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Kauffman Foundation introduces iStart

The following press release was just issued by the Kauffman Foundation about the iStart, a new Web-based platform that helps organizations simplify how they market and administer business plan competitions worldwide.

New Hub for Business Plan Competitions to Create Access, Transparency for Entrepreneurial Community Worldwide

Kauffman Foundation introduces iStart, an online platform for the administration of business plan competitions around the world

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Aug. 16, 2010) – Entrepreneurs are the engine of the economy, and business plan competitions often serve as the spark that gets them going. Because these competitions are an increasingly common part of entrepreneurship education efforts, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation announced today it is launching iStart (, a Web-based platform that helps organizations simplify how they market and administer business plan competitions worldwide. iStart also is designed to connect entrepreneurs to a network of support, including mentors and others who can assist them in the growth of their businesses.

“We created iStart to make competitions easier to run and participate in,” said Katie Petersen, who manages the iStart program for the Kauffman Foundation.  “And, importantly, we will do something that hasn’t been done before by making the thousands of plans that are part of these competitions available to the world as models for aspiring entrepreneurs and possible opportunities for mentors, investors and service providers.”

In the United States alone, more than 50 universities conduct business plan competitions annually, awarding up to $10 million in prizes and in-kind services. But the time and complexity required to administer the competitions can limit their size and quality, prevent organizations from holding them, and create headaches for administrators.

As the first customizable platform to provide this service, iStart makes it easy to administer business plan competitions and provides a single resource for every aspect of what can be a complex undertaking—from 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.

Besides bringing consistency and transparency to competitions across years, departments and vertical tracks, iStart will expose business plan competitions to an international network of other competitions and student users.

The Rice Business Plan Competition tested iStart for its 2010 event.  Rice University’s annual intercollegiate business plan competition has the largest judging panel and distributes the most prize money of any such competition in the world. Using iStart, competition administrators managed communications with more than 400 initial applicants and 250 judges, customized the competition with the university’s look and feel and say they experienced efficiencies that streamlined management.

“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.”

To learn more, visit:  

About the Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private nonpartisan foundation that works to harness the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to grow economies and improve human welfare. Through its research and other initiatives, the Kauffman Foundation aims to open young people's eyes to the possibility of entrepreneurship, promote entrepreneurship education, raise awareness of entrepreneurship-friendly policies, and find alternative pathways for the commercialization of new knowledge and technologies. In addition, the Foundation focuses on initiatives in the Kansas City region to advance students’ math and science skills, and improve the educational achievement of urban students, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, a college preparatory charter school for middle and high school students set to open in 2011. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, Mo. and has approximately $2 billion in assets. For more information, visit, and follow the Foundation on and

Rice Business Plan Competition
The Rice University Business Plan Competition is the world’s largest and richest graduate-level business plan competition. It is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which is Rice University's flagship initiative devoted to the support of entrepreneurship.

This is the tenth 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 million in cash and prizes.

In 2010, applications increased more than 20 percent from the previous year.  More than 100 corporate and private sponsors support the business plan competition. Venture capitalists and other investors from around the country volunteer their time to judge the competition, with the majority of the 200+ judges coming from the investment sector. More than 95 past competitors have gone on to successfully launch their business and are still in business today, raising in excess of $223 million in funding.


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