could drive future work on the topic. Additionally, our study has highlighted the uneven distribution of BPC research from a geographical standpoint. While their significance is equally pertinent for developed and emerging economies (Tipu, 2018 ) and BPC programs are becoming increasingly popular in developing countries (House-Soremenkun & Falola, 2011 ; Wong, 2011 ), our findings suggest that country-specific production is still lagging behind pioneering nations, namely the USA and the UK. Hence, there is a need for additional evidence from developing countries, along with cross-cultural analyses to highlight the cultural differences in BPC and entrepreneurial education.

Practical implications

Our study has multiple implications for BPC practices. First, it provides policymakers and practitioners with a BPC blueprint featuring state-of-the-art characteristics. Drawing on Cant’s ( 2018 ) BPC blueprint, which was an attempt to identify an ideal set of characteristics for BPCs, we reviewed and expanded upon their findings by adding new points of view taken from empirical studies found in our sample to add new insights and incorporate more contributions from the literature. Overall, the ideal BPC should feature active participation from industry professionals, as they can provide participants with valuable insights into the professional world (Botha & Robertson, 2014 ), which BPC research has shown to be important (Moultry, 2011 ). Furthermore, a serious effort should be made to guarantee BPC participants funds and financial resources for the early stages of their entrepreneurial lives, as material support and knowledge sharing are both crucial to increasing their chances of survival (Burton, 2020 ; Passaro et al., 2017 ).

Second, our study informs practitioners of the importance of longitudinally monitoring BPC participants throughout their entrepreneurial lives (Watson et al., 2018 ). Longitudinal data allow a better understanding of the factors and variables influencing entrepreneurial life (Petty & Gruber, 2011 ). This could help BPC organizers better weigh the design choices in their educational courses by monitoring the returns they get from the seeds planted during the developmental phase of nascent business ideas (Jiang et al., 2018 ). Longitudinal monitoring of BPC participants is valuable in several ways. As suggested by McKenzie ( 2017 ), BPC winners tend to possess a greater survival rate in entrepreneurial life, which contributes to the debate on whether the quality of business plans affects the future survival rate (Simón-Moya & Revuelto-Taboada, 2016 ). Practitioners and policymakers should be asked to monitor and support BPC participants after the competition. As noted by Cant ( 2018 ), building a long-lasting collaboration with BPC participants increases their chances of survival, regardless of whether they have won the actual competition. The role played by BPC organizers in building a post-competition collaborative network is vital and has a significant impact on the survival rate, employment, profits, and sales of ventures participating in BPCs (McKenzie, 2017 ).

Our study could also be beneficial to managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals alike, as it can provide them with several key implications on how and why participating in BPCs is beneficial to nascent entrepreneurs, in terms of visibility, knowledge development, and networking opportunities (Thomas et al., 2014 ; Passaro et al., 2020 ). This is true both for novel entrepreneurs who have yet to emerge and for industry professionals who are willing to get in touch with future generations of entrepreneurs and stimulate the discussion around the topic of BPCs (Barbini et al., 2021 ). While participants generally obtain more tangible benefits from winning BPCs, their very participation in the competition can provide several intangible benefits as well, primarily in terms of networking opportunities and skill development. In this regard, our study is of practical significance for nascent entrepreneurs willing to partake in BPCs, as it features a clear depiction of what to expect to gain from the competition.

Limitations and future research

We adopted an SLR methodology to analyze the available research on BPCs. Our systematic review of the BPC literature provided descriptive and original contributions to the field. Four research questions were addressed in this article. RQ1 was addressed by providing an overview of the current state of the art of BPC research in what we refer to as research profiling. Fifty-eight unique records were extracted from the Scopus and WoS databases and analyzed in terms of annual scientific production, publication sources, geographical contexts, and influence in terms of citations. We addressed RQ2 by adopting qualitative content analysis and identifying several emerging themes across the sample, which led to a structured overview of the existing knowledge on BPCs. In regards to RQ3, we were able to identify several research gaps in the empirical literature and suggest avenues for further research. Finally, we addressed RQ4 by developing a theoretical framework that uses the above sample as its foundation. The framework aims to investigate the multidimensional nature of BPCs and provide future researchers with a theoretical underpinning for their studies.

In regards to future research directions, our systematic review has highlighted several thematic areas of prior research and investigated extant gaps both in terms of topics and in terms of methodological choices. We have, thus, identified various possible avenues for future research and presented them in a theoretical framework, that acs as a synthesized view of the existing research, serves as the basis for identifying visible gaps in prior research and suggesting various theme-based research questions and avenues of future research. In other words, the framework aims to investigate the multidimensional nature of BPCs and provide future researchers with a theoretical underpinning for their studies.

There are a few caveats worth mentioning regarding this study, some of which are intrinsic to the SLR methodology. First, the sample may not have included a few records that did not appear in the online repository due to missing or different keywords. Although chain referencing reduces the chances of this happening, the risk is still there and needs to be addressed. Second, our research protocol included only peer-reviewed journal articles written in English, as conference proceedings, book chapters, and review articles were excluded from the sample. Future research could include gray literature and other sources to compare their results with those published in peer-reviewed journals. Third, the scope of the SLR was limited to BPCs. Therefore, it did not explore nascent entrepreneurs or the role of entrepreneurial education in universities in general, despite both topics being strongly related to BPCs. Future SLRs could take a broader approach and discuss the topic of entrepreneurial education, to which the BPC stream contributes.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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* Liñán, F., Rodríguez-Cohard, J. C., & Rueda-Cantuche, J. M. (2011). Factors affecting entrepreneurial intention levels: A role for education. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 7 (2), 195–218.

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* Mancuso, L. C., Alijani, G. S., Kwun, O., & Smith, L. D. (2010). Successful outcomes of teaching minority undergraduate students entrepreneurial business planning concepts using andragogy and service learning. Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, 13 , 37–44.

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Write the Competition Section: Business Plan Writing

Aayushi Mistry

11 Min Read

How to write the Competition Section_ Business Plan Writing

What is the Competition Section?

Your business plan includes a lot of operational sections. Every section holds different importance. In that case, competition is one of the most fundamental aspects of your business. And so, it needs to be added to your business plan. The section that explains your competition is your competition section.

While deciding where to add the competition section, pay attention to the flow of your business plan. Moreover, it also depends on the priority. So, it must come next to your objective, problem statement , product/services, and target audience.

Why do You Need a Competition Section in Your Business Plan?

The why of your business plan depends on your purpose-

If your purpose is to direct your business growth:

Your competition status can play as your reference point. Here, the competition section serves as a medium for understanding your competition. So, you can develop strategic positioning.

If your purpose is to create a business plan to seek investment:

You must add it to inform your investors about your competition, market position, and brand promise.

You need to describe the competition to reassure probable investors that you know and understand your competition. And that you are ready to take advantage of opportunities and avoid the pitfalls.

How to write a competition section in your business plan?

Regardless of your purpose mentioned above, you have to include all the steps mentioned below. Wherever there is the need for that ‘minor’ change, we will include it under the same step.

While following this step, we suggest you take action side by side. So, it becomes easier to implement. Moreover, before putting up your competition section, be ready with your competition data.

Also, make sure that you have conducted a competitive analysis and processed data of at least 5 competition companies. Once you have everything you need, you can go through the following steps-

1. Determining and Documenting Your Business Position

Regardless of your purpose, you will have to follow this step. And there isn’t any major difference here. You need to know your business position in the market and document it properly. However, we will first talk about the determining part. And then, document it for the competition part of your business plan.

How to determine your market position?

Gather crucial details for your company and your competitors’ company. When you have all the data, you compare them. And put it up on the competition graph.

The details you will need include:

  • Sales Figures
  • Profit margins
  • Distributors

You can also add the marketing column if you find the need. Here, your goal is to make clear positions with respect to your target markets.

Position Mapping Graph

You can do this for 5 main aspects of your business-

  • For product characters
  • The quality of products/services
  • The number of products/services
  • For user/customer friendliness

You can either put all the points in the same graph or use a separate graph for each.

How to do this?

competitor position map

  • Get graph paper and divide it into 4 quadrants
  • Add your parameter(s)
  • Start plotting your and your competition’s point

Competitive Matrix

A competitive matrix is a method that helps you determine your competitive advantages. Usually, you put together this tool to note your market credibility. It is an industry analysis tool that compares the characteristics of you and your competition.

competitive analysis matrix

How to do it?

  • You draw out a matrix
  • Position your company and competitors, at the top, the horizontal blocks
  • Put all the aspects you want to compete with, in the vertical blocks
  • Put the tick marks to draw the competition

How to document in the competition section for your business plan?

Once you complete the determination, the documentation is quite easy. In fact, you can put the final graphs in your draft. It will not only give color and variety but also make it easy to understand.

While you put all the graphs together, you have to explain your competition and the parameters that you have selected. Moreover, you can go ahead and explain why the companies are your competition. And also explain why you picked particular parameters.

Mention the date and time frame in your graphs. It makes it easier to have a deeper knowledge of your competition.

Basically, the documentation is journaling the process of drawing the graphs. You may not want to add every detail. As that could make the entire section a little longer than expected. But at the same time, don’t leave out the important details.

Why is this step important?

2. determine and draft your competitive advantages, determining the competitive advantage.

This process may look hard. But it is not. In fact, it just includes one step to the above one. It can be done side by side while you are drawing the comparison and putting them together in different graphs.

Drafting your competitive advantage

You have to note down your bonus points and explain them in detail. You can use those graphs too for more clarity and variety. It is better that you make this up to the point. If you are writing for the investors, they might just want the rounded points after seeing the graphs.

With this step, you became assertive about your success and future in the market.

If brought in front of your investors, they quickly get a clear idea of whether to invest in your business or not. In a way, it helps you store their faith in your business.

3. Put in the customers’ review

This step is just like putting that final nail in the coffin! Plus, regardless of the purpose of your business plan, this step and section remain the same. Even more interesting, it takes less time than the two above-mentioned steps.

Here’s how you do it-

  • Find out the reviews and ratings of all the competitors, you had begun the process with.
  • Be discreet. Don’t only add the good points or the bad points. Add the good, the bad, and the average rating and reviews.
  • In fact, you can go ahead and make three sections named- The Good, The Bad, and The average.
  • Add 10-12 reviews in total and put them in the respective sections (3 or 4 in each).
  • You can find reviews from search engines, social media, websites, forums, and magazines.
  • If you want even authentic reviews and have enough time and resources, you can even run surveys. Or contact agencies that run unbiased surveys.

How to draft it-

  • Put them just the way they are, even if they have typos. Try not to tamper with them.
  • Add them at the end of the competition section for your business plan.

Why is this step important

  • To add more clarity and favor to your business.
  • Gives a chunk of customer points to view.
  • Restores your, your team’s, and your investor’s faith in your company.

Basic Template

competition section template

And that’s all about the competition section in the business plan. We hope we have given you all the information that you needed. However, regardless of how you find notes, we have listed the FAQs for the competition section for a business plan. You can refer to it for questions that look similar to yours.

FAQs for your competition section

Answers to commonly asked questions

What if we think that our business does not have competition?

Ideally, every business has competition. If not directly, then indirectly. Basically, there are three types of competition- Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

Primary: The business that has similar products/services as you and, serves the same target audience.

Secondary: The high-end or low-end services/products as you. There may be a slight change in the target audience, depending on the spending capacity location and more.

Tertiary: They have completely different products/services but satisfy the same need of your target audience.

So, if you think that you don’t have primary competition. Look closely, you may have a secondary or tertiary competition.

What if that time my competition changes?

Do we need a separate team to draw a competition analysis and draft it in the business plan, how long should the competition section be in the business plan, where else can we showcase this analysis.

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What is a competitive analysis?

How to conduct a competitive analysis, how to write your competitive analysis, why competition is a good thing, what if there is no competition, do a competitive analysis, but don’t let it derail your planning, how to write a competitive analysis for your business plan.

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10 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

Female entrepreneur speaking to management team in board room about taking on competitors.

Do you know who your competitors are? If you do, have you taken the time to conduct a thorough competitor analysis?

Knowing your competitors, how they operate, and the necessary benchmarks you need to hit are crucial to positioning your business for success. Investors will also want to see an analysis of the competition in your business plan.

In this guide, we’ll explore the significance of competitive analysis and guide you through the essential steps to conduct and write your own. 

You’ll learn how to identify and evaluate competitors to better understand the opportunities and threats to your business. And you’ll be given a four-step process to describe and visualize how your business fits within the competitive landscape.

A competitive analysis is the process of gathering information about your competitors and using it to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This information can then be used to develop strategies to improve your own business and gain a competitive advantage.

Before you start writing about the competition, you need to conduct your analysis. Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Identify your competitors

The first step in conducting a comprehensive competitive analysis is to identify your competitors. 

Start by creating a list of both direct and indirect competitors within your industry or market segment. Direct competitors offer similar products or services, while indirect competitors solve the same problems your company does, but with different products or services.

Keep in mind that this list may change over time. It’s crucial to revisit it regularly to keep track of any new entrants or changes to your current competitors. For instance, a new competitor may enter the market, or an existing competitor may change their product offerings.

2. Analyze the market

Once you’ve identified your competitors, you need to study the overall market. 

This includes the market size , growth rate, trends, and customer preferences. Be sure that you understand the key drivers of demand, demographic and psychographic profiles of your target audience , and any potential market gaps or opportunities.

Conducting a market analysis can require a significant amount of research and data collection. Luckily, if you’re writing a business plan you’ll follow this process to complete the market analysis section . So, doing this research has value for multiple parts of your plan.

3. Create a competitive framework

You’ll need to establish criteria for comparing your business with competitors. You want the metrics and information you choose to provide answers to specific questions. (“Do we have the same customers?” “What features are offered?” “How many customers are being served?”)

Here are some common factors to consider including: 

  • Market share
  • Product/service offerings or features
  • Distribution channels
  • Target markets
  • Marketing strategies
  • Customer service

4. Research your competitors

You can now begin gathering information about your competitors. Because you spent the time to explore the market and set up a comparison framework—your research will be far more focused and easier to complete.

There’s no perfect research process, so start by exploring sources such as competitor websites, social media, customer reviews, industry reports, press releases, and public financial statements. You may also want to conduct primary research by interviewing customers, suppliers, or industry experts.

You can check out our full guide on conducting market research for more specific steps.

5. Assess their strengths and weaknesses

Evaluate each competitor based on the criteria you’ve established in the competitive framework. Identify their key strengths (competitive advantages) and weaknesses (areas where they underperform).

6. Identify opportunities and threats

Based on the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, identify opportunities (areas where you can outperform them) and threats (areas where they may outperform you) for your business. 

You can check out our full guide to conducting a SWOT analysis for more specific questions that you should ask as part of each step. 

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to present your findings in your business plan. Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Determine who your audience is

Who you are writing a business plan for (investors, partners, employees, etc.) may require you to format your competitive analysis differently. 

For an internal business plan you’ll use with your team, the competition section should help them better understand the competition. You and your team will use it to look at comparative strengths and weaknesses to help you develop strategies to gain a competitive advantage.

For fundraising, your plan will be shared with potential investors or as part of a bank loan. In this case, you’re describing the competition to reassure your target reader. You are showing awareness and a firm understanding of the competition, and are positioned to take advantage of opportunities while avoiding the pitfalls.

2. Describe your competitive position

You need to know how your business stacks up, based on the values it offers to your chosen target market. To run this comparison, you’ll be using the same criteria from the competitive framework you completed earlier. You need to identify your competitive advantages and weaknesses, and any areas where you can improve.

The goal is positioning (setting your business up against the background of other offerings), and making that position clear to the target market. Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to define your competitive position:

  • How are you going to take advantage of your distinctive differences, in your customers’ eyes? 
  • What are you doing better? 
  • How do you work toward strengths and away from weaknesses?
  • What do you want the world to think and say about you and how you compare to others?

3. Visualize your competitive position

There are a few different ways to present your competitive framework in your business plan. The first is a “positioning map” and the second is a “competitive matrix”. Depending on your needs, you can use one or both of these to communicate the information that you gathered during your competitive analysis:

Positioning map

The positioning map plots two product or business benefits across a horizontal and vertical axis. The furthest points of each represent opposite extremes (Hot and cold for example) that intersect in the middle. With this simple chart, you can drop your own business and the competition into the zone that best represents the combination of both factors.

I often refer to marketing expert Philip Kohler’s simple strategic positioning map of breakfast, shown here. You can easily draw your own map with any two factors of competition to see how a market stacks up.

Competitive positioning map comparing the price and speed of breakfast options. Price sits along the y-axis and speed along the x-axis.

It’s quite common to see the price on one axis and some important qualitative factor on the other, with the assumption that there should be a rough relationship between price and quality.

Competitive matrix

It’s pretty common for most business plans to also include a competitive matrix. It shows how different competitors stack up according to the factors identified in your competitive framework. 

How do you stack up against the others? Here’s what a typical competitive matrix looks like:

Competitive matrix example where multiple business factors are being compared between your business and two competitors.

For the record, I’ve seen dozens of competitive matrices in plans and pitches. I’ve never seen a single one that didn’t show that this company does more of what the market wants than all others. So maybe that tells you something about credibility and how to increase it. Still, the ones I see are all in the context of seeking investment, so maybe that’s the nature of the game.

4. Explain your strategies for gaining a competitive edge

Your business plan should also explain the strategies your business will use to capitalize on the opportunities you’ve identified while mitigating any threats from competition. This may involve improving your product/service offerings, targeting underserved market segments, offering more attractive price points, focusing on better customer service, or developing innovative marketing strategies.

While you should cover these strategies in the competition section, this information should be expanded on further in other areas of your business plan. 

For example, based on your competitive analysis you show that most competitors have the same feature set. As part of your strategy, you see a few obvious ways to better serve your target market with additional product features. This information should be referenced within your products and services section to back up your problem and solution statement. 

Business owners often wish that they had no competition. They think that with no competition, the entire market for their product or service will be theirs. That is simply not the case—especially for new startups that have truly innovative products and services. Here’s why:

Competition validates your idea

You know you have a good idea when other people are coming up with similar products or services. Competition validates the market and the fact that there are most likely customers for your new product. This also means that the costs of marketing and educating your market go down (see my next point).

Competition helps educate your target market

Being first-to-market can be a huge advantage. It also means that you will have to spend way more than the next player to educate customers about your new widget, your new solution to a problem, and your new approach to services. 

This is especially true for businesses that are extremely innovative. These first-to-market businesses will be facing customers that didn’t know that there was a solution to their problem . These potential customers might not even know that they have a problem that can be solved in a better way. 

If you’re a first-to-market company, you will have an uphill battle to educate consumers—an often expensive and time-consuming process. The 2nd-to-market will enjoy all the benefits of an educated marketplace without the large marketing expense.

Competition pushes you

Businesses that have little or no competition become stagnant. Customers have few alternatives to choose from, so there is no incentive to innovate. Constant competition ensures that your marketplace continues to evolve and that your product offering continues to evolve with it.

Competition forces focus & differentiation

Without competition, it’s easy to lose focus on your core business and your core customers and start expanding into areas that don’t serve your best customers. Competition forces you and your business to figure out how to be different than your competition while focusing on your customers. In the long term, competition will help you build a better business.

One mistake many new businesses make is thinking that just because nobody else is doing exactly what they’re doing, their business is a sure thing. If you’re struggling to find competitors, ask yourself these questions.

Is there a good reason why no one else is doing it?

The smart thing to do is ask yourself,  “Why isn’t anyone else doing it?”

It’s possible that nobody’s selling cod-liver frozen yogurt in your area because there’s simply no market for it. Ask around, talk to people, and do your market research. If you determine that you’ve got customers out there, you’re in good shape.

But that still doesn’t mean there’s no competition.

How are customers getting their needs met?

There may not be another cod-liver frozen yogurt shop within 500 miles. But maybe an online distributor sells cod-liver oil to do-it-yourselfers who make their own fro-yo at home. Or maybe your potential customers are eating frozen salmon pops right now. 

Are there any businesses that are indirect competitors?

Don’t think of competition as only other businesses that do exactly what you do. Think about what currently exists on the market that your product would displace.

It’s the difference between direct competition and indirect competition. When Henry Ford started successfully mass-producing automobiles in the U.S., he didn’t have other automakers to compete with. His competition was horse-and-buggy makers, bicycles, and railroads.

While it’s important that you know the competition, don’t get too caught up in the research. 

If all you do is track your competition and do endless competitive analyses, you won’t be able to come up with original ideas. You will end up looking and acting just like your competition. Instead, make a habit of NOT visiting your competition’s website, NOT going into their store, and NOT calling their sales office. 

Focus instead on how you can provide the best service possible and spend your time talking to your customers. Figure out how you can better serve the next person that walks in the door so that they become a lifetime customer, a reference, or a referral source.

If you focus too much on the competition, you will become a copycat. When that happens, it won’t matter to a customer if they walk into your store or the competition’s because you will both be the same.

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Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

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31+ SAMPLE Competition Business Plan in PDF | MS Word

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FREE 10+ Competition Business Plan Samples in PDF | DOC

competition business plan featured

When you are going to develop a business plan that includes a competition section in it, all of the companies and organizations must be able to define what a competition is correctly, select various competitors for analysis, and even explain its advantages and disadvantages. Companies are obliged to align their definition of competition especially when they involve themselves with investors. Some of these investors know competition as a service or a product that can be used to fulfill the needs. This condition usually includes or engages firms who are offering the same type of product, substitute products, and even other customer options like rebranding. Any specific business plans that claim that there are no existing competitors undermine the credibility of the management team.

Competition Business Plan

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The competition section in a business plan is usually considered to be the most difficult section when you are on the process of writing a business plan. It is due to the fact that before you are going to analyze your competitors, you still have to undergo investigation on them. You can really learn a lot from the competitive advantage, market opportunity, and your position in your business by simply looking at the competition. It is important to basically know who are your competitors, how they operate, and what are the benchmarks that you need to hit to be able to achieve success in your business. This will also serve as an analysis in which most of your investors would want to see.

competition business plan

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Size: 547 KB

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official competition business plan

Size: 255 KB

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standard competition business plan

Size: 45 KB

Think of this question: what kind of businesses are most likely to jump in when you are going to create a new market? That is competition. Do not ever think that there is no competition at all. In order to identify your competition, you have to do a competitive analysis in your business plan. Here’s how:

  • Define your business use – you should first decide on which business uses you are going to apply: internal management plan or formal business plan. An internal management plan usually serves as a vehicle for understanding what competition is and in developing strategic positioning. You must look on both the strengths and weaknesses as this will lead you to having a solid strategy. A formal business plan allows you to describe what a competition is to assure you that you will be aware when it comes to that specific matter and you are in position to take advantage of the various opportunities.
  • Establish a competitive position – you have to be aware of how your business actually works, like in terms of what it offers on a chosen target market . There are several tactics that you can use which includes messaging, distribution, and pricing . Your goal is positioning and assessing yourself what you are doing better. You may also ask yourself if how you manage your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Establish regular competitive review channels – you should be able to know your business needs . The competition section in your business plan will guide you in making the right decisions for you to measure  its value using the decisions it causes.
  •  Who are your competitors?
  • What are your competitors’ products and services?
  • What threats does the competitor show?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are their objectives in the market place?
  • What strategies are they using?
  • What market segments are they operating?
  • What makes their product good?
  • Why do customers buy their product?
  • What are their available resources?

It includes competitor’s name, overview of the competitor, products or services offered, pricing, revenue , location, customer segments, their key strengths, and key weaknesses.

There are a lot of business plans that show off their business ventures. When you are positioned properly, it may be a positive sign due to the fact that it simply implies that the market size is big. If you want to see more samples and format, check out some competition business plan samples and templates provided in the article for your reference.

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