The Wharton Business Plan Competition
Launched in 1998, the Wharton Business Plan Competition (WBPC) is among the leading global university-run business plan competitions. The WBPC is a comprehensive platform, spanning the entire academic year, that helps student entrepreneurs and their teams develop and launch their businesses, and provides a network for brainstorming, feedback, and future business opportunities. Participating teams develop their ideas with guidance from top business leaders who serve as mentors and judges.
The WBPC is open to all students at the University of Pennsylvania and, since its inception, has drawn over 150 student teams annually, comprising nearly 400 participants from schools across the University of Pennsylvania.
- a structured educational entrepreneurial experience;
- access to experienced entrepreneurs through the Mentor Program;
- interaction with seasoned venture capitalists;
- training in business plan writing, the legal issues of entrepreneurship and business plan financial development;
- introduction to entrepreneurial resources both on campus and regionally.
Learning Components – Mentor Program
The Mentor Program matches student teams with experienced entrepreneurs, seasoned business managers and venture capitalists who provide insight into the business world and, in doing so, help to shape specific aspects of the students’ concepts or plans. Ongoing interaction between students and mentors beyond the Wharton Business Plan Competition is encouraged.
Judges provide valuable feedback to students on the venture concepts at every phase of the Wharton Business Plan Competition. Selected judges bring experience and knowledge of the venture process to the WBPC. The WBPC committee makes every effort to ensure a fair and equitable process. Guidelines for judging-strictly maintained-dictate that each judge reads a given business concept, overview or plan only once during the competition.
Phase 1-Advisory Phase/Brief Business Concept
Held in the fall, Phase 1 encourages participation by as many students as possible through the development and appraisal of a business concept. This is a noncompetitive phase where ideas are reviewed and critiqued, but neither scored nor ranked against each other.
Phase 2-Competitive Phase/Business Overview
As the first competitive phase, Phase 2 requires students to submit a more detailed description of the business concept, its potential market and likely competitors. These business overviews are ready by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and industry experts, who rank the feasibility of the proposed businesses. At the end of phase 2, 25 semi-finalists are selected through a rigorous judging process.
Phase 3-Semi-Finals/Full Business Plan
Phase 3 invites the 25 semi-finalists to describe their concepts in a full business plan, as well as present their plans before a panel of judges during a five-minute pitch. The process of putting together a full business plan encourages students to detail all aspects of launching, growing and managing a new venture; pitching to judges provides a real-life opportunity to sell the business to professional experts. Also in Phase 3, teams compete against other semi-finalists in one of three, self-selected, industry tracks: Life sciences/healthcare, information technology and other. Eight of the 24 semi-finalists advance to the final round of competition-the “Venture Finals”.
- Wharton Business Plan Competition ‘Pitch Day’ 2011: Semi-finalists in the 2011 Wharton Business Plan Competition pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who will select the “Great 8” for the Venture Finals (Credit: Maya Spitzer).
Phase 4-Venture Finals
The premier event of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, the Venture Finals is a unique opportunity for the “Great Eight” finalists to present, in a longer format, their business plans to distinguished judges, who will select the winners. The Venture Finals attracts an audience of over 200 venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, industry specialists, attorneys, local business leaders, alumni, students and media representatives. After these presentations, the judges adjourn and deliberate the Grand Prize, Second Prize and Third Prize. While the judges are deliberating, the entire audience and public can convene for a reception during which each Great Eight team delivers a 1-2 minute Elevator Pitch on their concept; following these pitches, the audience votes on the winner of the People’s Choice Award.