Funding Opportunities

Funding Opportunities for Student Founders: November 2020

4 minutes

As October fades into November, we transition from a mindset of sp00kiness to thankfulness.

One thing to be thankful for as a student entrepreneur? Plenty of new non-dilutive funding opportunities are out there for the taking.

Below are four of the top grants/competitions available to student entrepreneurs this Fall season, including two that have prize pools over $1 million!

So check out the best of what's around below - no tricks, all treats.

1) AWS US University Startup Competition

Eligibility: Any student-led startup (as well as faculty/staff)
Prize Money: Three winners. $20K/$10K/$5K, plus up to $100K in AWS credit.
All startups that apply are eligible for up to $1K in AWS credit.
Deadline: November 16, 2020 (11:59 pm)
>> Application Link <<

Enter your startup into the AWS US University Startup Competition to win an equity-free cash prize to help fund your venture. The top 10 finalists will pitch their startups to a panel of investors and AWS Startup Team members at a virtual event, and three winners will be chosen for cash prizes and AWS credits. All startups that apply are eligible for $1,000 in AWS credits and an AWS gift package.


1. Applicant must be a legal resident of the U.S.
2. Applicant must be at or above the age of majority in their state of residence at the time of submission (18+ in almost all states).
3. Applicant must be a founding member of a startup.
4. At least one founder must be affiliated with an institution of higher learning located in the U.S. (i.e. student, faculty, staff at a university). Those taking leaves of absence are welcome.

Learn more about the AWS US University Startup Competition.

2) Rice Business Plan Competition (Rice BPC)

Eligibility: Any graduate student-led venture (don't have to be a Rice student)
Prize Money: More than $1.1 million in investment + cash prizes (exact prize structure has not been released for 2021 yet)
Deadline: January 17, 2021
>> Application Link <<

The Rice Business Plan Competition is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup competition. It is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which is Rice University's internationally-recognized initiative devoted to the support of entrepreneurship, and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business.

2020 was the 20th year for the competition! In that time, it has grown from nine teams competing for $10,000 in prize money in 2001, to 42 teams from around the world competing for more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes. There are various tracks such as Energy/Sustainability, Hard Tech, Life Sciences, Digital Enterprise, and Consumer Products so you'll have a chance to stand out no matter what your industry is.

So shoot your shot in the Rice BPC today! Secure a slice of that million dollar prize pool.

Learn more about the Rice BPC right here.

3) Hult Prize 2021 Challenge: Food for Good

Eligibility: Any venture in the sustainable food space
Prize Money: Over $1 million as a grand prize! (seriously)
Deadline: December 17th, 2020
>> Application Link <<

The Hult Prize Foundation transforms how young people envision their own possibilities as leaders of change in the world around them. With a US$1,000,000 global startup prize as its anchor activity, the Hult Prize has brought impact-focused programs, events and trainings to over a million students globally, creating a pathway for youth everywhere to take action to build a better world.

Food is the ultimate equalizer. Yet increasingly over recent decades, food systems have become machines of extraction that reduce our well-being, weaken communities, and impoverish the world around us. Store aisles are filled with arsenals of cheap, addictive products that attack the soul through the hollowness of manufactured consumption. Parents wage a daily battle to nourish and nurture their children, while food supply chains funnel massive profits to corporations and billionaires.

In 2021 the Hult Prize is asking youth around the world to build viable food enterprises that will create jobs, stimulate economies, reimagine supply chains, and improve outcomes for 10,000,000 people by 2030.

Check out the Hult Prize 2021 Challenge Packet

4) ClimateTech & Energy Prize @ MIT (CEP@MIT)

Eligibility: At least 50% of your formal team members must be enrolled college/university students (at any university, not just MIT)
Prize Money: $100,000 Grand Prize* (along with other monetary prizes/tracks)
Deadline: February 5, 2021
>>Application Link<<

The ClimateTech & Energy Prize at MIT (CEP@MIT) is the longest running and largest climatetech startup competition for university students. Over the past 12 years, 100+ CEP alumni have successfully launched companies and collectively raised over $1.1 billion in follow-on funding.

The CEP@MIT is structured to identify promising companies and mentor student entrepreneurs. University teams from across the world enter their business ideas and compete in 3 rounds. After initial applications, CEP@MIT judges select the most promising business plans to advance as Semi-Finalists. They then receive mentoring and access to other resources through CEP@MIT sponsors and partners. During this time, the selected teams develop and refine their business plans before presenting them to a panel of expert judges at the CEP@MIT Semi-Finals and Finals.

Learn more about the Eligibility & Requirements and Apply Here.

The Interactive Funding Database

Those are the Big 4 for November. Below are all of the rest of the open opportunities, along with eligibility, funding amounts, deadlines, and more. I recommend you click View Larger Version in the bottom right hand corner and use the filter features to sort through and find the ones relevant to you. This database will be updated monthly - in tandem with these blog posts - so feel free to bookmark and keep coming back.

Kevin Carter

Entrepreneurial Coach

Kevin Carter is an entrepreneurial coach and ecosystem builder. He previously worked for 3 years to build out Johns Hopkins University's first student entrepreneurship program and is currently the co-founder of Emergence Baltimore - a live-in accelerator program designed for founders who build community and ventures during COVID-19.