Syracuse graduate students invited to be part of the Heartland Challenge

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The Sam M. Walton College of Business invites graduate student entrepreneurs from around the world to apply to compete in the Heartland Challenge Startup Competition, which has a cash prize pool of $95,000. Applications will be accepted from January 4 – February 12, 2021, and the virtual competition will be held on April 15-16, 2021. The competition is made possible by generous support from the Walton Family Foundation.

Twelve semifinalist teams will be selected to compete in a formal pitch competition and a 60-second elevator pitch competition. The Heartland Challenge is designed to simulate the process of raising venture capital for a high-growth venture. The competition allows graduate students to gain valuable experience and networking opportunities, while developing new ventures that may be based on their own ideas/technologies or those developed by others.

2020-21 timeline

  • Jan 4, 2021 – Applications open
  • Feb 12, 2021 – Applications close
  • March 1, 2021 – Notify semifinalist teams of selection
  • March 7, 2021 – Semifinalists submit intent to compete
  • March 8, 2021 – Semifinalists announced
  • April 7, 2021 – Full business plan due
  • April 15-16, 2021 – Virtual competition dates

The University of Arkansas sponsored competition is for student-created, managed, and owned ventures. Students must play a major role in conceiving the venture by having key management roles and owning significant equity in the venture (50 percent or more of the equity allocated to the management team and key advisers). While it is a competition for graduate students teams with a minority of undergraduate students can also compete. Exceptional undergraduate teams may also be considered. Students from any graduate program (not just MBAs) are eligible to participate, including executive and evening format programs. Non-students may be members of the venture’s management team and may participate in planning the venture. However, only students may participate in the competition. Any team participating in an undergraduate competition, regardless of team re-configuration, is disqualified from the competition. 

To sign up for updates on competition rules and requirements, please email Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Director of Student Programs, Deb Williams, at

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