Guidance from Academy Consultant Team

To act as a catalyst for success, the Social Venture Academy connects each venture with a team of student mentors called consultants. Social Venture Academy consultants meet with ventures to help them progress through idea validation, business model development, and launch. Many consultants have a background in social impact, business, or consulting. Consultants actively work with ventures to overcome their challenges, achieve their goals, and change our world for the better. Connecting with a team of Social Venture Academy consultants is the first step towards receiving funding and valuable advice

Expert Feedback

Student teams in the Social Venture Academy have the opportunity to present to a panel of judges (composed of successful entrepreneurs and mentors in the field of business and social impact) who will evaluate ventures based on predetermined criteria. This criterion depends on the stage of funding for which the venture is pitching, with the stages defined as follows:

  • Idea Showcase: At this stage, ventures will be required to create and upload a 3-5 minute video that highlights the social product or service that they will provide to alleviate a specific social problem afflicting an identified disadvantaged population. 
  • Social Product: The purpose of this stage is to ensure that ventures have validated their solution. Important steps include formulating a hypothesis, building an MVP (minimal viable product), validating customer/user reactions, and iterating on this process. Teams should have evidence that their solution has realistic potential to become an effective social impact intervention. Judges will not be asking about financial viability or other venture model areas at this point. Validation of the product or service is the focus here.
  • Social Venture: After completing the Social Product milestone, the purpose of the Social Venture stage is to ensure that teams are building a sustainable venture model around their solution. Teams should state the likely legal structure of their venture and demonstrate they are willing to pivot/iterate on their venture model as needed. Frameworks like the “Business Model Canvas” are often helpful for teams to consider when validating the sustainability of their venture. This pitch includes updated information from the “Social Product” stage. Teams achieving Social Venture status also receive invaluable feedback from Ballard Center advisors. Some of these advisors have been involved in private equity or venture capital as a profession, and therefore can help student social venture teams best position themselves to receive outside funding.

Throughout the pitching process, venture teams receive invaluable feedback from Ballard Center advisors. Many are or have been involved with private equity or venture capital as a profession which enables them to help ventures best position themselves to receive outside funding. 


As explained earlier, funding is divided into three phases of increasing complexity: Social Idea, Social Product, and Social Venture. While ventures typically spend one semester in each phase, the Academy will work with the venture at the pace most appropriate to its needs. However, while each venture will progress at its own pace, the venture may only be awarded the money from each phase once.

  • Social Idea is focused on early ideation and these early-stage ventures may receive $200 to $1,000.
  • Social Product is based on the founding team’s ability to execute on their ideas and develop a working minimum viable product. Teams may receive up to $2,000.
  • Social Venture is based on the team’s demonstration of solid market traction with well developed operational plans for the venture and most importantly, they are addressing a vulnerable market while helping to solve a social issue. Teams may be awarded up to $10,000. Once Social Venture status has been awarded, teams can continue to work with the Ballard Center mentors and set funding milestones and can become eligible for an additional $12,000 of funding.

Teams are not competing against each other to receive funding. All ventures that meet the criteria of the Social Venture Academy are eligible for funding. For a more comprehensive presentation regarding the criteria to receive funding, review the following presentation: Social Venture Academy Criteria.

Other Competitions

Students are also encouraged to participate in other social business competitions to gain exposure and funding for their ideas. Check out the following programs: