Guidance from an Academy Consultant

To act as a catalyst for success, the Social Venture Academy connects each team with a team of student mentors called consultants. Social Venture Academy Consultants meet with teams 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 Social Venture Academy Consultant is the first step to receiving funding.

Expert Feedback

Student teams in the Social Venture Academy have the opportunity to present to representatives of the Ballard Center for Social Impact who evaluate ventures based on the following investment criteria:

  • Innovative Product/Service — The product or service has been market-tested and margins are profitable enough to launch.
  • Marketing Strategy — How is the business planning to grow and expand? The market strategy has primed the venture for successful scaling.
  • Social Impact — How focused is the venture on fixing a societal problem in addition to making a profit? Can social impacted be measured and forecasted?
  • Business Model — How has the business model been evaluated and improved? Is it sustainable?
  • Management Team — A strong, balanced team has been built that can lead the company and work successfully within constraints.

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. 


  • 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 listed above, and given in more detail upon admittance to the Social Venture Academy, are eligible for funding.

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: