HopStart: Hopkins New Venture Challenge


You might have noticed something different about us.

After 22 years as the JHU Business Plan Competition, we have a new name and a new look. We will also be debuting a new category: Sustainability Ventures. Despite these changes, HopStart: Hopkins New Venture Challenge stays true to our original mission of providing a rigorous learning experience, opportunities for student entrepreneurs to receive mentorship from industry professionals, and prize money to support new student ventures as they develop beyond the classroom and the competition.

Looking for information on the 2021 competition? View a recap of the event here.

Hosted by the Center for Leadership Education, HopStart is an annual competition that challenges Johns Hopkins students to develop a business plan around a novel idea and pitch their plan to industry leaders. 

Throughout two stages of competition held during the spring of each year, students build an understanding of their target market and competitors, craft an effective market entry strategy, and present their plans to industry professionals and venture capitalists on competition day.

Hosted annually on the JHU Homewood campus (virtually since spring 2020), the competition has grown over the last twenty years to draw teams from all divisions of the university. The 2021 competition saw over 150 competitors and 70 teams, all vying for a combined $40,000 in prizes. In addition to business plan development experience and prize money, HopStart also provides competitors with valuable mentorship and networking opportunities with industry leaders. During Stage 1 of the competition, teams are matched with mentors who provide feedback and guidance as teams develop their plans. Many competitors have found this direct mentorship to be a highlight of competing. To learn more about the stages of competition, visit our competition instructions.   

The competition showcases the talent of students as they present business plans developed over the course of the year. Students walk away from the competition with:

  • Mentorship and networking opportunities with experienced entrepreneurs, industry leaders, venture capitalists, and alumni.
  • Personalized feedback on pitches, presentations, and business plans.
  • Up to $5,000 in prize money.
  • Thorough understanding of what it takes to commercialize an idea or invention.
HopStart Categories
  • General Ventures: The General Ventures category encompasses commercial enterprises in the form of products, services, or technology outside of the scope of the Medical Technology and Life Sciences and Sustainability categories. These ventures identify an opportunity in the market and develop an innovative approach to fill this need.
  • Medical Technology and Life Sciences Ventures: The Medical Technology and Life Sciences Ventures category includes medical devices, digital health solutions, and pharmaceuticals & biologics. These solutions target an unmet need in healthcare and life sciences. These ventures must be feasible and have a scientifically-sound basis. 
  • Sustainability Ventures: Our special topic for this year’s challenge focuses on environmentally-conscious business ideas. Ventures in the Sustainability category tackle a pressing sustainability-related issue and present a solution that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Sustainability ventures can be non-profit or for-profit, but must feature sustainability as the core mission and present a plausible business plan for financial viability.

See important deadlines for this year’s competition with our complete Hopstart timeline. Learn more about whether you are eligible to compete and how to serve as a judge and mentor.