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

Judges’ Choice, People's Choice & Best Exhibitor 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

2018-19 Partners

Media Partners
Media Partners
Media Partners
Media Partners
Media Partners
Media Partners

Challenge Format

The startup challenge typically 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 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.

Application Deadline
11:59 PDT
19th August 2018

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

Semi-Finalists Announced:
15th November 2018
Finalists Announced:
14th December 2018

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 All Applicants, about 10% Proceed
PITCH DAY: 4th January 2019

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


SRI, Ex-Lumis

Lightspeed India Partners

Guild Capital

Lightbox Ventures

Omidyar Network

Axon Partners Group


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 :

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.



4th January 2019

St. Regis
462, Senapati Bapat Marg,
Upper Worli, Lower Parel,
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Pitch day schedule

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

Breakfast & Registration

8:15 AM - 8:45 AM

Opening remarks

8:45 AM - 9:00 AM

Speech by Dr. Amy Gadsden, Exec Dir., Penn Global

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM

Opening Keynote

9:15 AM - 9:35 AM

Panel: Economics & Policy Moderator: Rick Rossow (Wadhwani Chair, CSIS) Speakers: Vijay Iyer (VP & COO, MIGA) Josh Felman (Former Head IMF, India),

9:35 AM - 10:25 AM

Coffee break

10:25 AM - 10:45 AM

Panel: Blockchain & cryptocurrency Speakers: Kavita Gupta (Founding Managing Partner at Consensys)

10:45 AM - 11:35 AM

Panel: Tech & Analytics Speakers: Anjan Lahiri (CEO, Birlasoft), Sajjad Jaffer (Founder & CEO, Two Six Capital), Shekar Ayyar (Senior VP Corp Dev & Strategy, VMware)

11:35 AM - 12:25 PM


12:25 PM - 1:10 PM

Panel: Startups & innovationSpeakers: Gautam Tambay (Co-Founder and CEOSpringboard)

1:10 PM - 2:00 PM

Panel: Finance Speakers: Bharat Poddar (Partner, BCG), Sanjiv Das (CEO, Caliber Homes), Venkat Badinehal (M.D, RBC Capital Markets)

2:00 PM - 2:50 PM

Coffee break

2:50 PM - 3:10 PM

Closing Keynote

3:10 PM - 3:30 PM

Closing remarks

3:30 PM - 3:45 PM

Networking and Reception

3:45 PM - 4:30 PM

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