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About Startup Compete

Startup Compete is a global networking site and competition platform for aspiring entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors to connect with each other and bring potential business ideas to market. Powered by the Global Entrepreneurship Network, it reaches millions of people in more than 160 countries.

    Startup Compete is:
  • The catalyst for new businesses. We are dedicated to increasing the number of new firms formed — that's our big idea.
  • Accessible. Applicants can make their idea summaries — and their companies — searchable to anyone on Startup Compete. If you want your big idea to get noticed, this is the place.
  • Easy to use. Whether you are a competition administrator, a judge or an applicant, Startup Compete helps you work at maximum efficiency and speed.
  • Standardized. We offer one simple platform for everything you need — from the call for entries to the final judging round. More functionality. Less time. Sweet!


Startup Compete is the third generation of an entrepreneurial innovation first called studentbusiness.com — the big idea of three Harvard University students, who went on to launch even bigger ideas.

In 2009, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation acquired the platform and renamed it iStart, which grew to become the go-to site for aspiring entrepreneurs entering business competitions from around the world.

In 2015, the Kauffman Foundation turned iStart over to its trusted, longtime partner and grantee, Global Entrepreneurship Week, Inc. (GEW), to fully operate as its own program. Startup Compete officially launched on November 16, 2015 – appropriately on the opening day of the eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Through its research and other initiatives, the Kauffman Foundation aims to advance entrepreneurship education and training, promote startup-friendly policies, and to understand what new firms need. After many years of experience working with GEW, Inc., a not-for-profit organization serving as the nucleus of the Global Entrepreneurship Network collection of initiatives and programs, the Kauffman Foundation saw the potential for GEW to bring additional resources and broader network potential to competition administrators and participating entrepreneurs.

About Global Entrepreneurship Network

The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) is a year-round platform of programs and initiatives aimed at creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ranging from efforts to inspire and educate nascent entrepreneurs to advancing research and connecting global leaders in person, GEN operates in all types of economies and cultures—helping people in 160 countries unleash their ideas and turn them into promising new ventures that create jobs, accelerate innovation and strengthen economic stability around the world.

Startup Compete is the platform of choice for GEN’s Startup Open and other competitions.

Management Team

  • Steven Rodriguez

    Steven A. Rodriguez, startup community manager

    Steven provides strategic direction for Startup Compete. He ensures the site's features and functionality empower startup competitions of any size, anywhere in the world. Steven assists competition administrators in managing their individual projects, deadlines and look-and-feel.

  • Genesis Lodise

    Genesis Lodise, digital director

    Genesis Lodise manages all things technical, translating competition administrators' goals into technological reality. He serves as the digital director for the Global Entrepreneurship Network and works to ensure that the Startup Compete platform and its users maximize their connections to others around the world.

How to Run a Competition

Ready to host a competition? You just need three things:

  1. Your institution's name.
  2. Your subdomain. (This is the portion of the web address that uniquely identifies your competition. For example, a subdomain of “example2013” results in a competition Web address of http://example2013.startupcompete.co. Also, the shorter the subdomain, the better. And, remember to include a year, such as 2013.)
  3. Your competition administrator's e-mail address.

Then, contact Steven Rodriguez, our manager, at [email protected], to finish the process.

Why You Should Participate

  • Startup competitions allow aspiring entrepreneurs to test their ideas in a safe space, while mentors and advisors get the chance to offer leadership and growth opportunities for scalable business ideas.
  • This environment brings together the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem to help each other groom ideas pre-launch. This preps the idea for survival in the more competitive, high-risk market.
  • Hosting competitions helps keep universities on the cutting edge of innovative thinking and creates interest in the larger community to help students pursue entrepreneurship.

Why GEN Encourages Competitions

The Global Entrepreneurship Network supports the Kauffman Foundation belief that the more experiential learning opportunities aspiring entrepreneurs have — and the greater global connections they have — the greater their chances for success. This supports GEN's overall mission of building one global entrepreneurial ecosystem.


    It varies. Here are some general guidelines to help you budget:
  • Nonprofit partners pay $500 per competition.
  • For-profit partners pay price determined by purpose of competition.
  • TIP: Recruit a sponsor, such as a patent attorney, to cover the cost. He or she will get targeted exposure for as long as your competition is active, and you will have your site paid for. It's a win-win!
  • Startup Compete provides you and your staff with efficiencies and consistency that will save hours of work and enhance your competition's overall reputation. It's worth the investment.


Who uses Startup Compete?

One of our biggest clients is Rice University's annual intercollegiate business plan competition, which has the largest judging panel and distributes the most prize money of any such competition in the world. Powerful Startup Compete tools automatically managed communications with more than 500 initial applicants and 300 judges, allowed administrators to customize the competition's look and feel, and it created efficiencies that streamlined project management requirements.

What if my startup contains proprietary information I don't want the public to see?

No problem. We only post your abstract for that very reason — and only with your permission.

Does it cost anything to post an abstract on Startup Compete?

No, not a penny. In this economy, everyone deserves a break. This is yours.

Where do notification e-mails come from?

They are sent from [email protected]

What if e-mails from Startup Compete get caught in my spam filter?

We can't guarantee that won't happen, but our tech people are working continually to avoid these types of issues. You also can add @startupcompete.co to your Safe Senders list and mark messages you have received from Startup Compete as “not spam.”

Where does my reply to the notification e-mail go?

It goes directly to competition administrators. There is no middleman.

What types of files does Startup Compete accept?

Anything — PDFs, JPEGs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets. You name it. But, don't expect Startup Compete to accommodate thousands of 10 megabyte downloads. We have our limits.

What should I do if I want to host a competition on Startup Compete?

    Contact Steven Rodriguez, our manager, at [email protected] with the following information:
  • Your institution's name.
  • Your subdomain. (This is the Web address that uniquely identifies your competition. For example, a subdomain of “Rice2010” results in a competition Web address of http://Rice2010.startupcompete.co. Also, the shorter the subdomain, the better. And, remember to include a date, such as 2010.)
  • Your competition administrator's e-mail address.

Is Startup Compete only for business plan competitions?

No, you can have idea competitions, pitch competitions, etc. Our minimum requirement is that participants submit an abstract. The length of that abstract is up to you. It can be a paragraph or it can be five pages.