STARTUPS THAT APPLY
500+
PAST STARTUPS HAVE RAISED 
$50M+
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS
20+
STARTUP APPLICATIONS FROM
24+ cities

PRIZES

Besides being an amazing opportunity to showcase your startup before an audience of top investors and entrepreneurs, the startup challenge is an opportunity to win cash prizes alongside access to exciting perks

$20,000+
Judges’ Choice & People's Choice Awards

Awarded on Pitch Day to the startups chosen by judges and attendees

Legal Advice from Legal Partners

Pro-bono legal advice from our legal partners. Awarded to the two Winners.

Mentorship from Experts

Unparalleled access to renowned Wharton entrepreneurs and industry experts.  Awarded to the two Winners.

Media Coverage

Opportunity to be covered by our offline and online media partners. This has included CNBC, Economic Times, Yourstory among others in the past

Global Stage

Top 10 teams pitch their business ideas to conference attendees, sponsors, and a global media audience

Startup Exhibit

Top 20 startups invited to WIEF Conference (Mumbai) to interact with investors and conference attendees as part of a formal startup exhibit

Challenge Format

The startup challenge has 2 rounds, with 20 startups making it to the Pitch Day. The top 10 get to pitch live on stage and the top 20 (including the top 10) also get a chance to be part of an exhibit, set up at the event venue, before an audience of investors and conference attendees.

ROUND 1
Application Deadline | First Phase*
17TH September, 2017 by 11:59pm PST
Application Deadline | Second Phase*
18TH October, 2017 by 11:59pm PST

Online SubmissionSubmit your idea & business plan.  Entries screened by a panel of experts, including top entrepreneurs and VCs. This panel will select semi-finalists.

*You may apply during either of the two application phases, but only limited application slots are available per round.  It is to your advantage to apply early!
ROUND 2
Semi-Finalists Announced:
 15TH November, 2017
Finalists Announced:
15TH December, 2017

Telephone Interview
Semi-finalists will be provided a 30-min time slot to present ideas to judges (via teleconference), based on which finalists will be selected.

Out of 500+ Applicants, 50 Proceed
PITCH DAY: 5TH January, 2018
TOP 10 STARTUPS

Pitch Live on Stage
Top 10 finalists will get an opportunity to pitch to an esteemed panel of judges.  The pitch will consist of a 5-minute presentation and a 5-minute Q&A session.

TOP 20 STARTUPS (Including top 10)

Exhibit at Event
Top 20 startups (including the 10 finalists) will get an opportunity to exhibit their startups at the event.

Top 10 Proceed to Pitch / Top 20 Proceed to Exhibit

VENTURE JUDGES 

Biz & Market Development, Udaan

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Vignesh Ramakrishnan is part of the founding team at Udaan - a B2B ecommerce trading platform, where he heads the Electronics and General Merchandising categories. Prior to Udaan, Vignesh spent 6 years in the B2C ecommerce space, of which 3 years were in Flipkart in various roles that also included heading the Smartphones business. He is an avid sportsperson, and is into fitness and long distance running. Vignesh holds an MBA from the Indian School of Business, is a qualified cost & management accountant and a Bachelors in Commerce from Loyola College, Madras.

Analyst, Lightbox Ventures

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A Computer Science Engineer from the University of Michigan, Varun Varma began his career as a data analyst at Bloomberg where he spent three years splitting his time between Mumbai and Singapore. After Bloomberg, he headed the Sales and Finance teams at Avanti Learning Centres, a social enterprise co-founded by a Harvard Business School alumnus, funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation that provides quality education to students with limited access. At Avanti, he launched transformative partnerships with some of the most established organisations in the education sector, helping expand reach to over 30 location in 12 states. Now at Lightbox VC in Mumbai, Varun works closely with the portfolio companies across functions from financial analysis to project management and regularly meets entrepreneurs to find learn about problems they are solving.

‎Vice President, ‎Nexus Venture Partners

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As an entrepreneur turned VC, Pratik Poddar is excited about working alongside technology entrepreneurs to create impact in the lives of millions of people. He is most passionate about healthcare, financial services, content platforms, travel, and e-commerce enabled supply chain innovations. Pratik graduated from IIT Bombay with a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering. After graduation, he started his career with Morgan Stanley as a quant analyst/algorithmic trader working on building mathematical models to hedge risks in Japanese Mortgages and trading US Equity ETFs. Post Morgan Stanley, Pratik worked at Blackstone Private equity where he evaluated deals in restaurant, financial technologies, education and consumer electronics products in India. Prior to joining Nexus, Pratik spent three years working on his startups in social e-commerce and content platforms where he experienced firsthand the challenges of building a company.

Associate, Saif Partners

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Before joining SAIF Partners, Arpit Beri worked with Housing.com to build its sales team and expand its footprint to various markets. Arpit holds a B.Tech degree in Metallurgical Engineering & Materials Science from IIT Bombay. His primary area of focus is early stage investments.

Vice President, Infuse Ventures

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At Infuse, Amber Maheshwari's role involves identifying investable opportunities within the clean technology sector and working closely with portfolio companies on strategy, process improvements and team building. Prior to joining Infuse, Amber was a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group where he worked on strategy as well as operations projects for corporates across Industrial Goods, Financial Services and Information Technology. He has also spent 2 years with Deutsche Bank where he worked on equity sales and portfolio transitions for institutional investors like pension funds and asset management companies across Asia. Amber is an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kanpur.

Associate, Omidyar Network

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Aditya Misra is an associate at Omidyar Network focused on sourcing, evaluating, and managing horizontal technology investments in India. Prior to joining Omidyar Network, Aditya was co-founder and CBO at GetFocus, a company offering contextual marketing solutions for mobile applications through indoor location analytics. As head of business development, he established cross-sectoral B2B sales processes with lead generation in over 180 Indian mobile applications and led fundraising efforts for the startup. Aditya was previously an associate at A.T. Kearney, where he worked primarily with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and retail clients on engagements in pricing strategy and demand forecasting, marketing effectiveness, supply chain optimization, and procurement across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Analyst, IDG ventures India

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Arpit Mittal is a part of the investment team at IDG Ventures India, where he focuses on investments and portfolio management in Consumer Internet and Digital Media, Health-tech and Fin-Tech. He also works with partners on building investment thesis and evaluating opportunities in verticals like Artificial Intelligence and Enterprise SaaS. Prior to joining IDGVI, he was a part of the investment team at i2india ventures, where he evaluated opportunities in sectors like Health-Tech, Fin-Tech and Digital Media and took operating roles in them - building the portfolio companies with a focus on product management, business operations and fund-raising. Prior to that, he worked as a Quant Strat at Goldman Sachs and built pricing models for the global interest rate trading desk. Arpit graduated from Delhi College of Engineering in 2012 with a B.E in Information Technology and has cleared Level-I, CFA. He is a sports enthusiast and enjoys going on short treks.

Venture Investor, Lightspeed India Partners

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Akshay Bhushan is an investor with Lightspeed India Partners and focuses on investments in consumer internet, e-commerce and related ecosystems. Previously, he was a founding member of the Corporate Development arm of Flipkart and built the strategic investments group leading investments across commerce, mobile-tech and consumer internet. He has been an entrepreneur himself having started a seed-funded data science startup in the Bay Area and Bangalore. Akshay holds an MBA from The Wharton School, Philadelphia and graduated with Highest Honors with a B.S. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech.

India Investment Lead, Axon Partners Group

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Swarandeep Singh is the India Investment Lead for Axon Partners Group, an international Investment, Corporate Development and Consulting firm specialized in global emerging markets. which has more than $250 million under management.Axon houses India Opportunities Fund which has already been completely deployed across five companies. In his role as the Investment Manager for India Opportunities Fund, an India-dedicated growth-stage venture capital fund. Currently, Swarandeep works closely with entrepreneurs in India, to apply his full time and energy helping them accomplish great results.Swarandeep has been a Board Observer for NxtGen Datacenter & Cloud Services (NDCT), Captronics Systems Private Limited (CSPL) and iYogi. He was also a Board Observer at Ampere Vehicles before he steered the exit for the fund.

Strategy Manager, Paypal

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Saurabh Joshi is Wharton MBA alumnus currently working as Strategy & BD Manager at PayPal. In his current role, Saurabh is focusing on PayPal's internal strategy, market expansion and minority investments in Asia & Americas. Saurabh previously worked at Goldman Sachs, SecondMarket (now Nasdaq) and Rocket Internet and has lead various functions in these organizations. He has extensive experience in the fields of eCommerce, Retail, VC & FinTech. Saurabh holds Master's degrees in Computer Science and Finance, alongside his MBA from Wharton.

Investment Professional, Matrix Partners

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Raghav Nagarajan holds a dual degree in Mathematics and Computing from IIT Kharagpur and has cleared all three levels of the CFA charter. After graduating, Raghav started his career with Barclays Capital in Singapore as an analyst. He then joined Edelweiss Financial to work on a post-merger integration project where he streamlined proce- sses and built efficient technology systems. Later, he moved into the investment management division where he co-managed an equity fund and advised high net worth individuals on investment strategies. As an investment advisor, Raghav noticed that credible financial services in India are largely aimed at the wealthy leaving the retail investors hapless. This inspired him to start RupeeVest, an online self-help investment platform that helps middle class Indians invest their money efficiently and effectively. His stint at entrepreneurship taught him the nuances of building a good team, understanding the consumer and most importantly executing till the last mile. With an experience spanning across technology, operations and entrepreneurship, Raghav looks to leverage his skills and knowledge sets to partner with upcoming entrepreneurs in navigating challenges and becoming success stories. When not engaging with startups, Raghav blogs on personal finance topics. Raghav was a national level debater in school and college and has won several championships.

ELIGIBILITY & SUBMISSION RULES

WISC targets the next generation of businesses serving the Indian market.  As a hallmark of the 22nd WIEF conference, the prestigious Startup Challenge promotes entrepreneurship in India by providing a global platform for startups working on highly innovative and groundbreaking ideas targeted towards the Indian market.

1. Who can apply?

Only Startups (subject to eligibility requirements) with business ideas or business models featuring products and/or services targeting the Indian market can apply.

2. Are there restrictions on the industry?

Applications are open to any early-stage entrepreneur, in any industry, from anywhere in the world with business ideas focused on a product and/or service targeting the Indian market. We accept early-stage startups. 

3. How developed does the startup have to be?

We expect startups to be in pre-seed, seed or early growth stages. Established companies should not apply. As we define it, this means that your startup should apply only if:

  • You are in product development stage | OR
  • You have rolled out a beta product | OR
  • You have sought and collected data on customer validation (beyond conducting surveys) | AND
  • You don’t exceed $1M in equity-based investment or $1M in annual revenue

For clarifications, please email us at :
wief-startups@wharton.upenn.edu

4. What is the selection process?

Startup Challenge entries will be pre-screened by a panel of experts including top entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and investors. A detailed view of the process & deadlines is given here.

5. What should I know about submitting?

  • Please submit the application here.
  • All teams will have to submit a pitch deck along with the online application form. Please format your presentation as per the guidelines provided in the template here. You can also use your own template design, as long as it is 4:3 slide layout. File format for submission should be powerpoint or PDF
  • Ensure you address all the points mentioned in the guidelines so that your application is evaluated on all the merits. Please name the file as "company name_pitch deck".
  • All teams will have to submit resumes of all the founders. All the resumes should be in one pdf file and should not exceed one page per resume. Please name the file as "company name_resumes".
  • Teams have an option to provide a link to elevator pitch video. Please note that this is completely optional, you should submit it if you feel you can explain the product better with the help of an elevator pitch. The pitch should be no longer than 1-2 minutes.

6. Any other rules I need to keep in mind?

  • Business plans must be targeting the Indian market or developing an India focused product and/or service. Any idea or business plan outside this scope will not be considered.
  • Only complete applications will be considered. This includes submission of pitch deck adhering to the guidelines and submission of resumes of all the founders.
  • We will not consider any submissions that exceed the number of slides stated in the guidelines.
  • We will not consider submissions having just a business idea. This means the core team should already be working on the idea to bring the product/service to the market in future or have already launched the product/service.
  • Judges’ decisions shall be final.
  • We will not consider submissions having just a business idea. This means the core team should already be working on the idea to bring the product/service to the market in future or have already launched the product/service.

Pitch day schedule

Two events across two very cool cities or something else blah blah blah

Registration and Coffee Networking

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9:30 am to 10:30 am

Opening Remarks

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10:30 am to 10:45 am

Dean's Remarks

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10:45 am to 11:00 am

Morning Keynote

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11:00 am to 11:30 am

Panel: Global Perspectives on India

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11:30 am to 12:30 pm

Lunch and Networking

12:30 pm to 1:30 pm

Panel: Innovation and Digital India

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1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

Panel: Investing in India

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2:30 pm to 3:30 pm

Coffee Break and Networking

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3:30 pm to 4:00 pm

Navigating Digital Disruption: Workshop

4:00 pm to 4:30 pm

Fireside Chat with Punita Kumar-Sinha

4:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Networking Reception

6:00 pm onwards

PAST STARTUPS FEATURED

Logistics

The Startup Challenge is being held at the address given below. Check-in and registration details will also be added subsequently.

PITCH DAY VENUE
Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai
Contact 
wief-startups@wharton.upenn.edu