The Big List of Business and Startup Competitions

business competitions

Enthusiastic small business owners and contests go together like peanut butter and jelly. Similarly, entrepreneurs are always looking for new sources of funding and building their networks. Lots of these boxes can be checked off when you enter a startup or business competition.

By the way, although many entrepreneurial and small business contests have only one or two winners, the connections the entrants make and the exposure they get can be worth more than the cash prize that goes to the grand prize winner.

Often the entrepreneurs who walk away with mere participant ribbons end up being more successful than the contest winners. Further, entering a small business or startup contest the first time helps you sharpen your business plan and better understand what it takes to be a winner – in the contest world and in the actual business world.

With a few exceptions – which I’ll get to in just a moment – most of the contests start taking applications in January. However, the practical way to approach contest entries is to size them up early and start planning which best suit your situation. With that thought, I’m going to share a list of current, recent, and usually recurring contests so you can study them and see if any warrant further study and planning.

Roll Tide!

But before I give you the longer list of contests to check out, let me mention one cool regional contest that you can enter right now…if you’re a Business Council of Alabama member: The Small Business Game Changer 2017. ‘Bama fans really need to check this one out!

The following list starts with a few programs that are already accepting or close to accepting applications. One of those, Y Combinator, puts two groups of startups through its program each year. I know there are other accelerators, as well as state and local programs, so if you don’t find what you need here, keep looking and talk to local entrepreneurs.

Finally, speaking of local and regional competitions, you’ll note that several on this list are associated with universities. These are usually open to both students and alumni.

Y Combinator
Rhode Island Business Plan
Startup Showcase | eMerge Americas
Carnegie Mellon University Venture Challenge
QPrize | Qualcomm Ventures
MassChallenge | World’s Largest Startup Accelerator
Build a Business Competition by Shopify. 
Arch Grants 
MIT$100K | The Entrepreneurship Competition
Startup Battlefield – The premiere startup launch competition | TechCrunch 
WJF – Sustainable Business Plan Competition 
New York StartUP! 2016 Business Plan Competition | The New York Public Library 
FastPitch – The Creative Coast 
HATCH pitch
Innotribe » 2015 Startup Challenge Competition 
Nw Hampshire (NH) Startup Challenge | Manchester Young Professionals Network 
Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest 
GW New Venture Competition | The George Washington University 
Hult Prize: start-up accelerator for social entrepreneurship 
Up-Start! Competition  – MaRS
Test Your Business Mettle :: UNM Business Plan Competition | The University of New Mexico 
Competitions – Gordon Institute 
French-American Entrepreneurship Award| FAEA Club 600
Salem State University Business Plan Competition – $18,000 in Prizes! – The Enterprise Center 
Amazing Entrepreneur Contest | Fostering Small Business Success Through Competition (Gwinnett County, Georgia) 
Social Innovation Challenge – Center for Peace and Commerce – University of San Diego 
FAU Business Plan Competition : Florida Atlantic University – College of Business 
MIT Clean Energy Prize | Sponsored by Eversource Energy 
New Venture Championship, University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business |
NOVA Innovation Competition  | Saint-Gobain NOVA 
The International Business Model Competition – Home
CIMA Global Business Challenge 
Hello Tomorrow Challenge (Tech startup competition) – Hello Tomorrow 
N100 | Northumberland, Ontario, Canada’s $100,000 startup competition. 
The Big Sell | Purdue University 
The Startup Challenge, venture competition | Monterey, California
DREAM BIG Award | U.S. Chamber of Commerce 
Rice Business Plan Competition – Rice University
Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (Singapore)
Labiteam startup competition
 UPS X-Port Challenge

(Updated 7.28.17)