The Top Business School New Venture Contests

The competitions have their origins at the University of Texas where a pair of MBA students, Steven A. Mailman and Barbara Oppenheimer, in the early 1980s imagined a contest that would be as challenging as “moot court” in law school. In 1984, the inaugural “Moot Corp Competition” was launched at UT’s business school. Teams began to conceive an idea for a new business, develop the idea in a written business plan, and present it to a panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, accountants and lawyers.

Moot Corp., renamed in 2010 the Venture Labs Investment Competition, was the first competition of its kind for MBA students. The contest went national in 1989 and then international in 1990 when just three business schools in England, France and Australia were invited to participate.

Next month, some 40 teams of MBAs from around the globe will gather at The University of Texas at Austin each May to present their business plans to panels of investors and compete for $135,000 in seed funding. This year’s “Global Champion” will receive $25,000 in cash along $25,000 worth of consulting services and mentoring, office space, and access to discounted legal, accounting, and businesses services from top tier providers. The winner even gets a full-page ad in Inc. magazine, another $25,000 worth of consulting from the school’s entrepreneurship faculty and an invite to close the NASDAQ stock market in July.

And since that first contest in 1984, the idea has spread like wildfire. Many business schools all over the world hold similar competitions. Here’s a list of those at the top 20 U.S. business schools:

Top B-School New Venture & Business Plan Competitions

SchoolCompetitionPrize Money
Harvard Business SchoolBusiness Plan Contest (Venture Track & Social Venture Track)$170,000 ($25K first prize)
Harvard Business SchoolAlumni New Venture Contest (Venture Contest & Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship)$100,000 ($50K grand prize)
Stanford UniversityStanford Entrepreneur’s Challenge$150,000 ($50K first prize)
Stanford GSBVenture Capital Club Startup Pitch-Off Unknown
Chicago (Booth)New Venture Challenge$75,000 ($25K first prize)
UPenn (Wharton)Business Plan Competition$75,000 ($45K grand prize)
Columbia Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition$14,000 ($8K first prize)
MIT (Sloan)MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition$350,000 ($100K first prize)
Northwestern (Kellogg)Kellogg Cup$7,000 grand prize
Dartmouth (Tuck)Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network Business Plan Competition$50,000 first prize
UC-Berkeley (Haas)bplan Startup Competition$50,000 ($20K grand prize)
Duke UniversityDuke Startup Challenge$92,500 ($50K grand prize)
Virginia (Darden)UVa-Darden Business Plan Competition$90,000 ($10,000 first prize)
Michigan (Ross)Michigan Business Challenge$60,000 ($20,000 grand prize)
Cornell (Johnson)Cornell Venture Challenge$13,500 ($10,000 first prize)
YaleYale Venture Challenge$50,000 ($18K first prize)
New York (Stern)New Venture Competition$75,000 first prize
New York (Stern)Technology Venture Competition$75,000 first prize
New York (Stern)Social Venture Competition$50,000 first prize
UCLA (Anderson)Knapp Venture Competition$31,000 ($15K first prize)
Texas (McCombs)Venture Labs Investment Competition$135,000 ($25K cash prize)

Source: Business school websites

Notes: First prize can sometimes include not only cash but the value of in-kind services, such as legal and financial consulting