Rules & Eligibility

The following rules are binding throughout the entire duration of the Startup Challenge and Showcase. By participating in the Startup Challenge and Showcase, all team members, regardless of Penn affiliation, accept these rules and regulations and agree to abide by them. Venture Lab reserves the right to disqualify any team and/or team member who violates these rules or University policy.

Venture Lab reserves the right to change these rules at any time. Changes will be posted in writing on the Startup Challenge and Showcase website and on the SurveyMonkey Apply platform.

To strengthen knowledge of business fundamentals, it is recommended that students who have not completed MGMT 230 or MGMT 801 (or a similar intensive course on essential entrepreneurship and business topics) take part or all of Wharton’s Entrepreneurship Specialization on the Coursera platform. You can audit an individual class on Coursera without subscribing or starting a free trial. After creating a Coursera account, search for the course you want to audit (ex. “Entrepreneurship 1: Developing the Opportunity”). Select that course, select Enroll, and then select “Audit the course” at the bottom of the enrollment page.

Updated December 2022

Eligibility Requirements
Team Leader

The Team Leader must be a currently enrolled, degree-candidate student of the University of Pennsylvania (graduate or undergraduate) at the time of the first round deadline. The Team Leader must have played a significant role in conceiving the venture, hold a key management role in the venture, be actively involved in the business venture, and may be required to be the primary presenter for the pitch events related to the Startup Challenge and Showcase. Students on a Leave of Absence are not permitted to be a Team Leader, although they are permitted to be a Team Member. The Team Leader must be able to be physically present (if relevant) for all events related to the Startup Challenge and Showcase, including but not limited to the Semifinals and Finals pitch rounds.

Team Members

  • Teams are permitted to have members who are not students at the University of Pennsylvania, but the Team Leader must lead the team and drive the venture development. Non-members of the University community may not use University of Pennsylvania students primarily as a vehicle to participate in the Startup Challenge and Showcase.  Venture Lab may disqualify a team if it determines in its sole judgment, that a Penn student is being used as a front by others.
  • There is no maximum or minimum number of people on each team. Individual students may enter, and an individual may participate on more than one team.


  • To be eligible to participate in the Startup Challenge and Showcase, a venture must be a new venture/new business, started during a team member’s enrollment at the University of Pennsylvania. Ventures launched before a team member enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania are not eligible.
  • Non-profit ventures are eligible.
  • Businesses that have received more than $150k in institutional funding are not eligible, unless the funding was received while the Team Leader/team members were concurrently active students at the University of Pennsylvania.
    • For example, a student who takes a leave of absence after junior year, raises over $150K in institutional funding while on leave, and then returns for senior year, is not eligible to enter that venture in the Startup Challenge and Showcase. A student who raises over $150K in funding over the summer between the 1st and 2nd year of the MBA program is eligible to enter that venture in the Startup Challenge and Showcase.
    • Teams who use a team member to circumvent this criteria will not be eligible to participate.
    • Institutional funding includes any funding from angel investors, VCs, and/or accelerator/incubator programs.

Original Work

  • All submitted materials must be the original work of the participating team.
  • By submitting an entry, a team and each of its individual members warrants that the entry does not infringe any proprietary or other right of others.

Use of Survey Monkey Apply
Venture Lab uses SurveyMonkey Apply as the application platform for all programs and awards. By applying to any of the programs or awards offered by Venture Lab, applicants agree to submit and/or upload data to SurveyMonkey Apply and acknowledge acceptance of SurveyMonkey Apply terms and conditions (

Submissions to the Startup Challenge will be shared with Venture Lab staff, and with the judges assigned to review the submissions. Submissions and other data collected as part of the Startup Challenge also may be shared with faculty and researchers for the purpose of academic research and/or improvement of the Startup Challenge and Venture Lab’s programming. Results from research of this type may be published in the aggregate, and without disclosing personally identifiable information about entrants.

At times, actual and prospective participants in the Startup Challenge ask that confidentiality agreements/NDAs be secured from mentors, organizers and/or judges. While the organizers of the Startup Challenge appreciate the concerns behind these requests, as a matter of convention and practicality, confidentiality agreements/NDAs are not signed as part of the Startup Challenge. Judges and mentors are investors, entrepreneurs, business professionals, service providers and other friends of the Wharton School & University of Pennsylvania. They are accustomed to handling confidential information and participate so as to support the education of the student participants. However, the final decision about participating in the Startup Challenge and about what information will be shared is the responsibility of the team.

Please note that the Startup Showcase, the Semifinals and Finals, are open to the public, including members of the media/press. It is the responsibility of the participants to keep confidential information confidential and to maintain the confidentiality of their own intellectual property.

If invited to participate in the Startup Showcase, participants authorize the Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania to use their names, interviews and likenesses in all media, including but not limited to video, print and electronic media, in such manner as Penn may deem advisable for the purpose of publicizing the work of Penn and in materials controlled by Penn. Participants acknowledge that they are not entitled to reimbursement for the use of their name, photograph or participation in any and all media developed about and by Penn. (Please note that MBA students have already agreed to this as a condition of their enrollment at Wharton.)

The names and affiliations of all judges will be made public at the Startup Showcase. After judging their assigned submissions, judges will be asked if they are willing to be connected directly with those participants. If they do not opt-in to being connected, the Startup Showcase organizers will not reveal the identity of judges that read any particular submission.

The Startup Challenge has three rounds – First Round, Semifinals and Finals. Prior to and during each round, participants are not permitted to contact the judges with the purpose of influencing the judging process. Any such action will result in the disqualification of the participant and his/her team from the Startup Challenge. Participants are permitted to contact judges once the judging for the round in which they are participating has closed, if the judge has agreed to share his/her contact information. Judges and participants who have a prior relationship are expected to recuse themselves from that particular judge-participant match-up.

If a team does not want actual or potential individuals or members of a particular organization to judge their submission because of a conflict of interest (ex. an investor from a VC firm that invested in a competitor), the team may request recusal. The Startup Challenge organizers will make a determination on such requests.
Disqualification of Entry or Participant

Venture Lab reserves the right to disqualify any participant, team and/or submission for good cause, including the following reasons:

  • Violation of the University’s Code of Student ConductCode of Academic Integrity or other policy
  • Violation of any local, state or federal law
  • Content that is pornographic in nature
  • The venture was previously awarded a Grand Prize in the Wharton Business Plan Competition or PWSC
  • In Venture Lab’s estimation, the submission does not present sufficient content or material appropriate to merit sending to judges for evaluation and feedback
  • The team or submission has not complied with applicable rules
  • The team or submission does not meet the eligibility requirements of the Startup Challenge

Other Agreements & Relationships
The organizers of the Startup Challenge and Showcase, Venture Lab, The Wharton School, and the University of Pennsylvania take no responsibility for agreements made or relationships that develop between any of the competition participants, judges, mentors, sponsors or other third-parties. This includes the decision regarding how to distribute any cash or in-kind awards among team members. Venture Lab will release the award to the individual or entity designated by the Team Leader and approved by the team members.

University Claims on Student-Developed Property
Students at the University of Pennsylvania who develop new technologies and/or new ventures while enrolled at the University can be assured that the University does not have a claim on the intellectual property of the student’s technology or venture unless one of the following applies:

  • The student is employed by the University and the technology or invention is the result of or related to his or her employment;
  • The student has worked under a research grant or other research sponsorship;
  • The invention is made jointly with a faculty member, Penn employee, or other person required to assign their rights to Penn;
  • The student is commercializing a technology or discovery that was made by a faculty member or other University researcher or employee;
  • The student has engaged services of a University department and has agreed otherwise as a condition of receiving such services.

In general, except as noted above, students in degree-granting programs are encouraged to put their efforts into seeking the advice and facilitation of faculty members and other resources at the University with the assurance that such action in itself will not result in an intellectual property claim on their work by the University. Students with questions are encouraged to contact the Penn Center for Innovation with questions about Penn technology and intellectual property. If a team is building a venture based on technology/IP from Penn or another academic institution, that team must have negotiated the rights to use/license the IP before the deadline for the Semifinals submission in mid-April.

Payment of Awards
For select programs/awards, the applicant will have the option to have the award paid to the venture or to the individual applicant. If the applicant decides to have an award paid to a venture, the company must be incorporated and have an EIN. If the applicant is an international student (non-US Citizen or Permanent Resident), and decides to have an award paid to the applicant, then the University will automatically withhold 30% of the award as tax. Please note that it can take several weeks to several months to incorporate and receive an EIN, so it is recommended that you begin the process well in advance. Failure to do so may result in requiring the award to be paid to an individual, depending on the timing related to the end of the University’s fiscal year. Failure to deposit an award check before the expiration date may result in forfeiture of the award.