Socially Responsible / Sustainable Business Plan Accelerators, Competitions, & Fellowships


There are many more business plan competitions than what you see below -- we're trying to keep our list to competitions with a CSR / Sustainable focus or track. To submit a new competition, or to update information on your competition, please contact ian.fisk@mentorcapitalnet.org.

We encourage social and environmental entrepreneurs to enter mainstream business plan competitions as well, but there are far too many of those for us to keep a comprehensive list.


Program Deadline Description and Prizes
Acara
MN USA
05/01/2014 Acara, a program of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, gives emerging entrepreneurs a chance to envision and launch successful social businesses. Since 2009, more than 300 students from 20 universities have participated in Acara's programs, guided by mentors in academia and industry to collaboratively explore business concepts and implement sustainable solutions while developing their leadership skills.

Top performing teams will receive awards from $500-$5000. Following the competition the best teams will be invited to apply for seed funding and ongoing incubation support. Teams will also have an opportunity to participate in the University of Minnesota Acara Summer Institute in India or equivalent in the US.
Acterra Business Environmental Awards
Santa Clara, CA USA
12/06/2013 Acterra Business Environmental Awards recognizes businesses whose programs show leadership, have a significant environmental benefit, have a potential model for business community, and demonstrate commitment.
 
Agora Partnerships Accelerator Program
Central and South America
2015 Applications not yet posted (sometime next Summer) Agora's Accelerator finds the best, early stage impact entrepreneurs in Central American and Mexico and works to help them grow their businesses and maximize their positive impact on the world.

They provide access to mentors, investors, and industry leaders – while also providing tailored consulting to help companies prepare themselves to be able to attract equity and debt investors.
American Dream Seekers
USA
08/01/2014 They provide the platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their business creations to a team of successful, highly talented business leaders and to a large audience of potential investors, peers, friends and family. It is their ultimate goal to provide a path of opportunity for every new business venture to get noticed and to achieve whatever resources are needed to get to the next level.

Chance to receive funding, expert advice and $5,000
Artemisia
São Paulo Brazil
06/30/2014 The Accelerator is an intensive program where entrepreneurs are constantly challenged to test in practice the new revenue models and refine their social impact in an environment of intensive co-creation and collaboration with low-income communities, other entrepreneurs, mentors and investors.

The program offers an opportunity to receive feedback from other entrepreneurs, specialists, and mentors.
Ashden
London England
Application will open in Autumn 2014 They champion and promote practical, local energy solutions that cut carbon, protect the environment, reduce poverty and improve people's lives. The program rewards high calibre, pioneering enterprises in the UK and developing world that share our vision of sustainable energy for all.

Prize-winners receive not just cash but global exposure and a tailored package of support to help them grow.
Ashoka Innovators for the Public
Arlington, VA USA
  Ashoka strives to shape a global, entrepreneurial, competitive citizen sector: one that allows social entrepreneurs to thrive and enables the world's citizens to think and act as changemakers who solve complex social problems.
 
Aspen Institute First Movers Fellowship
USA
Nomination period for 2015 hasn't begun The First Movers Fellowship is offered by the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program whose mission is to equip business leaders for the 21st century with a new management paradigm – the vision and knowledge to integrate corporate profitability and social value.
 
Better Ventures
SF Bay Area, CA USA
Ongoing Better Ventures is a venture capital firm that provides funding and support to companies creating scalable solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. They believe in the power of technology to address the most important issues of our time, from education and work to health and the environment. Better Ventures is the evolution of Hub Ventures, a successful startup accelerator for entrepreneurs building a better world.

They make make initial investments of $25,000 - $200,000 in early-stage companies and provide ongoing support and follow-on investments in later rounds.
BiD Network Varies by partner The program offers an array of business plan competitions. A competition is a perfect way to identify promising entrepreneurs, expose them internationally, and connect them with potential financiers.
 
Brigham Young University Social Venture Competition
Utah USA
  SVA connects student social entrepreneurs with the resources and knowledge to make their social venture idea a reality. They accomplish this by guiding student teams through a three-part curriculum: idea validation, product development, and execution.

Prizes from $50 to $5,000, as well as connections via student mentors.
Buckminster Fuller Challenge
USA
04/11/2014 The Buckminster Fuller Challenge is an annual international design Challenge awarding $100,000 to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems.

$100,000
Buckminster Fuller Institute
Brooklyn, NY USA
  The Buckminster Fuller Institute is dedicated to accelerating the development and deployment of solutions which radically advance human well being and the health of our planet's ecosystems. They aim to deeply influence the ascendance of a new generation of design-science pioneers who are leading the creation of an abundant and restorative world economy that benefits all humanity.
 
Clean Tech Open
Global
05/01/2014 The Cleantech Open Accelerator Program consists of a number of key activities and resources; extensive mentoring, training, business clinics, access to investors and capital, numerous opportunities to showcase to the media and the public, and the competition itself. The Cleantech Open runs the world's largest clean technology business competition and they're looking for the best clean technology ideas from around the world. All Participants can take full advantage of the programs offered, finding themselves on a highly accelerated path to business expansion.

Finalists will present there ideas in a three-minute pitch in front of a crowd of 1,000 investors, entrepreneurs, sponsoring companies, corporations, members of academia, press, and others interested in hearing your ideas and getting involved.
Compass Partners
USA
  Compass Partners provides resources, training and a vibrant support network to students with innovative ideas to change the world through business. They offer campus-based Fellowship programs that employ creative methods of education and make a deep investment in each student. The main program, the Compass Fellowship exposes 15 college freshmen at each university to the world of social entrepreneurship through an intensive personal development and social business training program. The Compass Fellowship currently runs at twelve universities worldwide.

Fellows are exposed to the four main Compass Fellowship events: a community-building Retreat, speed-networking Bootcamp, Shift Series Conference in Washington, DC, and a Graduation Reception in which Fellows present their ventures.
CREA
Zacatecas Mexico
  CREA trains and advises low-income women, who own microenterprises in rural communities to grow their businesses, generate jobs and open new distribution channels. Their mission is to generate employment opportunities. CREA empowers these women and fosters entrepreneurship to help alleviate poverty in their communities and reduce inequality in Mexico.
 
Dasra
Mumbai India
  Dasra is India's leading strategic philanthropy foundation working with philanthropists and social entrepreneurs to create large scale social change.
 
Duke Executive Summary Competition
Durham, NC USA
03/28/2014 The Duke Start-Up Challenge, founded in 1999, is designed to help Duke's entrepreneurship community flourish, with a year long entrepreneurship competition followed by an accelerator program.

$50,000-$500
Echoing Green Global Fellowship
USA
2015 Applications not yet released The Global Fellowship is a twenty-five year-old program for smart young leaders who are deeply connected to the needs and potential solutions that may work best for their communities.

A stipend of $80,000 for individuals, health insurance stipend, and leadership development and networking gatherings
Ennovent : Power to Empower Skills Enterprise Plan Competition
India
11/14/2012 The objective of this competition is to find and promote grassroot entrepreneurs across India that have mastered innovative and sustainable solutions in skill building for India.

"Rewards:The winners for the business plan category will receive the following rewards: National visibility, Network opportunities, and Non-financial support."
Entrepreneurs' Foundation of SVCF
Silicon Valley, CA USA
  Entrepreneurs’ Foundation provides privately held companies expert advice on corporate social responsibility and philanthropy so that they can both achieve their business goals and help their communities.
 
Enviu
Rotterdam Netherlands
  Enivu kick-starts impact-driven companies. Companies aimed at creating environmental and social impact. The products and services of there start-ups aim to improve the quality of life of as many people as possible in a sustainable way.

Develop partnerships with cross-sectoral organisations; and receive local/national/international media exposure.
Frontier Markets
India
  Frontier Markets seeks innovative solutions to bring high quality-low cost products into millions of Bottom of the Pyramid households in rural and peri-urban India.
 
Future of Fish   They work with entrepreneurs to demonstrate how innovation can drive sustainability in the seafood industry.
 
Global Social Benefit Incubator
Santa Clara, CA USA
  The GSBI is a hub for accelerating global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. The GSBI currently offers two capacity development programs to global social entrepreneurs, regardless of sector or business structure: the GSBI Accelerator, for more advanced social enterprises seeking to scale their business, and GSBI Online, for earlier stage ventures seeking basic business training.
 
Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition
Seattle, WA USA
2015 Applications not yet posted GSEC is an international student social business plan competition that challenges university-level students worldwide to use business principles to create sustainable, positive solutions to some of the world’s most challenging issues—poverty, health and development.

Up to $12,500 and GSEC provides teams an unparalleled experiential learning opportunity.
Global Social Venture Competition - Americas
Berkeley, CA USA
01/29/2014 Provides aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring, exposure, and monetary prizes to transform their ideas into businesses that will have positive real world impact.

$50,000 in cash and in-kind prizes
Harvard Social Enterprise Club Pitch for Change Competition
MA USA
01/06/2014 Pitch For Change is an elevator pitch contest and an opportunity to present a unique idea, business or product that creates social value in a significant and sustainable manner.

Cash prizes totaling $7,000. First Place: $6,000 + 3 consulting hours, Second Place: $4,000 + 2 consulting hours, Third Place: $2,000 + 1 consulting hour, Audience Choice: $500
Impact Engine
Chicago, IL USA
Accelerator Impact Engine is a 16-week accelerator program that supports for-profit businesses addressing today's societal and environmental challenges.

$25,000 of upfront cash in exchange for 7% equity in your company. They provide entrepreneurs with the resources, tools, and support they need to build market-based companies that change the world.
Investor's Circle
(National) USA
Ongoing Investors' Circle provides selected early-stage companies whose businesses address significant social or environmental issues with the opportunity to connect with and pitch to impact investors.
 
Mai Bangkok Business Challenge @ Sasin
Bangkok Thailand
2014 Applications closed A competition to encourage new ventures by instilling entrepreneurial spirit in young minds. The competition evaluates the venture's economic soundness, but more importantly the venture's abilities to address relevant social and environmental concerns.

Approx. $20,000 in cash prizes.
McCloskey Business Plan Competition: Klau Prize
Notre Dame, IN USA
2014 Applications not yet posted Formerly billed as the “Social Venture Competition,” the Klau award is now part of the McCloskey Business Plan Competition, and offers all ventures – both for-profit and nonprofits – the opportunity to compete for an additional $15,000 cash prize for people who are passionate about solving a particular social, humanitarian, or environmental problem.

Ventures will compete for McCloskey’s $25,000 Grand Prize. A grand total of nearly $300,000 is available in cash and in-kind prizes. Additional $15,000 for Klau Award.
McGinnis Venture Competition
Pittsburgh, PA USA
12/09/2013 The McGinnis Venture Competition brings together Carnegie Mellon's best and brightest student entrepreneurs to compete for $60k in investments. All participants receive crucial interaction with alumni entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, an opportunity to raise capital and valuable feedback on their ventures.

$60k in investments.
MIT IDEAS Competition
MA USA
Ongoing The IDEAS Competition is a campus-based innovation competition that encourages student teams to develop and implement projects that make a positive change in the world. Entries are judged on their innovation, feasibility, and community impact.

Up to $10,000.
Mulago Foundation
San Francisco, CA USA
  Mulago looks for the best solutions to the biggest problems in the poorest countries. They are unabashedly obsessed with impact: measuring it, funding it, and scaling it up. Their job is to find those most able to create change and get them what they need to do it.
 
NCIIA Sustainable Vision Grants
Hadley, MA USA
11/07/2014 Sustainable Vision grants fund educational programs in which technologies are created and commercialized to benefit people living in poverty.

Up to $50,000
NESsT   NESsT develops sustainable social enterprises that solve critical social problems in emerging market economies.
 
New Ventures Mexico  
 
Pepperdine Socially Minded Entrepreneur Award
Los Angeles, CA USA
01/31/2014 Students get a chance to apply the knowledge they’ve learned to fulfill their dreams of launching their own business.

A $10,000 grand prize will be awarded to the team whose plan best embodies the theme of social responsibility in business
Rock Health
San Francisco, CA USA
  Rock Health is powering the future of the digital health ecosystem, bringing together the brightest minds in technology and medicine to build better solutions.

Rock Health provides startups with funding and full-service support.
SandBox Network   Their mission is to accelerate young leaders and help them have a global impact before they become 30.
 
Seattle Pacific University Social Venture Plan Competition
Seattle, WA USA
03/14/14 The Social Venture Plan Competition encourages teams of students from diverse disciplines to develop a written plan that addresses dual bottom lines: financial and social.

Cash prizes
Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship
Palo Alto, CA USA
2015 Applications selected from existing pool The Skoll Foundation presents the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship each year to a select few social entrepreneurs who are solving the world's most pressing problems.

The Skoll Award includes a core support grant to the organization, to be paid over three years, and a noncash award to the social entrepreneur presented at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship every spring.
SOCENT Weekend   #SocEnt Weekend is a one-weekend, 50-hour, hands-on meetup, where you can meet like-minded social entrepreneurs, try building upon an idea that you've been thinking about, or simply have fun helping others build new companies that have a positive social impact.
 
Social Innovation Incubator
Portland, Oregon USA
  The Social Innovation Incubator helps start-up and entrepreneurial companies that are focused on creating innovations that benefit the environment and humanity by addressing significant and persistent social problems such as poverty, inequality, access to food and water, among many others.
 
Stanford Social E-Challenge
CA USA
04/13/2014 The Social E-Challenge program awards teams with exceptional ideas that generate positive social impact. Competition categories include health, education, economic development, and sustainability.
 
SVN Innovation Awards
San Francisco, CA USA
05/09/2014 The SVN Innovation Awards Program honors and promotes the next generation of leaders who are leveraging the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

"Each Selected Applicant will be awarded: (i) Two years of Social Venture Network Individual Level membership (value = $2600); (ii) waived Social Venture Network Conference registration fees for 2014 and 2015 (value = $3120); (iii) waived orientation fee for Social Venture Network Peer Circle participation (value = $500) (iv) a table at the Fall Conference’s Products and Services Expo (value = $700) Sponsor will also reimburse each Selected Applicant for travel and hotel expenses up to an aggregate of $1500 each to travel to and attend the Social Venture Network Fall 2014 Conference."
The Intel+UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge
Berkeley, CA USA
  The Intel+UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge is where the best engineers and scientists present how they plan to make the world a better place through their innovations and entrepreneurial skills.
 
Tufts Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition
Medford, MA USA
02/06/2014 A competition searching for companies that are dedicated to one or more of the following: creating a positive social impact, improving health/living conditions, upward economics/social mobility, or environmental impact

$100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.
Tulane Conscious Capitalism Business Plan Competition
USA
01/22/2013 The Tulane Business Plan Competition was founded by students in 2000, with the goal of teaching students interested in entrepreneurship the set of skills needed to start a new venture as well as to expose these young entrepreneurs to investors who could fund their businesses. In recent years, the contest expanded to include social entrepreneurship ventures from regional, national and international university students.

Cash prizes totaling $50,000.
Tulane NewDay Challenge
USA
03/19/2014 The NewDay Challenge awards up to $20,000 in seed funding to Tulane students dedicated to finding innovative, sustainable solutions to social challenges.

Up to $20,000
UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition
Berkeley, CA USA
01/30/2014 Launch, The UC Berkeley Startup Competition is one of the nation's marquee student entrepreneurship events celebrating new venture development.

Winner automatically placed into the final round of SkyDeck Accelerator screening process, and receives an option for 6 month SkyDeck placement.
UnLtd India
Mumbai India
  They find, fund and support exceptional individuals whose ideas, passion and entrepreneurial skills can bring about long-term solutions to India's social problems. Their seed financing and incubation support is designed to help you develop as a leader and successfully launch your social venture
 
Unreasonable Institute - Global
Boulder, CO USA
2014 Applications closed The institute unites a dozen young entrepreneurs for 5 weeks during each summer in Boulder, Colorado. During that time, they'll live and work with 50 world-class mentors, form relationships with up to 30 impact investment funds, and prepare to launch financially self-sustaining, globally scalable ventures that can serve the needs of at least one million people.
 
Verb Social Innovation Challenge
Austin, TX USA
Varies by partner Verb operates massive entrepreneurship competitions that accelerate thousands of early-stage social entrepreneurs around the world by connecting them to the money and resources they need to grow.
 
Village Capital   Village Capital uses the power of peer support to build enterprises that change the world.
 
Villgro
India
  Villgro incubates, funds and supports early-stage, innovative social-enterprises that impact the lives of India's rural poor
 
Mentor Capital Network Sustainable Business Plan Competition
USA
2015 Applications not yet posted The MCN provides mentorship, business plan feedback, and prizes to entrepreneurs who are starting and growing sustainable businesses.

Primary prize is mentorship and extensive business plan feedback. Cash and in-kind prizes worth $50,000 are also available.