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 2016 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 recent contests so you can study them and see if any warrant further study and planning as the 2016 approaches.

Roll Tide!

But before I give you the list of contests to check out for the future, 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 2016.

Registration just opened and runs until Jan. 29, 2016. The winner will get promoted at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium and mentioned during Crimson Tide football radio broadcasts for the entire 2016 regular season. If that’s not enough, ’Bama fans, you get two season tickets and free parking.

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 (October 13 deadline)
Rhode Island Business Plan (Kick-Off Oct. 15)
Start it Up | eMerge Americas (apply now for 2016)
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