Announcing the Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge

The Alliance Program is partnering with the Columbia Venture Competition to launch the Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge (ASEC). The track is open to all students and recent graduates from Columbia University (including Barnard), Sciences Po, Ecole Polytechnique and Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne. 

Each of the universities will hold preliminary rounds on their respective campuses.  Teams of students and recent graduates (five years or less from their most recent degree) from all four institutions are invited to submit proposals for new or existing ventures aimed at improving the common good while generating a profit. 

We will consider a wide array of business models from social ventures that are completely dependent on philanthropy to ventures that are earning a profit while making the world a better place. ASEC is open to a range of verticals, including (but not limited to): social justice, education, public health, sustainability, life science, nutrition, climate change, renewable energy, and democratic participation.

For Sciences Po, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Ecole Polytechnique, the competition is in three stages:

Each team submits the following documents in English to the selection committee within their institution:

  1. A description of the project (500 words), which highlights methodology of the project, the innovative nature of the solution proposed, key objectives, outcomes and deliverables, as well as the potential for impact. The description should also include a list of partners and a timeline
  2. A CV for each team member
  3. A budget, including funding already raised for the project (which must not have received more than $150,000 (€130,000) in investment by March 1st, 2021)

Applications (including project description, CVs and budget sheet) should be sent by email to:

Deadline for applications: February 26th, 2021

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to present their project to their institution’s selection committee.

Each of the four institutions will select one finalist team to represent them. Each finalist team will present their project to an independent panel at the Columbia Venture Competition by Zoom on April 7th 2021. The winners will be announced the following day. 

The winning team will be awarded a cash prize of $25,000. In addition, the first runner up will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize, while the second and third runners up will receive a prize of $7,500 each. 

This year we are glad to partner with THE FOREIGN TRADE ADVISORS OF FRANCE, who will be offering to all the winners mentorship sessions with successful industry leaders and entrepreneurs from their prestigious network (4300 CEOs around the world). These mentors will offer them a chance to test their ideas, benefit from expert advice and strengthen their proof of concept.



First Prize: $25,000 

First Runner up: $10,000 

Second Runner up: $7,500

Third Runner up: $7,500


January: launch of the call for applications

Feb 26th: Deadline for applications

March 5th: shortlisted teams announced

8th-19th March: Interviews of shortlisted teams by each of the 4 institutions 

22nd March: Announcement of finalists from each institution

7th April: Finalists pitch their project at the finals of the Columbia Venture Competition 

8th April: Announcement of the winners

Eligibility, Rules and Regulations

The Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge is intended for new, independent ventures in the seed or early start-up stages.

Businesses built using technologies or IP licensed from Columbia University, Sciences Po, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Ecole Polytechnique will be accepted but ownership of the IP must be clearly stated and documented. Ownership of intellectual property and equity shares in the business must not be in dispute.

Status of incorporation and any funding received must be clearly stated. Cash grants will only be awarded to teams that have established, legally-formed business registration.

Teams do not have to be formally incorporated to enter – or win – the Alliance Social Enterprise Track. However, winning teams must be legally- formed business entities to receive the grant. If a winning team is not yet an incorporated entity, ASEC sponsoring institutions may be able to provide advice and guidance.

Teams must not have raised more than $500,000 USD in dilutive investments prior to March 1st, 2021.

The Alliance Social Enterprise Challenge is intended for ventures founded, managed, and owned by eligible founders (students or recent alumni within 5 years of degree) from Columbia University, Sciences Po, Paris 1 Panthéon- Sorbonne and Ecole Polytechnique. Winning teams with members not affiliated with these universities must document the role all founders have had in the conception and development of the venture. At least one founder, engaged at the time of the venture’s inception, must be a student or recent alumnus (recent alumni within 5 years of degree) from one of these academic institutions.

All team members are asked to state their academic institution affiliation with degree year. ASEC administrators may also require proof of the length of time each founder has been engaged in their venture.

All four ASEC finalist teams must present live, in English, on April 7th 2021.

The winners will be announced on April 8th. Winners must agree to release rights to use their images and brief descriptions of their business models to help promote ASEC sponsoring institutions’ programs. Winners will be given rights to use their images, photos and videos for their own promotional purposes.

It may take ASEC sponsoring institutions up to three months after the final winners are determined to award the grants.

Eligibility is contingent on compliance with the rules listed above. Teams can be disqualified at any point, during the competition and prior to receiving funds at the administrators’ discretion. Disqualification is final and cannot be appealed.

Evaluation Criteria 

Project’s anticipated impact and contribution to the common good: 25%

Project’s viability (demonstrated expertise in fundraising from high net worth individuals and/or expertise in selling advertising): 25%

Well thought-out concept and implementation strategy; bonus for a prototype or demo: 20% 

Compelling, credible and polished presentation: 20% 

Originality of the idea and marketability: 10%