Startup Competition Guide


Startup competitions that offer the largest cash prize

Startup World Cup and 43North offer their winners prizes of $1 million

Innovation series by Steven Loeb
April 13, 2017
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Startup competitions are becoming increasingly pervasive, and for good reason.

There are so many startups out there right now vying for attention and dollars that it can be a little, err.. I mean extremely difficult separating the wheat from the chaff.

As a journalist, I get so many pitches from so many companies, I have a hard time knowing which ones are really worth covering. But startup competitions and startup challenges can help in the vetting process.

In fact, Vator has been holding its own competitions, using VatorX, to find and filter for the best startups. We've had some very successful and notable winners in the past that have gone on to raise big funding rounds including Thumbtack, DogVacay, Pokitdok, Grovo, Udemy and Apartment List, to name a few. 

Startup competitions are a great resource, not only for those looking for startups, but for startups themselves. 

Since our community of entrepreneurs and investors look to Vator for startup information, we're launching a weekly guide to the best startup competitions around the world. You can also take a look at VatorX. [] -- a repository of hundreds of startup competitions and challenges around the world. 

If you have a startup competition or challenge, feel free to list it on VatorX

As part of our weekly series, we'll look at top competitions with big cash prizes, as well as competitions that have teed up the most promising startups, to finding popular startup competitions you need to know about. 

So let's start with the startup competitions that offer the biggest cash prizes.  

Description: "Startup World Cup is an event organized by Fenox Venture Capital that is dedicated to launching and advising the world's next wave of leading entrepreneurs. We are excited to set a precedent for attracting the world’s brightest minds across the globe and look forward to having you participate in solving the planet's biggest challenges through ground-breaking solutions that move ecosystems forward."

Prize: $1 million in funding

Previous winners: founded in 2016, Startup World Cup held its first competition in 2017, with UniFa, a Japanese IoT solution for tracking kindergarteners’ physical and mental growth, winning the grand prize.

Description: "Together, we make a bold, fearless, beautiful, entrepreneurial city on the rise.
Together, we make BUFFALO."

 Prize: The grand prize is $1 million, with a total of $5 million in startup capital being shared by eight companies. In addition to cash, 43North winners receive incubator space, expert mentorship, and ten years of freedom from state taxes.

Previous WinnersPainless1099, ACV Auctions, Cleanslate UV, HigherMe, Plum

Description: "Accelerate Michigan highlights the state as a powerhouse for business opportunity and next generation technology. The competition features the best and brightest seed-stage businesses to regional investors while awarding nearly $1,000,000 in prizes. Since inception, previous prize winners have fueled over 1000 jobs and raised more than $550,000,000 in venture capital."

Prize: $500,000 Grand Prize and another $500,000 in cash and in-kind prizes

Previous Winners: Banza, SkySpecs, Varsity News Network, Algal Scientific, Celsee Diagnostics, Armune BioScience

Description: "G-Startup Worldwide is a global startup competition held around the world to find the most innovative, early stage startups, invest $1,000,000 in them, support them with a global network and enable them to change the world."

Prize$300,000 total, including $50,000 investment for Regional Winners and an additional $250,000 investment for the Grand Prize Winner. 

Also includes are one year G-Network membership and a three day mentorship bootcamp at Google’s headquarters.

Previous Winners: App Annie, Polar Rose, Hyperverge, DiDi

Description: "Startupfest has grown into a global gathering of the world's best entrepreneurs, founders, investors, and mentors. It features world-class content, from back-of-napkin ideas to champagne-popping exits, across three days of keynotes, interactive how-to sessions, thought-provoking predictions, and a healthy dose of irreverence."

Prize: $200,000

Previous WinnersBlynk,, HelloMD

Description: "Take your business invention from inception to commercialization by participating in the Innovation Awards contest – the most lucrative business plan competition and capital acceleration opportunity in Florida."

Prize: There are different cash prizes for different levels, the largest being $100,000 for first place in the post-revenue business category. Second place is $50,000.

Other prizes include $5,000 for community college or university student; $10,000 for veteran-owned business; at least $20,000 for first place and $15,000 for second place for a business that qualifies for the pre-revenue business category.

Previous Winners: IRIS, Accountingfly, Robotics Unlimited

Description: "A university-wide event, the competition draws entries from recent alumni, faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate applicants from across the university."

Prize: $100,000

Previous Winners: Hire Notes, OnGuard, Myoelectra

Description: "Since 2012, Arch Grants has awarded more than $5.2 million in cash grants to 96 startup businesses that were willing to call St. Louis home. With the help of our program and support services, these companies have gone on to retain over 330 jobs, generate nearly $48 million in revenue, and attract over $100 million in follow-on capital. Arch Grants Companies are growing at a fantastic pace."

Prize: $50,000 equity-free grants to innovative and scalable startups that agree to locate their business in St. Louis for a period of at least one year.

Previous Winners: Appbase, Jobs Unite, Swizzle, Betabox

Description: "1ST50K is a startup competition for startup business ideas that offers extensive support from a broad business network, pro-bono development services, and up to $50,000 in cash grants to entrepreneurs to establish or locate their businesses in Cape Girardeau, Missouri."

Prize: In addition to the $50,000, startups also get business development support services, membership at Codefi, formal introductions and access to a broad network of successful entrepreneurs.

Previous Winners: Kitchen a la cart, Nutlock, Impress Software

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Related companies, investors and entrepreneurs

Varsity News Network
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