Initiatives like Harvard Business School's New Venture Competition and Wharton's Startup Challenge are landmark annual events. These competitions catalyze entrepreneurial innovation and help students consider the wider social implications of business projects.
Business school competitions also expose students to diverse industrial problems and encourage them to formulate disruptive solutions, not to mention facilitating cross-disciplinary collaboration with researchers from different fields.
On a more practical note, the cash prizes—as much as $40,000—have the potential to make a significant dent in an MBA student’s tuition fees.
Here are 11 US and Canada-based competitions incoming business school students should investigate:
1. Human Capital Case Competition at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management (Nashville, TN) Total Prize Money: $15,000 First Prize: $10,000
Owen's Human Capital Case Competition was developed specifically for students interested in pursuing innovative human capital strategies and solutions.
The goal of the competition is for teams from top business schools to come together and address issues related to organizational behavior and company culture. Applications are accepted in June for the late October event.
2. Annual Business Plan Competition Rutgers Business School (New Brunswick, NJ) Total Prize Money: $50,000
Rutgers' Annual Business Plan Competition is open to all its MBA students and recent alumni, and the 2022 competition ran in the autumn semester. Student entrepreneurs are encouraged to submit business ideas to support the growth of jobs in New Jersey.
To enter, students must submit an executive summary of their business plan in late December, followed by a full business plan in March. Pitches are made to professionals from various industries, including venture capitalists and entrepreneurs with prizes awarded by the Sales Executives Club Foundation of New Jersey.
3. Renewable Energy Case Competition at University of Michigan Ross School of Business (Ann Arbor, MI) Total Prize Money: $10,000
Regarded as one of the premier energy case competitions in the US, Michigan Ross' Renewable Energy Case Competition is certainly a boon for those students looking to pursue careers in CleanTech and beyond. Top MBA programs compete at the end of November and beginning of December for a $4,000 prize.
4. Hult Prize Regional Competition at Hult International Business School (New York, NY) Total Prize Money: N/A First Prize: $1,000,000
The Hult Prize honors innovative social impact strategies. If students are selected for the mid-March competition, they are automatically eligible for the Hult Prize Accelerator Program. This program provides access to mentors, investors, and corporate partners assisting entrepreneurs in creating a big pitch for the United Nations HQ with the potential of a $1 million prize. In 2023, the competition focuses on sustainable fashion.
5. New Venture Competition at Harvard Business School (Boston, MA) Total Prize Money: $315,000 First Prize (in each track): $75,000
Harvard’s annual New Venture Competition (NVC) welcomes all Harvard Business School's students and alumni with an entrepreneurial spirit.
There are two tracks: business (ventures whose economic returns drive substantial market value) and social enterprise (focused on social change). An additional Tough Tech Prize is awarded to a transformative technology venture that works towards solving an important global challenge.
Participants pitch ideas to judges with venture capital, private equity, law, accounting, philanthropy, impact investing, and social entrepreneurship backgrounds. The awards are announced at the NVC Finale Show in the spring.
6. Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management (Evanston, IL) Total Prize Money: N/A First Prize: $5,000
The Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition isn’t your run-of-the mill case competition; it may be one of the most radical competitions on the list, positioned at the crest of the biotech wave.
In 2023— marking the 20th year of the event— 11 teams from ten business schools competed under the topic: 'How should Pfizer bring its new RSV vaccines to market?' A team from Tuck School of Business won the first prize.
7. Startup Challenge at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School (Philadelphia, PA) Total Prize Money: $300,000 First Prize: $50,000
Much like Harvard’s New Venture Competition, the annual Venture Lab Startup Challenge at Wharton is another incredible opportunity tailored specifically to student entrepreneurs.
The school's students compete for up to $50,000 in cash prizes to accelerate their startups. Teams that emphasize tech and biotech concerns have performed well in the past. As well as The Perlman Grand Prize for the overall winner, there are around 11 additional prizes in special categories such as AI For Business, Female Founders, Social Impact and more.
8. Case Competition at American University Kogod School of Business (Washington D.C.) First Prize: $500 per team member
In its 30th year in 2023, Kogod’s Case Competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate American University students, as well as those from select Kogod-partner schools. Its focus changes annually to reflect diverse challenges that business leaders face today.
Students must first apply, and then address a particular case assigned by the judges. The competition serves as an opportunity to connect with Kogod alumni, as many of the judges are former MBA students. Teams enroll in early November and compete during two rounds early the following spring.
9. McGill International Portfolio Challenge at the Desautels Faculty of Management (Montreal, QC) Total Prize Money: $50,000 First Prize: $25,000
The McGill International Portfolio Challenge pioneers the niche of competitions targeting innovative portfolio design and asset management. Unique in its mandate to shift the status quo of traditional academic competitions to the buy side, MIPC aims to bridge the gap between students with a demonstrated interest in asset management and industry leaders.
The top-25 teams are extended invitations for the final round to be held in Montreal in November. The top-three teams battle it out for $50,000 with the most compelling solution taking away up to $25,000 from the competition.