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Vanderbilt Ventures


To provide a unique competitive experience for undergraduate entrepreneurs by creating an opportunity for students to gain tangible business experience and exercise ethical business leadership through the establishment of on-campus ventures that address unmet student needs.

Through this competition, students will have the opportunity to develop an original, creative, and innovative business concept that will be a significant contribution to campus life. Along with the experience of running their own businesses, selected student teams will receive start up-seed money, compensation, support and resources from the Dean of Students office. The winning team will also receive the exclusive rights to operate on campus. All the while, members of the Vanderbilt community will be better served on campus by the product or service provided by the Vanderbilt Ventures Program.

Competition Format

All University undergraduate students are eligible to participate. Students must form teams of 2-5 students. Students are strongly encouraged to seek assistance from a faculty advisor that provides support and guides the team throughout the course of the competition.  Participants may also reach out to Vanderbilt Ventures and request to be connected to a faculty member for mentorship, sponsorship, and/or support.

Innovative ideas and concepts will need to be focused on addressing unmet student needs on campus.

The competition will be judged utilizing Vanderbilt Ventures evaluation criteria. A panel of judges will be comprised of University faculty, local entrepreneurs and business owners. We will utilize our relationship with the Career Center, Alumni Relations, Owen School, and Vanderbilt faculty to assemble a strong panel of judges.

Students will submit all requested materials/questions to the Vanderbilt Ventures chair, Sam Mulholland for the duration of this academic year.

All questions regarding Vanderbilt Ventures and the timeline for applications can be found at their new website:


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Who can enter the Vanderbilt Ventures Competition?

A: Anyone who is part of a team with one current Vanderbilt University undergraduate student. The student can be enrolled in any school within Vanderbilt, but must be enrolled as a student at the time of the submission deadline.

Q: Do I own the business?

A: The businesses operating within Vanderbilt Ventures are owned by the University.  However, you will manage and operate the business just as if you are the owner.  You will be a paid employee and can receive additional compensation based on profitability and your corporate structure.  It is important that each team have a succession plan so that your business can be passed on and operated by other undergraduate students upon your graduation.

Q: Is it important to be profitable?

A: Absolutely!  Profitability is one of the keys to being selected as the winning business.  The judges will evaluate you on a number of factors, and how profitable your business will be over time.

Q: Can I rely on University resources to carry out my business?

A: Yes and No.  The University will provide you with accounting and related advisory support for your business, but the day to day operations must be carried out by students and not rely on University personnel or resources.

Q: How do I find other students to help work on my business idea? Or, if I don’t have an idea, how do I find a team with an idea to join?

A: The best way to meet potential team members is to network or pitch your idea at the Vanderbilt Ventures Information sessions. Students may also seek advice from professors in the Managerial Studies department for potential suggestions or ideas.

Q: Should I seek faculty assistance?

A: ABSOLUTELY! In fact, it is looked upon favorably in the competition if you have consulted with faculty on your business plan.  Every group should have at least one consultative visit with a Vanderbilt faculty member prior to their final business plan submission.

Q: Can I enter the same idea that I have used in the past?

A: You may submit any idea that you’ve previously developed for a class, project, or other competition.

Q: Can I get academic credit for working on my idea?

A: Academic credit is not a part of the Vanderbilt Ventures program at this time.

Q: Can I work by myself?

A: Businesses develop better when more people are involved with the idea. A minimum of two people are require for each team. We feel that your experience will be fuller, your ideas better, and your chance of winning greater.

Q: Can I be on more than one team?

A: You can be a member of as many teams as you would like, but such a situation may be viewed as a lack of commitment to making any one of the businesses a success. Usually, your efforts are best-spent making one entry as strong as possible.

Q: Can I fundraise during the competition if I need additional start-up capital?

A: Yes.  Before soliciting any businesses, you must consult with Courtney Salters, located in Sarratt 207.  There is an approved list that you can solicit from for gifts $1,000 or less.  If you want to solicit businesses not on the list or for more than $1,000, Courtney will contact Development and Alumni Relations for approval.  You are free to seek investments from friends and family (in the form of donations to the University) for your business should you be selected.

Q: How will my business plan be kept confidential?

A: As with most institutions, we do not sign non-disclosure agreements. We do intend to maintain confidentiality. However, please try to not include confidential material in your submission.

Q: I would like to serve as a mentor to one or more teams of students. Are there opportunities to do this?

A: YES. We are eagerly seeking mentors to provide advice and coaching to teams in all parts of the competition. Please contact Quincy Ross (Quincy.d.ross@vanderbilt.edu) for additional inquiry

If you have any questions contact Vanderbilt Ventures chairperson Sam Mulholland.