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Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition

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Through its dynamic ecosystem, the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) celebrates purpose-driven ventures that address persistent and emerging problems in education. The EBPC is open to applicants worldwide who are committed to tackling systemic barriers in education through innovation and to advancing equitable opportunities for all learners and communities.

 


The 2021 application period is now closed. Semifinalists will be announced in June. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on competition news and events.

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Who Should Apply

We welcome education ventures with innovative solutions to educational inequity from around the world, especially those ventures founded by and serving individuals from marginalized and historically underrepresented communities. We encourage applicants working in every conceivable educational setting–from early childhood through corporate and adult training. We also welcome both nonprofit and for-profit submissions. Since 2010, areas of focus have included:

  • Urban Education
  • Connecting Research to Practice
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Technology in Grades K through 12
  • Special Education & At-Risk Students
  • Open & Collaborative Solutions: The Education Ecosystem
  • Online & Distance Learning in Higher Education
  • Global/Borderless Education Solutions
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Workforce Learning

Application

EBPC applicants should describe an issue in education that their venture addresses, offer their venture’s solution, and discuss scaling possibilities to demonstrate the equitable outcomes their proposed innovation can bring to the field of education and additional settings. Important elements of business plan applications include (but are not limited to): 

Product or Service

Describe the innovative product(s) or service(s) that your venture offers, including the persistent or emerging issue(s) in education that your solution addresses, details about your organization, its mission statement, and any key partnering organizations involved in your venture.

People

Discuss your organization’s management team, including project leadership, backgrounds and expertise of key personnel, staff members, and overall organizational structure. Demonstrate why your team is best suited to lead your venture and to address the specific needs of the communities you intend to serve.

Market

What is your target market(s), and who are your target customers? Which communities do you specifically intend to serve? Discuss the viability, readiness, and descriptions of your target market(s) and explain your marketing strategy to communicate with and successfully reach customers in those communities.

Competition

Explore existing competitors (with examples) that provide similar product(s) or services(s) to what you offer. Discuss your competitive advantage: how will you differentiate your venture to secure your market(s) and ensure the viability of your business? Discuss barriers to entry and any liabilities your organization may face.

Finances

Provide financial details including all expected income and expenses (current and anticipated) for years one, two, and three of your financial plan. Consider how your organization will scale and remain financially sustainable.

Equity

Describe how your product or service addresses systemic barriers in education to support underserved communities and demonstrate your venture’s potential impact on equitable outcomes in teaching, learning, and/or education.

Materials

Submissions also include a digital slide deck presentation (PowerPoint or similar format; required; 15 slides maximum) and a 60-Second Video Pitch (optional, but highly recommended).

 All application materials must be submitted through the online portal.

The Fine Print 

Below are the competition rules (“Rules”) governing The Milken-Penn Graduate School of Education Prize for Business Plans in Education (the “Competition”). These Rules may be amended at any time. The then-current Rules will be posted at this web page, so you should check back frequently; the public and Applicants will not be notified individually when the Rules are amended. 

General questions or concerns about the Rules and the Competition should be sent to the Competition Director at educomp@gse.upenn.edu.

Eligibility

Any individual is eligible to enter the Competition by submitting an Entry (defined below), except the following individuals are not eligible:

  • Anyone who is under 18 years old;
  • Any Competition judge;
  • Anyone who previously was awarded a prize in the Venture Path of this Competition. (However, if a previous winner wants to enter a new educational entrepreneurship business plan, which the University determines, in its sole opinion and determination, is unrelated to the previous winning educational entrepreneurship business plan, then the previous winning Applicant may do so, subject to their or its compliance with all of the other eligibility requirements.);
  • Anyone for whom it would be illegal to enter this Competition in their legal jurisdiction of residence;
  • Any Penn Graduate School of Education faculty, lecturer, administrator, staff, or other employee. (Note: Faculty, lecturers, administrators, staff, employees, and students from the University of Pennsylvania and its schools, centers and institutes, other than the Graduate School of Education, may enter the Competition, provided that they have first disclosed their product or service or technology or concept or intellectual property to the University’s Penn Center for Innovation or its successor (“Penn PCI”), using the disclosure form required by Penn PCI, in order for Penn PCI to determine whether the University has an ownership interest in such product or service or technology or concept or intellectual property by virtue of its intellectual property and employment policies.

A group of individuals also may enter the Competition, so long as all of the individuals meet the requirements above for a single individual to enter. In other words, if one member of the group is ineligible to enter, the group is not eligible to enter. A corporation, partnership, or other legal entity, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, also is eligible to enter, provided it is legal for the entity to enter under applicable law. However, organizations entering the competition may not have raised more than the equivalent of US$1,000,000 from all investors and founders since the beginning of the legal existence of the organization until the date the organization submits its Application Form. Further, organizations entering the competition may not have raised more than the equivalent of US$500,000 from all investors and founders during the prior twelve (12) months before the organization submits its Application Form.

Additionally, organizations entering the competition may not have had more than the equivalent of US$1,000,000 in gross revenue since the beginning of the legal existence of the organization until the date the organization submits its Application Form. Further, organizations entering the competition may not have had more than the equivalent of US$500,000 in gross revenue during the prior twelve (12) months before the date the organization submits its Application Form. Organizations that have raised more than this threshold, as determined in the sole opinion of the University, will be disqualified. Furthermore, organizations entering the Idea path of the Competition are expected to be pre-revenue and pre-investment.

Each Applicant is responsible for determining whether they are eligible to enter the Competition, based upon these Rules and the laws governing the applicant. The University of Pennsylvania (“University”) will not make this determination for you. However, if the University determines, in good faith, at some future time, that the Applicant was ineligible to enter the Competition or submit the Entry, the University may disqualify the Entry at any time, before or after the awarding of the prizes.

International Competition Winners. The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) intends to work with select international business plan competitions to invite their Grand Prize Winners to compete in the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (Milken-Penn GSE EBPC). These Grand Prize Winners will automatically be named as Semifinalists. If selected as Finalists, they will have an opportunity to compete in our Milken-Penn GSE EBPC Finals.

Rules

To enter the Competition, an eligible Applicant must submit all of the required materials (an “Entry”).

A subset of these Applicants will be selected as finalists in the Competition and invited to present the business plan orally at the University, before judges.

The Competition may choose to hold one or more Competition paths, including an Idea path, a Venture path, or both. Applicants may enter the Idea path, the Venture path, or both.

A business plan based upon an idea or concept that has been previously published is eligible, provided the Applicant discloses the previous publication(s).

All entries must be submitted in the English language.

An Applicant does not transfer legal ownership of their business plan simply by entering the Competition; you retain ownership of your business plan and the legally-protectable concepts and ideas that may be patentable, copyrightable, or trademark-protectable (if any) disclosed in your submission.

However, given the nature of this Competition and its judging procedures, the Entries (including the business plans) cannot be kept confidential. Therefore, if you think your Entry contains or discloses any patentable invention (such as a potentially patentable business process), you should consult your own legal advisor before submitting your Entry, to determine whether you should take steps to protect any potentially patentable invention, trade secret, or confidential information before you enter the Competition.

While the Applicant retains the ownership of your business plan disclosed in your submission, by submission of the application the Applicant agrees that the University has the right to use the submitted materials and information for academic research and to provide it to researchers who agree not to publish your business plans, images, or any other information that would identify you or your company, including addresses and contact information.

(The Applicant is responsible for checking with any employer or others regarding policies on ownership of patentable inventions and other parts of any submission. If you are a faculty member, lecturer, administrator, staff, employee, or student at the University of Pennsylvania, the University’s then-current policies on ownership of patentable inventions and copyrightable works continue to apply to you, in connection with any Entry you make.)

By submitting an Entry, an Applicant represents that all of the information and materials comprising their Entry are original; and that the ideas, developments and/or technologies disclosed as part of his/her Entry have been created, developed, and are owned by the Applicant, or if not, that the Applicant has all rights necessary from other creators, developers and/or owners needed to submit the Entry and represent that they are the creator, developer and owner of the idea, development, or technology disclosed as part of the Entry. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the event that the Applicant is a faculty member, lecturer, administrator, staff, employee, or student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Penn PCI has determined that the ideas, developments, and/or technologies are owned in part or in whole by the University of Pennsylvania, the Applicant must provide a letter of support from Penn PCI stipulating that a license from the University of Pennsylvania will be required to commercialize any product or service resulting from further development of the idea, development, or technology. This letter must be submitted by the Applicant, in addition to any other materials required by the Competition in the Venture path.

By submitting an Entry, an Applicant agrees not to seek any financial damages from either The Milken Family Foundation or the University for any claim, dispute, or cause of action in connection with or arising out of or related to the Competition.

By submitting an Entry, an Applicant agrees that, if they win a prize, the Applicant will allow The Milken Family Foundation and the University to use their name, photograph, image, and likeness to publicize the Competition, including, for example, through use in press releases and on web sites.

Prizes. The Competition will award a first-place prize to those Applicant(s) selected by the judges as the first-place winner, and may choose to award additional prizes to other finalists as determined by the conference committee and judges. Furthermore, additional prizes may be added to the Competition at any time and without notice. The decision of the judges is final, and cannot be appealed or challenged.

Each winner is reminded that they may have tax or other legal obligations in connection with accepting the prize money, and should consult their own tax and legal advisors. If a winner does not accept the prize money for any reason within sixty (60) days after being declared a winner, the prize will be forfeited and used to award prize money in a future competition.

Miscellaneous. The Competition, these Rules, the awarding of Prizes, and any other matter related to or arising out of or in connection with the Competition will be governed by Pennsylvania law, without regard to its principles of conflicts of law, and without regard to the residency or citizenship of any Applicant or judge.

An Applicant or an Entry may be disqualified by the judges or the University for any reason. As an example only, the University may disqualify an Applicant if the University learns that an Applicant has violated any of these Rules.

If an Applicant does not want a particular judge or group of judges to participate in judging their Entry (because, for example, the Applicant knows of a particular conflict of interest that the judge might have, or the judge is affiliated with a competitor of the Applicant), the Applicant may make a request to the Competition Director, who will consider the request. However, the University will not notify the Applicant whether the Applicant’s request was or will be accepted or denied.

After an Applicant submits an Entry, the Applicant may not contact or attempt to contact any of the Competition judges regarding the Applicant’s business plan or Entry, or this Competition.

Judging

EBPC judges are crowdsourced from a dynamic ecosystem of investors, educators, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other leaders across the education industry. The EBPC relies on its judges’ informed perspectives and diverse areas of expertise to evaluate entries, provide feedback, and determine which entries advance to subsequent competition rounds. Catalyst @ Penn GSE and its employees are not eligible to serve as judges and have no influence on judging outcomes in the EBPC.

Entries are randomly assigned to judges during each round. In evaluating entries, judges consider the importance of the educational problem addressed, the creativity and feasibility of the proposed solution, and the potential to support marginalized communities and equitable outcomes for all learners. Further, judges rank the overall strength of each entry with respect to other assigned entries and consider whether or not they would fund an entry’s business plan.

Online judging is conducted across two rounds with entirely independent cohorts of judges (e.g., judges invited to serve in Round 2 cannot have served as a Round 1 judge in the same year). Ratings from Round 1 judges determine which entries are selected as Semifinalists. Ratings from Round 2 judges determine which Semifinalists are selected as Finalists to compete for prizes at the EBPC Finals, during which a distinguished final judging panel of education leaders is assembled to review final pitch presentations and deliberate to determine prize winners.

FAQs

Applications & Eligibility

When does the application period open and close?
The 2021 application period opens on March 10, 2021, and closes on April 20, 2021, at 11:59pm EDT.

Who should apply to the EBPC?
The EBPC welcomes entrepreneurs with innovative ideas in education from around the world. Applicants are encouraged to explore how their product or solution can be applied to address issues in the field of education and impact teaching, learning, and education outcomes.

Do I have to be a student at or affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania to apply?
No affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania of any kind is required to apply. The EBPC is open to education entrepreneurs worldwide. 

Who is ineligible to apply for the EBPC?
Visit the Eligibility section for more information.

Is there an entry fee to nominate someone for the Prize?
There is no entry fee. It is free to apply.

My team includes multiple co-founders. Can we apply as a team?
Yes, teams are eligible to apply. However, you must specify one team member to serve as the primary applicant and point of contact for the application. Further, there will be an opportunity on the application form to list names of additional team members.

Can I submit more than one application?
Yes, if you have multiple education ventures that are eligible for the EBPC, you may submit one application for each venture. Keep in mind that each separate application will be assessed and judged independently, and details on one application should not reference another.

If I applied last year, can I apply again?
Yes, former applicants are welcome to apply again. Your application(s) from previous years will have no bearing on ratings and results for this year’s Competition. Applicants selected as Finalists and Semifinalists are also eligible to re-apply in subsequent years - provided that they did not win a Prize at the EBPC Finals.

What materials are required for the application?
Learn more about application materials on our Apply page.

How long should my responses be for the open-ended prompts?
Responses to each of the prompts should be a minimum of 200 characters and a maximum of 2,000 characters.

Can we save our application prior to submitting and complete it at a later time?
No, the application must be completed in one sitting. We recommend writing all responses in a separate document, then copying them into the application form when you are ready to submit.

Is it possible to edit my application after it has been submitted?
No, it is not possible to alter an application that has been submitted, but you can email educomp@gse.upenn.edu if you need to correct or supply any additional information. No changes or updates to an application will be accepted after the deadline.

Judging & Selection

How will judges assess my application?
Visit the Judging Procedures section.

Will Semifinalists be announced?
Yes, Semifinalists will be announced in Summer 2021. Check the Competition Timeline for more details.

Will Finalists be announced?
Yes, Finalists will be announced in Fall 2021. Finalists will compete at the EBPC Finals presented by Catalyst @ Penn GSE on October 5, 2021.

Are there any requirements if I am selected as a Finalist?
Finalists are required to travel to Philadelphia, PA to participate in the EBPC Finals for the opportunity to win cash and prizes.

Prizes

What prizes can I win at the EBPC Finals?
2021 prizes are TBA. Check this website for more information as it becomes available.

Other questions? Email educomp@gse.upenn.edu.