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. In many cases, applicants will have received prior venture support from the Nelson Center (such as Explore and Expand grants) or will have participated in programs such as Breakthrough Lab. Winners will receive prize money, critical mentorship, and access to leaders in the Brown entrepreneurial community and beyond.
Where are Brown Venture Prize alum now? Watch the video below to learn more.
WHAT WE LOOK FOR IN A B-LAB APPLICATION
We are looking for founders that can clearly articulate the problem they aim to solve and have a general, (and hopefully tested) understanding of how they are going to solve it. We put together a resource guide to help you through the process, including what we are looking for when it comes to making your 2 minute B-Lab video and 3 minute BVP video.
Want to learn more about B-Lab, meet the Nelson Center staff, and program alumni? Join our mailing list and watch for announcements in Today@Brown. Throughout each fall semester, we host info sessions with the Nelson Center staff and B-Lab alumni. We also work to give interested students the best opportunity for a successful B-Lab application in the following ways:
WE MATCH INTERESTED STUDENTS WITH A B-LAB APPLICATION MENTOR
B-LAB APPLICATION RESOURCES
MENTOR A TEAM
Fill out this form ideally by December 3, 2021. Mentoring is an essential part of the student entrepreneurship experience at Brown. Typically, students do well in the selection process when mentored through the application process. We are looking for mentors of all backgrounds to help student entrepreneurs with their Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab) and/or Brown Venture Prize (BVP) applications. The time commitment is an estimated 1 hour every one or two weeks until the application deadline. New to mentoring or need a refresh? Visit our mentoring resource page.
“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 NYC EXPERIENCE
Prize winners will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City (pending COVID-19 restrictions) and meet with venture capitalists and industry contacts.
WANT TO LAUNCH THE NEXT BIG IDEA?
• 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 – Spring 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 Pitch Night, typically held in March.
APPLICATION TIMELINE AND PROCESS
Application Opens / Application Mentor Support
We recommend that all prospective applicants request an application mentor by Early December.
Thursday, February 2, 2023
Application Due at 1:00 pm ET
Don’t wait until the last minute! Late applications will not be considered. After the deadline, staff immediately assigns your application to committee readers. We recommend completing your application 2 hours before the deadline,
if not sooner, to allow time to deal with potential technical difficulties.
February 17, 2023
Top 8 finalist ventures notified
The Brown Venture Prize Selection Committee will review all applications
and then select a small group of finalists.
Monday, February 20, 2023
Finalist Orientation with Nelson Center Staff
February 21 – March 17, 2023
Pitch Practice with Jonas Clark and Affiliates
Finalists will receive specialized sessions to help them prepare for the final pitch night
– we will focus on pitch mechanics, presentation, and substantive evaluation.
Thursday, March 16, 2023
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!). All finalists are required to attend the Brown Venture Prize rehearsal [DATE TBD].
The top 3 finalists attend a NYC Immersion Day, meeting with founders, VCs, and alum.
This is to be determined due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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.
Can I apply to the Brown Venture Prize and Breakthrough Lab?
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. Basically, it doesn’t hurt to apply to both, but we highly recommend following the venture path we just outlined.
How far along does my venture need to be? Just an idea? Revenue? Already closed a seed investment from Mark Cuban?
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).
The BVP application requires a 3-minute video. What are you looking for?
We are not looking for the next Martin Scorsese or Ava DuVernay; just a simple 3-minute video featuring you and your team will do. This is not a video production contest, but rather an opportunity to learn more about you, your passion for the problem, and why you are the team to solve it. Upload your video to YouTube. Don’t mark it as private or disallow embedding on YouTube, so we are able to see it. Then include that link in your final application. Do not wait until the last minute to upload your video to YouTube. Give yourself enough time to allow for unexpected technical difficulties. We will not accept late applications. Here’s an example of what we are looking for. Questions? Or not sure how to do this? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Can I apply to the Brown Venture Prize more than once?
If you previously applied, regardless of making the top 8, you can apply again. However, if you were a previous prize money awardee (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), you cannot apply again.
If I am a Brown Venture Prize winner, will my award get taxed?
Familiarize yourself with the prize policy. Prizes of any amount are considered taxable income. Brown University issues a Form 1099 to students and other non-employee cash prize recipients if consolidated payments to them during a calendar year equal or exceed $600. If the individual is a foreign national, their initial prize payment is subject to taxes depending on their country’s treaty benefits, and 100% of their payment is reportable on a Form 1042S for tax purposes.
How can I help with the Brown Venture Prize?
Each year we match application mentors with prospective applicants. Fill out this form here by November 30, 2023.