The Penn Wharton Innovation Fund exists to fund creative and meaningfully innovative ventures from the Penn student community. Alberto Vitale WG’59, who endowed the Innovation Fund, hopes that it will be “a catalyst to stimulate innovation at the School and to surface the brainpower of its students.”

Fund Your Startup

Please note that the Innovation Fund is open only to currently enrolled students pursuing a degree-granting program (Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Note that you can apply for one type of award (Validation or Implementation or Launch, if eligible) per application cycle. You should choose the award level that best suits your venture development stage.
Applications Open
  • Monday, September 19
  • Wednesday, October 12
  • Wednesday, November 9
  • Wednesday, January 25
  • Wednesday, February 22

Application Deadlines
  • Sunday, October 9, 11:59 PM ET
  • Sunday, November 6, 11:59 PM ET
  • Sunday, January 22, 11:59 PM ET
  • Sunday, February 19, 11:59 PM ET
  • Sunday, March 26, 11:59 PM ET

    • Validation: $500
    • Implementation: $2500
    • Launch: $5000 (must receive an Implementation award before applying)

    Award Funding Application FAQs

    Eligibility & Rules
    All applicants for the fund must be a Founding member of the team. The team leader must be a founder, and a currently enrolled student in a degree-pursuing program at Penn. Students on a Leave of Absence are not eligible to be a team leader.

    Both Nonprofits and For Profits are eligible.

    The venture must be a new and independent venture. Ventures that were launched before a team member enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania are not eligible.

    All submitted materials must be the original work of the participating team. By submitting an application, a team and each of its individual members warrants that they do not infringe on any proprietary or other right of others.

    Venture Lab uses Survey Monkey as the application platform for all programs and awards. By applying to any of the programs or awards offered by Venture Lab, applicants agree to submit and/or upload data to the Survey Monkey platform, and acknowledge acceptance of the Survey Monkey terms and conditions.

    Declined applicants are welcome to reapply at any time, as long as the team meets all the eligibility requirements (ex. haven’t graduated)

    International students are eligible. If they are awarded, additional financial paperwork will be required.

    Applications for the Validation Phase Award ($500) and Implementation Phase Award ($2500) have no prerequisite.

    Applicants are only eligible for the Launch Phase Award ($5000) after receiving the Implementation Phase Award.

    Once a team receives an award, they are no longer eligible to apply for a ‘lesser’ award for that venture (ex. Implementation Award winners cannot apply for a Validation Award). Once a team receives a Launch Award, they are no longer eligible for additional Innovation Fund funding.

    Innovation Fund awards are intended for early stage ventures. Businesses that have received more than $150k in institutional funding are not eligible, unless the funding was received while the Team Leader/team members were concurrently active students at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Validation: Venture should be pre-revenue

    Implementation: Venture can be pre-revenue or have minimal revenue from a paid pilot or beta testers

    Launch: Venture can be revenue-generating

    Appropriate use of funds: Funds provided as direct grants to student-led projects can be used to build, test, and develop prototypes, purchase technical and legal resources, engage software developers or engineers, or for other expenses related to developing the idea or invention. The use of funds should clearly make an impact on venture development. Examples of inappropriate use of funds include reimbursing founders’ personal expenses, paying for a resource students could access free of charge, reimbursing for prior travel expenses, etc. The Investment Team wants to see that the Innovation Fund funding is making a meaningful impact on venture development.

    Decisions made by the Innovation Fund Investment Team are final. The Investment Team reserves the right to disqualify any participant, team and/or submission for good cause, including the following reasons:
    - violation of the University’s Code of Student Conduct, Code of Academic Integrity or other policy
    - violation of any local, state or federal law
    - the team or submission has not complied with applicable rules
    - the application does not present sufficient content or material appropriate to merit review
    Selection Process, Criteria & Deadlines
    Applications are reviewed by the Innovation Fund Investment Team, which is made up of current Penn students.

    There are five opportunities to apply each academic year. (see list below)

    Evaluation criteria varies per award phase and includes:

    • For all award phases
    o Innovation: The Innovation Fund Investment Team is most
    interested in truly innovative ideas
    o Use of funds & impact of Innovation Fund funding

    • Validation
    o How the identified problem connects to the proposed solution
    o The proposed validation plan

    • Implementation
    o Market
    o Business model
    o Product development plan
    o Validation plan results

    • Launch
    o Everything listed above plus – Team and Path to financial

    A venture can meet all of the criteria and receive positive feedback and still not receive an award, as there is a finite amount of funding to distribute each month.

    Shortlisted applicants for the Launch Award may be invited to pitch to the Investment Team. Launch Award applicants are expected to be available to attend the meeting date listed below for their particular application cycle. Teams will be notified if they are invited to pitch approximately 1 week before the meeting date.

    2022-2023 Important Dates
    Application DeadlineNotification Date (Validation & Implementation applicants)Launch Award Shortlist Meeting DateNotification Date (Launch applicants)
    Sunday, October 9Wednesday, October 26Tuesday, November 1Wednesday, November 2
    Sunday, November 6Wednesday, November 30Tuesday, December 6Wednesday, December 7
    Sunday, January 22Wednesday, February 8Tuesday, February 14Wednesday, February 15
    Sunday, February 19Wednesday, March 15Tuesday, March 21Wednesday, March 22
    Sunday, March 26Wednesday, April 12Tuesday, April 18Wednesday, April 19
    Which phase should I apply to?

    The Innovation Fund Validation Phase Award is designed to support student entrepreneurs in the ideation or validation phase of venture development. Apply to the Validation Phase when:

    • This is a new idea that you started working on recently.
    • You have a clear plan to validate your idea and test your assumptions
    • You need funding to run a large scale survey
    • You need funding to build a proof of concept


    The Innovation Fund Implementation Phase Award is designed to support student entrepreneurs who have a validated idea to develop into a venture. Apply to the Implementation Phase Award when:

    • You have a validated idea
      • You completed a survey with a large sample size where potential customers (in your target market) indicated their interest
      • You have a list of potential customers who have signed up for a mailing list
      • You have data that demonstrates the need for your product or service
      • You have pre-orders
      • You’ve interviewed a significant number of people from your target market
      • You’ve built and tested a proof of concept
      • You’ve tested and proven a customer’s willingness to pay
      • You’ve discovered a way to make your product/service defensible
      • You’ve mitigated for any major hurdles toward adoption of your product/service
    • You need funding to build your product after validating your idea
    • You need funding to run a pilot


    The Innovation Fund Launch Phase Award is designed to support student entrepreneurs who have a venture that has launched or is ready to launch.

    • You have already received an Implementation Phase Award.
    • You are generating revenue or have an immediate path to generate revenue (will vary by industry)
    • You have launched your venture or have an immediate path to launch
    • You’ve built and activated your sales pipeline
    • You are actively raising a round of seed funding
    • You have a viable monetization strategy
    Additional Info
    • Teams are asked to report any news such as name changes, funds raised, acquisitions, exits, and shutting down.
    • Though not required, we hope you keep in touch with us and consider giving back to the fund to support future generations of Penn entrepreneurs.
    Luckily, the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund is a pillar of support for early entrepreneurs and helped me and my startup when we needed it most.
    Ashwin Baweja, ENG’15/GEN’15/W’15 Founder of HashFav
    The University of Pennsylvania contains a variety of funding sources for student startups. This list brings together a number of the startup funding sources at the University of Pennsylvania. It does not include programs, accelerators, or incubators that provide funds in addition to their educational content. 
    Contact Jill Anick
    Director, Explorer & Investor Programs
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