The Brown Venture Prize
EMPOWERING THE NEXT BIG IDEA
The $50k Brown Venture Prize is designed to empower the most advanced entrepreneurial ventures by Brown students. It supports teams who have identified a significant opportunity, and whose ventures have the potential to create “impact at scale”. The prize is agnostic with respect to what sectors or industries ventures are working in, or even whether they are commercial, social, or have blended approaches. The essential thing is that teams have identified an opportunity or challenge and are thinking big about how to solve it. The Brown Venture Prize is intended to help them accelerate and scale those solutions. Winners will receive prize money, critical mentorship, and access to leaders in the Brown entrepreneurial community and beyond.
“I realized that if I didn’t take a chance to start something that had the potential to be as important as I thought it could be, I wouldn’t get this chance again for a long time. There’s something really satisfying about the timeline of developing an idea, planning, executing, and adjusting nonstop. That’s what entrepreneurship is, and that’s why I love it.”
— Neil Parikh ’11, Casper Co-founder
Prize winners will split up to $50,000 in prize money that is designed to help them launch their high-impact ventures into the world.
A NETWORK OF SUPPORT
Prize winners will have access to a deep and knowledgeable roster of mentors, industry contacts, and experienced entrepreneurs.
VIP EVENT IN NYC
Prize winners will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City — hosted by Brown alumni and Casper co-founders Luke Sherwin ’12 and Neil Parikh ’11 — and meet with venture capitalists and industry contacts.
WANT TO START THE NEXT BIG IDEA?
Do I have to be a commercial venture to apply?
Of course not! The Brown Venture Prize is meant to foster “high-impact” ventures and that impact can be commercial, social, or, in many cases, some blend of the two. What matters most is that it is attempting to address a significant problem and that it has a working hypothesis, and perhaps even some initial findings, about how this might be achieved.
Can I apply as a solo founder?
While we don’t have a strict rule against it, we strongly prefer applicants who apply as a team, and ideally ones whose members have worked together. Entrepreneurship is a tough undertaking and we have found that it almost always takes a team of people to pull off building a successful venture. As such we tend to place a heavy emphasis on the quality of the team as a whole in addition to the skills and qualities each individual member brings to the table. The ability to work well together is probably one of the highest predictors of success. Hence the old adage: an ‘A’ team with a ‘B’ idea is better than a ‘B’ team with an ‘A’ idea.
What are you looking for most in applicants?
Above all, we value passion for the problem that they’re trying to solve and the willingness to work hard to find a solution. The ability to deal with unclear answers is also a major plus, as well as a certain amount of resilience in order to cope with the inevitable pivots, dead-ends, and doubts that are an unavoidable part of the entrepreneurial process. Other than that, we believe that great entrepreneurs come in all different forms and from all different backgrounds.
How can I get help with writing my Brown Venture Prize application?
If you are interested in applying and would like to receive mentorship from an alumna or local entrepreneur, please fill out this form by January 5, 2018, so we can match you with a potential application mentor.
How does the Brown Venture Prize compare to other awards? Explore grants, for example, or Breakthrough Lab?
The Brown Venture In many ways, the Brown Venture Prize is a natural extension of Brown’s creative, problem-solving DNA. Our goal is two-fold: (1) to support world class entrepreneurs, and (2) to develop high-quality ventures that can effect scalable solutions to serious problems. Since we are situated within the University, we take a supportive and rigorous approach to both.
Can I apply to The Brown Venture Prize and Breakthrough Lab?
Yes you can! In fact, the applications are similar, though the main difference is that Breakthrough Lab is designed to accelerate emerging ventures over the summer in Providence, and has a host of programmatic components to it (the funding invividuals receive through B-Lab is actually a living stipend to support them for the summer). To learn more about Breakthrough Lab, see the information page here. The Brown Venture Prize, by contrast, is designed to support high impact ventures which are ready to launch into the world and need critical resources to send them on their way. To the extent that there is a “typical” path, teams are likely to receive Explore or Expand grants, then do Breakthrough Lab, and finally apply (and hopefully win) the Brown Venture Prize as they are nearing their graduation from Brown. If a team wins the Brown Venture Prize and is simultaneously accepted into B-Lab, then they would be ineligible for the B-Lab summer stipend.
How far along does my venture need to be? Just an idea? Revenue? Already closed a seed investment from Mark Cuban?
A good idea is a great place to start, though we do prefer teams that have taken some thoughtful and concerted action on that idea (talked to prospective users, started building an MVP, etc.). It’s also great when a team has taken the time to think through what the roadmap to success might look like and how to get there (knowing, of course, that things can, and do, change quickly, when building a venture).
What if I’m working on something deeply technical? Do you support ventures like mine?
Yes, definitely, and we fully recognize that ventures require a wide variety of support, including those that are working on deeply technical problems, including technology originating at Brown. In fact, we work hard to provide as many technical resources as possible (including lab space, technical advisors, etc.) and work hard to tailor the program to the specific needs of each venture.
How can I get involved with the Brown Venture Prize (if I am not a student or interested in applying)?
Are you an alumna or entrepreneur looking to give back your time to mentor? We are recruiting mentors for any student interested in applying to the Brown Venture Prize. Please fill out this short form to sign up to potentially mentor a BVP applicant!
• Ventures are encouraged to apply as a team (2-3 members) that include at least one current Brown student — undergraduate or graduate — as a founder (students graduating in the Fall 2017 – Spring 2018 academic year are also eligible). Solo founders will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but we have a strong preference for teams. Students from other schools are eligible to participate, but there needs to be a Brown founder.
• Students from all departments and schools are encouraged to apply.
• Successful applicants will be seriously advancing a high impact venture of their own design. We are sector agnostic in our venture selection process. The venture team should, however, have a thorough understanding of the unmet need they seek to address, be able to clearly articulate a value proposition to address that need, and propose a financially sustainable model to enable the venture to have significant impact, whether it is for-profit or not-for-profit.
• Venture prize finalists must be available to participate in workshops in preparation for the Thursday, March 15 Pitch Night.
Brown Venture Prize Applicants can submit their materials via Ufunds, with one team member acting as the point person.
2/15/2018 at 12:00 PM
Applications close on February 15th at 12:00 pm noon. Late application will not be considered so make sure to submit it in advance if you can.
FINALIST VENTURES NOTIFIED
The Brown Venture Prize Selection Committee will review all applications and then select a small group of finalists, who will receive notification on March 3rd.
3/5/2018 – 3/14/2018
VENTURE PRIZE WORKSHOPS FOR FINALISTS
Finalists will receive specialized workshops to help them prepare for the final pitch night – workshops will focus on pitch mechanics, presentation, and substantive evaluation.
BROWN VENTURE PRIZE PITCH NIGHT
It’s the big night! Finalists will pitch in front of an esteemed group of Brown Alumni Entrepreneurs for up to $50k in prize money (and infinite glory!).