The Startup Internship Awards are awarded to select students who will spend the summer interning at a startup and who demonstrate both a commitment to entrepreneurship at Penn and to pursuing an entrepreneurial career. The objective of this award is to provide financial support for students who would be making a financial sacrifice by taking unpaid or underpaid summer internships at startup companies.

How To Apply

Student Eligibility Requirements
  • University of Pennsylvania students currently enrolled in a degree granting program and who will be returning to Penn as an enrolled student for at least one full academic semester after the internship are eligible to apply.
  • Individuals who are currently on a leave of absence, who are completing their academic program in May or August of the current calendar year, or who are alumni of Penn are not eligible to apply.
  • Student’s compensation from the startup must be below $1250 USD per week. This includes all forms of compensation from the startup, both monetary and in-kind.
  • MBA students who are sponsored by and having their tuition paid by their previous employer are not eligible to apply.
  • Previous Entrepreneurial Intern Fellows or Startup Internship Award winners are not eligible to receive an additional award.
  • Funding received from Penn Career Services, MBA Career Management, Student Financial Services, or from another Penn funding source will be taken into account when applications are reviewed. Priority will be given to students without an additional/alternative source of funding. Priority will also be given to students who do not have another source of income from other paid work.
  • Students applying for an award may not be on the founding team of the startup.
Company Eligibility Requirements
  • Company should be a startup in the early market penetration stage (i.e. it is unlikely that a student interning at a 10 year old company or SMB will receive an award, even if it meets the revenue and employee criteria).
  • Company must have less than $25 million in revenue (as of company’s last full fiscal year) and fewer than 200 employees. Companies are not required to disclose exact details, but should confirm that they meet the stated revenue and employee count requirements in the company letter.
  • Ineligible company types include but are not limited to: consulting firms, search funds, financial services firms, design firms, VC/PE firms, accelerators, incubators, or internships secured through third-parties or programs that require a student to pay to intern/secure an internship/participate in an internship program, even if the company ‘considers itself a startup’ or has an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. Also nonprofits are not eligible unless they have a clear revenue model that is not just donation or grant based. The student must be spending 100% of the internship working at/with the startup.
  • The startup may be bootstrapped, have VC/angel funding, be acquired through a search fund, etc.
  • No more than 2 interns at a particular company will receive a Startup Internship Award. There is no guarantee that both interns at a company will receive an award. In the event that more than 2 interns at a company apply for the award, the founder or direct supervisor of the applicants will be asked to provide input regarding who should receive the award.
Internship Eligibility Requirements
  • Internships should engage students in the day-to-day work of a founder during the instability/development phase of a startup that is working to scale. Applications from interns who will be working closely and in person with the founding team and/or senior leaders will be prioritized.

  • The award is designed to support students who will be actively contributing to the growth of a start-up over their summer by gaining functional skills such as sales, marketing, operations, business development, finance, product management, or product development.

  • Students must be interning full time (35+ hours/week) for at least 8 consecutive weeks during the summer. Summer is defined as from the day after the last day of the Spring semester to the day before the first day of Fall classes. Work done with the startup outside of these dates does not count toward the internship requirement for this award.

  • Students are required to accept an internship offer at a startup before applying for an award.
Evaluation Criteria
Venture Lab will strive to award students whose applications meet the following criteria:

  • Student has a strong entrepreneurial background and/or entrepreneurial career ambitions;
  • The summer internship experience is clearly entrepreneurial and the student intern will develop/improve entrepreneurial skills;
  • Student has a demonstrated history of contribution to entrepreneurship at Penn/Wharton, and to a lesser extent, the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community;
  • Student, internship and company meet all of the eligibility requirements.
  • Preference will be given to students interning at a startup founded by a Penn alumnus or student.

Award Information & Requirements
  • Students who are selected to receive an award must complete the full terms of their internship with the startup. Students who leave their internship early or otherwise do not fulfill the internship terms may be asked to return the award funding.

  • Selected students are required to complete all tasks and submit all paperwork required to process their award payment. Students who do not complete the assigned tasks by the requested deadline may forfeit their award.

  • Students who are selected to receive an award can expect to receive the award funds in early-to-mid-August, at the earliest. This is due to the timing of Penn's fiscal year end and Penn's standard timeline for processing and distributing awards.

  • Students are expected to write and submit both a thank you letter to the award's donors and a reflection outlining the student's internship experience and learning.

How To Apply & Timeline
  • Eligible students can apply online

  • Deadline to apply: Sunday, June 2, 2024, 11:59 pm Eastern

    • Applications submitted after this deadline may be considered only if the reason for the late submission is due to the startup's failure to provide the student with the required internship offer letter before the posted deadline. If considered, these applications will only be reviewed and considered for an award after all of the applications that were submitted on time are reviewed and award decisions are made.

  • Review process: Applications are not reviewed on a rolling basis. The selection committee will review all applications after the deadline. Students will be notified if they will or will not receive an award. The date of notification will depend on the number of applications the committee needs to review. Students can generally expect to receive an email notification sometime in the three to four weeks following the application deadline.


What is the average amount an awardee can expect to receive?
Award amounts vary and depend on the quantity and quality of applications received. The compensation an intern will receive from the startup is taken into account. The Startup Internship Award is competitive and not all students who apply will receive an award, even if the eligibility requirements are met.

Does Venture Lab provide matching awards and/or school credit?
No, Venture Lab does not offer compensation matching awards.

No, Venture Lab does not provide school credit. For questions regarding receiving school credit for an internship, students should talk to an academic advisor.

Do I have to accept an internship offer before applying?
Yes. Students are required to accept an internship offer at a startup before applying for an award. The offer letter/contract signed by both parties must be included with the application. The signed offer letter must include the student’s employment dates and hours per week, a description of the internship roles and responsibilities, the location of the internship, contact information for the student’s direct supervisor, and any and all compensation, including in-kind.
How do I find an internship at a startup?
We suggest that students make appointments with the career advisors at MBA Career Management or Penn Career Services. Both offices have staff members who work to identify opportunities for students interested in an entrepreneurial career path. Additionally, students are encouraged to leverage the Penn/Wharton alumni network to find out about any startup internship opportunities.
Does having a paid or unpaid internship increase my chances of receiving an award or the amount I could receive?
Students are encouraged to negotiate the highest level of compensation (including in-kind compensation) possible from the company, while keeping in mind that startup internships may not offer as much compensation as those at more established companies. Students should not consider this award a substitute for negotiating a salary. However, to be eligible to apply for an award, the applicant’s compensation from the startup (including salary and other compensation) must be below $1250 per week.
Is the award taxable income?
Yes, award winners must report the award when they file taxes for that calendar year. International students/non-US citizens will have a tax rate of 30% automatically deducted from their award check. In January after the award year, students who are US Citizens will receive a 1099 form mailed to their permanent address listed on their W9.

International students will receive a 1042s form in the mail in March. These forms are mailed directly from Penn’s Accounts Payable Office. Students with questions about these forms should contact AP directly at 215-898-2626 or Please note that Venture Lab cannot provide any advice or guidance regarding taxes, or send students duplicate copies of these forms.

Venture Lab is grateful to the donors who support the Startup Internship Award

This award would not be possible without their generous support.
The Rosalind (WG’76) and Roy (WG’76) Neff Entrepreneurial Internship Fund
The Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund
Anonymous, in honor of Dr. William Zucker, Meshulam Riklis Professor Emeritus of Creative Management, The Wharton School
Kathryn K. Stewart, WG'88, PAR'12, PAR'17 and Robert Alexander Stewart, WG'88, PAR'12, PAR'17
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