The following outlines can guide you through the idea validation, business model development, and launch of your venture:

Consult with an Academy Navigator

To act as a catalyst for success, the Social Venture Academy connects each team with a student mentor called a navigator. Social Venture Academy navigators meet with teams to help them progress through idea validation, business model development, and launch. All navigators have a background in entrepreneurship, and many are MBA or MPA students with professional experience and insights. Navigators actively work with ventures to overcome their challenges, achieve their goals, and change our world for the better. Connecting with a Social Venture Academy navigator is the first step to receiving funding.

Expert Feedback

Student teams in the Social Venture Academy have the opportunity to present to representatives of the Ballard Center for Social Impact who evaluate ventures based on the following investment criteria:

  • Innovative Product/Service — The product or service has been market-tested and margins are profitable enough to launch.
  • Marketing Strategy — How is the business planning to grow and expand? The market strategy has primed the venture for successful scaling.
  • Social Impact — How focused is the venture on fixing a societal problem in addition to making a profit? Can social impacted be measured and forecasted?
  • Business Model — How has the business model been evaluated and improved? Is it sustainable?
  • Management Team — A strong, balanced team has been built that can lead the company and work successfully within constraints.

Throughout the pitching process, venture teams receive invaluable feedback from Ballard Center advisors. Many are or have been involved with private equity or venture capital as a profession which enables them to help ventures best position themselves to receive outside funding. 

Cash Funding

Funding opportunities fall into four categories:

  • Best Idea is focused on early ideation and awards are $100 to $500.
  • Best Product is based on the founding team’s ability to execute on their ideas and develop a working minimum viable product. Teams may receive $500 to $1,000.  
  • Best Venture is based on the team’s demonstration of solid market traction with well-developed operational plans for the entity. Teams may be awarded up to $5,000. Once awarded Best Venture, teams will be able to work with the judges to set milestone funding as the venture launches as generates revenue. This milestone funding is an additional $12,000.

Teams are not competing against each other to receive this funding—all ventures that demonstrate high potential can receive award money in each phase. 

Additional Resources

Social Venture Academy Handbook

Best Venture Example: Telenua Business Plan

How to Calculate Your Social ROI

Other Competitions

Students are also encouraged to participate in other social business competitions to gain exposure and funding for their ideas. Check out the following programs: