IStart to Revolutionize Business Plan Competitions

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All entrepreneurs know that getting funding and expert support for their new business idea is one of the biggest road blocks to getting their business off the ground but now the Kauffman Foundation has started a new website, Istart, that helps with this.

More than 50 universities in the United States alone conduct business plan competitions awarding $10 million in awards and in-kind services. The problem is that these types of competitions take a large amount of logistical and personnel resources to administer and that’s something that cash strapped universities often do not have. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has created a platform to help with that.

Istart is an online platform that manages all parts of a business plan competition including registering applicants and judges to receiving applicants’ business plans, establishing judging criteria and conducting online judging, managing communications with participants and judges, managing deadlines, and monitoring applications and the judging process. Everything an organization needs to run an effective competition can be found on the Istart platform and it can be customized and branded for each competition.

The organizers hope that IStart will standardize how business plan competitions are conducted, judged, and prizes awarded.

The first university to use IStart was Rice University during its 2010 business plan competition. Rice’s competition was a challenging first test because they have the most applicants, hire the most judges, and distribute the most prize money of any competition of its kind. According to Rice University contest officials, the system worked flawlessly.

“We strive to host the best-run business plan competition in the world. To do that, we needed a great online platform to make the experience as effective and efficient as possible for our judges and teams,” said Lea Aden Lueck, Rice Business Plan Competition director. “iStart gave us that.”

Not only can students enter a business plan competition but IStart also has a section on their website that allows students to post their business plan for viewing, search for jobs with new startups, post their resume and search for other competitions around the world. Look for the “market You” section of the IStart website.

If you’re a young entrepreneur who is in school or looking to get their startup off the ground, IStart is great place to visit. The Kauffman Foundation is one of the premier foundations that provide funding and support for young business owners so putting your business plan on their site is sure to gain the attention of those in a position to help you take your idea from a dream to a money making entity. You can find it at