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Interested to raise money for your startup? Colleges and Universities can be a great source of initial funds. You don't necessarily need to attend the educational institution to participate. I received a note from Danielle Shannon a current student at Pepperdine about their startup competition. They are soliciting anyone interested in raising money in the United States. Pepperdine has helped startup businesses secure $125 Million in funding since 2018 through this competition. So who else offers this type of assistance and where does Pepperdine rank? 


Pepperdine Most Fundable Companies
  • Pepperdine Most Fundable Companies
    • $0 no direct funding from the school
      • but winners will be featured at a showcase event in Malibu, CA in September, and are profiled in Entrepreneur Magazine. 
      • This national press has helped the winners secure $280M in funding since 2018
      • in 2020 the school ran a separate competition which allotted $1Mil for the top prize according to LA Ventures Association
    • 3,000 startups participated in 2023
    • The event is open to any US based startups
      • so you do not need to have attended the school.
    • Learn more and Apply now.
  • Rice University Startup Weekend
    • $1 million in cash and prizes across 
    • 42 teams from around the world competing
    • The Rice Alliance Startup Weekend provides seed funding and connections for student ventures.  
  • Columbia Startup Lab Challenge
  • MIT $100K Launch Competition
    • $300K in non-dilutive funding is awarded to new ventures each year through Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with winning team taking $100,000 grand prize, attracting innovative startups across various sectors. 
  • University of Texas at Austin  
    • Annual McCombs Real Estate Challenge: $250,000 in prizes, focusing on real estate ventures. 
    • Texas Venture Labs' Investment Competition: $15,000 top prize with $857M total awarded since 2010
    • Freed Family Pitch Competition: $60,000 in cash and prizes (previously known as DisrupTexas)
    • The real estate competition is refined to grad students from U Texas and other schools that get invited
  • Harvard HBS New Venture Competition
  • UPenn Startup Challenge  
    • $150,000 in cash prizes, in-kind support, and additional resources that teams have a chance to win 
    • University of Pennsylvania’s runs a Startup Challenge though their Venture Lab 
    • Refined to entrepreneurial alumni and Penn student entrepreneurs to showcase the best student-founded ventures from across Penn’s campus.
  • Standford BASES Startup Challenge
    • $100,000 in prize money. The prize money is split across categories, with the winning startup team receiving $35,000
    • 250 companies participate each year, who are judged by a top VCs and industry experts
  • Suffolk University Case Study Competition
    • $10k in prize money 
    • Instead of a company pitch this is a case study with real-life business problems. Contestants need to develop strategies to address key issues from the case in order to help existing companies achieve their targets. This happens in the Spring whereas the Law school hosts a similar event in Fall
    • Personally I attended Suffolk as a Grad student. I did not participate in the competition as a student but have tried to be helpful to organizers for some of the previous rounds as an alumni.


How We Built the List

I have not been able to find an all encompassing list ranking which colleges offer the most funding for 2023. I attempted a web search along with Bard/Gemini, Google's AI Bot, and Claude from Anthropic. I found Claude's results more robust, but still not all encompassing. 

Claude AI Search Result

The result does not provide yearly competition prize money nor do we get detail on the restrictions, as several in this result are not open publicly for non-students to compete. 

Bigger Picture

Competitions are just one avenue to secure funding via Universities. These schools often offer access to capital and support through grants, accelerators, or relationships with angel investors after the competitions. Not all founders need to have attended the school for some of these competitions as well. Some, as long as one of the founders is a student or alumni that qualifies. If you have found a College or University particularly helpful, or we missed one, let us know in the comments or reach out

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