How To Win $50K For Your Startup Idea

Every startup needs money to get a new business idea rolling. So for the second year in a row, Poets&Quants is partnering with Washington University’s Olin Business School on a pitch competition with a $50,000 cash prize going to the winner.

Last year, 167 entrepreneurs and their founding teams vied for the big prize in Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce®, competing against each other in a shark tank-like contest. Representing more than 55 universities, those teams came from all over the world, including India, Nigeria, Ghana, Belgium, Spain, England, and Canada.

BIG IdeaBounce® is a pitch contest open to all current undergraduate and graduate school students or any prospect interested in a graduate business school degree (enter here). There are three rounds to the competition, starting with the submission of your idea in an easy-to-complete online form that is open through Jan. 15, 2023. The top 20 teams will then be asked to submit a two-minute pitch video. Finally, the best three teams will present their business plans in front of a panel of judges on Washington University’s Olin campus in March.


Doug Villhard of Washington University’s Olin Business School

B-school entrepreneurs also will benefit from extensive coverage devoted to the competition by Poets&Quants. So even if you don’t end up among the final three teams, you may well gain the attention of other angel investors and venture capitalists through Poets&Quants editorial coverage. And the three finalists will also gain the benefit of expert coaching and mentoring from Olin faculty.

Doug Villhard, academic director for entrepreneurship at the Olin Business School, which has topped the Poets&Quants ranking for the best MBAs for entrepreneurs for three consecutive years, notes that this is only the second time Olin will open up its BIG IdeaBounce to students outside Washington University.

“We’re excited to host the second year of WashU Olin’s $50K BIG IdeaBounce® powered by P&Q,” says Villhard. “Last year was so much fun for the students, judges, and our team at Olin. We expect to receive excellent student business idea submissions again from across the world.  We hope you all make it tough on us!”


Last year’s entrants certainly did. Simply narrowing down the nearly 170 entries into a dozen finalists was a painstaking task. The business ideas ranged from conceptual to some already generating revenue. Many ideas targeted specific markets from a memory box for those living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia to an ingenious power source for cyclists to keep them safe and connected. Some were highly complex, requiring sophisticated engineering and design; others were smart, yet simple ideas to address market gaps. All were well thought-out, heavily researched, and staffed with teams that could implement the dreams of their founders.

The eventual winner: PedalCell, which makes a bicycle power source that mounts in minutes on nearly all bike designs. The company’s co-founders met in 2015 as college freshmen. Budeli, a property tech amenity that provides free food delivery for tenants in higher-end residential apartments, won Poets&Quants’ Audience Favorite Prize.

“We look forward to hosting the best three teams on campus and filming a high-quality TV show with our amazing judges who are all returning for a second year,” adds Villhard. “Olin is proud to continually be ranked very high in MBA entrepreneurship by Poets&Quants, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and more.  As a result, we attract students who exude an entrepreneurial spirit. This contest is a way to celebrate not just our students but all the other great ideas being worked on by MBA students across the world.”


To invite as many would-be entrepreneurs as possible, Olin has made entering the competition simple and easy. “It’s just basic information to understand your team’s idea and what makes up the elements of it,” adds Villhard. “And then on January 15th, a panel of judges will look through those entries and we’ll comb it down from there to pick 20 or so to make us a two-minute elevator pitch. From there, we’ll get it down to three teams who will present live in front of judges in March of next year.”

The teams also will benefit from in-depth coaching before their presentations. “Those three teams will get personalized feedback from a panel of serious judges and mentors,” says Villhard. “And the winner will receive $50,000 in funding. At any stage of a company, but especially at this early stage, that $50,000 is a big deal. We may just propel forward the next great unicorn to come out of a college student project. We really think this event promotes the entrepreneurial spirit that certainly permeates here at WashU Olin, but is out there amongst this audience of folks who have innovative ideas that won’t quit. This is an opportunity for you to share those ideas and to receive validation. It should be a lot of fun.”

Enter The BIG IdeaBounce® Elevator Pitch Contest Now

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