The 2017 Global Social Venture Competition Gets Underway


The 18th annual Global Social Venture Competition, which attracts social impact startup ventures from around the world, is about to get underway with the biggest prize pool yet.

This year, the winners of the final competition in April 2017 will receive a total of $80,000 in prize money – up from $55,000 in 2016.   The deadline for teams to apply is coming up fast: Dec. 5.   Regional semifinals for the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America will take place in February and March at partner institutions in each region.

The final round of judging will take place April 5-7, here at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.   On April 7, Berkeley-Haas will also host a public forum, The Future of Social Ventures, which will feature presentations by the top finalist teams as well as leading experts in the field.

Launched at Berkeley-Haas in 1999, the GSVC aims to empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs to develop financially self-sustainable ventures that address urgent social and environmental challenges around the world. Since its inception nearly two decades ago, the competition has evolved into a global partnership of business schools, universities, and entrepreneurial programs that provides mentoring, exposure and funding to path-breaking new social entrepreneurs.

The 2016 competition attracted nearly 500 entries from 50 countries, with the final round of judging hosted by GSVC’s Southeast Asia partner in Bangkok, Thailand.  Last year’s first-place winner was Blitab, an Austrian startup that invented a tactile computer tablet for the blind that works in Braille.

Winners and finalists in previous years have included Revolution Foods, which provides healthy school lunches at low prices to thousands of schools; Carbon Roots International, which developed a low-cost, sustainable “green” charcoal from agricultural waste; and Faso Soap, which has invented a mosquito-repellant soap to prevent the spread of malaria in Africa.

For details about eligibility, requirements and deadlines, go to

In brief, each team must have the active involvement of at least one current or recent student, or recent alum.  For the first time, however, the competition will be open to undergraduates as well as graduate students.

Drawing on the Lean Startup methodology for entrepreneurship, each team’s initial application will be fairly brief but demanding: a 3-page summary of the venture; summaries of interviews with stakeholders; and resumes of the founders and key team members.

Here are some of the other key requirements:

*The venture, whether non-profit or for-profit, must address an urgent social or environmental challenge.  For guidance, the competition offers a set of guidelines and core questions to assess the venture’s social impact.

*It must be scalable.

*It must have a strategy for becoming financial self-sustainable, meaning that it will be able attract enough revenue to thrive without charitable support.

*It needs to be a true startup.  It must be less than 2 years old; have received less than $250,000 in previous funding; and taken in less than $500,000 in revenues.

As in previous years, teams will receive mentoring from veteran social entrepreneurs, social venture capitalists, and other experts.   The goal of the GSVC is not only to spur innovative social solutions but to help aspiring innovators transform their big ideas into self-sustaining and scalable enterprises that have a potentially global impact.

For more information, visit the competition’s site at  

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