Student Innovation Idea Labs

Startup Competitions

Starting a business can be time-consuming, challenging, and most of all, expensive. For an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges is acquiring the funding needed to get a startup off the ground.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, startup competitions can be a key opportunity to launch their dream into reality. A startup competition gives you a platform to pitch your startup in front of investors for a chance to win a cash prize or investment capital, and even if you don't win the grand prize, just participating in a competition offers many benefits that can give your startup a boost. Not only are they a great way to network with other entrepreneurs and business partners, but they also give you practice pitching your company before you launch into the marketplace.

Here, we have a list of startup competitions to help you bring your startup into the spotlight!


Bronco Startup Challenge

The Bronco Startup Challenge hosted by Cal Poly Pomona is a business pitch competition designed to challenge students from different backgrounds, specialties, and interests to create a unified vision and bring their ideas to life. From ideation to a solid business plan, the competition facilitates the growth of innovation students of all majors.

In-State Competitions

Startup World Cup

Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Prize: $1,000,000 in investment

The Startup World Cup is a global conference and competition that brings together the top startups, VCs, entrepreneurs and world-class tech CEOs. It is the largest startup competition around the world, with over 50,000 global attendees and 2,500 investors, and is geared towards improving lives and transforming industries. 

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Prize: $100,000 prize

TechCrunch Disrupt is a three-day competition with two big focuses: founders and investors shaping the future of disruptive technology and ideas and startup experts providing insights to entrepreneurs. It's where hundreds of startups across a variety of categories tell their stories to 10,000+ influencers from all around the world. It's the ultimate Silicon Valley experience where the leaders of the startup world gather to ask questions, make connections and be inspired.

SPIE Startup Challenge

Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Prize: $85,000 in cash and other prizes split among winning teams

The SPIE Startup Challenge is a high-stakes, global competition where entrepreneurs with light-enabled products have 5 minutes to pitch their businesses to a team of expert judges. Traditionally, the SPIE Startup Challenge is held annually at Photonics West in San Francisco; the largest research conference and trade show for light-based products in North America with over 1,300 companies and 22,000 attendees. 

Lemelson-MIT Student Prize

Location: Irvine, California, USA
Prize: Variable

The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize recognizes undergraduate teams and graduate students who have invented solutions in prize categories that represent significant sectors of the global economy. The recognition that college students receive from winning the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize provides new opportunities and support for students’ work as inventors.


USA Competitions

Tulane Business Model Competition

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Prize: $125,000 prize split between 3 finalists

Hosted by the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Tulane’s A. B. Freeman School of Business, this student startup competition is open to teams that include at least one degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate student from any college or university. The Tulane Business Model Competition seeks early-stage ventures that can demonstrate how they are adapting to their customers’ needs.


Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Prize: Variable

HATCH Pitch is the revolutionary pitch competition hosted by the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences & Festivals. Startups that join this pitch competition have four minutes to wow the judges for them to win a virtual funding of $1 million. To participate, your startup should have launched within the last two years and received less than $3 million in funding from other investors. 

Rice Business Plan Competition

Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Prize: Variable

Hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which is Rice University's internationally-recognized initiative devoted to the support of entrepreneurship, and Rice Business, the Rice Business Plan Competition offers an educational program mirroring real-world experience through this multi-day event. Student founders pitch to investors, receive feedback and advance their startup. There is also significant time designated for interaction with our judges and prize sponsors—providing valuable access and experience with both early-stage and later-stage investors.


Global Competitions

Hello Tomorrow Global Summit

Location: Paris, France, EU
Prize: Variable

The Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge is a world-renowned deep tech startup competition designed for science and deep tech entrepreneurs. At the Global Summit, 90 startup finalists selected from 5,000 applications from the Challenge will pitch in front of high-level jury members, to win 1 of 14 industry track prizes and reveal one Grand Winner.

Global Pitch

Location: Online
Prize: Global Pitch Golden Ticket; variable

The Global Pitch competition seeks to connect eligible startups from around the world to corporates, investors, accelerators, and the media. Taking place entirely online, it encompasses many categories and works in tandem with agencies from every major region. It focuses on investment, partnerships, and exposure.