The Startup Internship Awards are awarded to select students who will spend the summer interning at a startup and who demonstrate both a commitment to entrepreneurship at Penn and to pursuing an entrepreneurial career. The objective of this award is to provide financial support for students who would be making a financial sacrifice by taking unpaid or underpaid summer internships at startup companies.
Our students intern at startups around the world… as well as right here in Philly.

"Ibotta realized the value of MBA interns, so I was able to spend my summer with a great group of MBA and undergrad interns. I enjoyed learning from the leadership team and having the opportunity to impact the product roadmap this summer." - Melissa Rondi, WG’17

How To Apply

Internship Eligibility Requirements
Internships should engage students in the day-to-day work of a founder during the instability/development phase of a startup that is working to scale.

The award is designed to support students who will be actively contributing to the growth of a start-up over their summer by gaining functional skills such as sales, marketing, operations, business development, finance, product management, or product development.

Students must be interning full time (35+ hours/week) for at least 8 consecutive weeks during the summer. Summer is defined as from the day after the last day of the Spring semester to the day before the first day of Fall classes. Work done with the startup outside of these dates does not count toward the internship requirement for this award.

Students must be working directly and in person with the founding team in the company office. Students may not work remotely/virtually.

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, the in-person requirement is waived and students are permitted to work remotely. Students are asked to describe how they will maintain contact with the startup’s founders and senior leaders while working remotely.

Students are required to accept an internship offer at a startup before applying for an award.
Company Eligibility Requirements
Companies should be in the early market penetration stage (i.e. it is unlikely that a student interning at a 10 year old company will receive an award, even if it meets the revenue and employee criteria).

Companies must have less than $25 million in revenues (as of company’s last full fiscal year) and fewer than 200 employees. Companies are not required to disclose exact details, but should confirm that they meet the stated revenue and employee count requirements in the company letter.

The following are not eligible: consulting firms, financial services firms, design firms, VC/PE firms, accelerators, incubators, or internships secured through third-parties or programs that require a student to pay to intern/secure an internship/participate in an internship program, even if the company ‘considers itself a startup’ or has an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’.

The startup may be bootstrapped, have VC/angel funding, be acquired through a search fund, etc.

No more than 2 interns at a particular company will receive a Startup Internship Award. There is no guarantee that both interns at a company will receive an award. In the event that more than 2 interns at a company apply for the award, the founder or direct supervisor of the applicants will be asked to provide input regarding who should receive the award.

Student Eligibility Requirements
Students applying for an award may not be on the founding team of the startup. Student founders can apply for a Summer Venture Award (deadline is in January of each year). Questions about the Summer Venture Award should be directed to Xavier Stewart.

University of Pennsylvania undergraduates (rising sophomores, juniors and seniors) and rising 2nd year Wharton MBAs are eligible to apply. Penn graduate students who will be returning to Penn for at least one more year are also eligible to apply.

The applicant must be planning to return to Penn as an enrolled student for at least one full academic year after the internship.

Wharton MBA students who are taking the currently offered 5th semester, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be graduating in Fall 2021, are eligible to apply.

Student’s compensation from the startup must be below $4500 per month or $1040 per week. This includes all forms of compensation from the startup.

MBA students who are sponsored by and having their tuition paid by their previous employer are not eligible to apply.

Previous Entrepreneurial Intern Fellows or Startup Internship Award winners are not eligible to receive an additional award.

Funding received from Penn Career Services, MBA Career Management, Student Financial Services, or from another Penn funding source will be taken into account when applications are reviewed. Priority will be given to students without an additional/alternative source of funding.

Evaluation Criteria
Venture Lab will strive to award students whose applications meet the following criteria:

Student has a strong entrepreneurial background and/or entrepreneurial career ambitions;

The summer internship experience is clearly entrepreneurial and the student intern will develop/hone entrepreneurial skills;

Student has a demonstrated history of contribution to entrepreneurship at Penn/Wharton, and to a lesser extent, the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community;

Student, internship and company meet all of the eligibility requirements.

Preference will be given to students interning at a startup founded by a Penn alumnus or student.

This is a competitive process and not every applicant who meets the stated criteria will receive an award.
How To Apply & Timeline
Eligible students can apply online

Applicants must upload a resume and the internship offer letter from the startup (in email form is fine), and complete the application form.

Deadline to apply: June 1, 2022, 11:59 pm Eastern

Review process: Applications are not reviewed on a rolling basis. The selection committee will review all applications after the deadline. Students will be notified if they will or will not receive an award. The date of notification will depend on the number of applications the committee needs to review. Students can generally expect to receive an email notification sometime in the three to four weeks following the application deadline.

Receiving award: Students receiving an award will need to submit financial paperwork to Venture Lab. It will then be reviewed and submitted to the Penn Finance Office. Due to the University’s Fiscal Year deadlines, students can expect to start receiving award funds around the start of the new academic year (August/September). Students should have plans to pay for their expenses up front, before receiving the award funds.


What is the average amount an awardee can expect to receive?
Award amounts vary, generally between $500 and $2500, and depend on the quantity and quality of applications received. The compensation an intern will receive from the startup is taken into account. The Startup Internship Award is competitive and not all students who apply will receive an award, even if the eligibility requirements are met.

Please note that all funding for the award is provided by donors, and the funds available for the award will vary from year to year.

Does Venture Lab provide matching awards and/or school credit?
Venture Lab does not offer compensation matching awards.

Venture Lab does not provide school credit. For questions regarding receiving school credit for an internship, students should talk to an academic advisor.
Do I have to accept an internship before applying?
Yes. Students are required to accept an internship offer at a startup before applying for an award. The offer letter/contract signed by both parties must be included with the application. The signed offer letter must include the student’s employment dates and hours per week, a description of the internship roles and responsibilities, the location of the internship, contact information for the student’s direct supervisor, and any and all compensation, including in-kind.

How do I find an internship at a startup?
There are many ways that students secure internships at startups. We suggest that students visit advisors at MBA Career Management or Penn Career Services. Both offices have staff members who work to identify opportunities for students interested in an entrepreneurial career path.

Additionally, students are encouraged to utilize the Penn/Wharton alumni network to find out about any startup internship opportunities.Students can sign up for our listserv here (select Student Weekly Digest); we will occasionally send out internship opportunities with alumni start-up companies.

Does having a paid or unpaid internship increase my chances or receiving an award or the amount I could receive?
Students are encouraged to negotiate the highest level of compensation (including in-kind compensation) possible from the company, while keeping in mind that startup internships may not offer as much compensation as those at more established companies. Students should not consider this award a substitute for negotiating a salary.

However, to be eligible to apply for an award, the applicant’s compensation from the startup (including salary and other compensation) must be below $4500 per month or $1040 per week.

Is the award taxable income?
Yes, award winners must report the award when they file taxes for that calendar year. International students/non-US citizens will have a tax rate of 30% automatically deducted from their award check. In January after the award year, students who are US Citizens will receive a 1099 form mailed to their permanent address listed on their W9. International students will receive a 1042s form in the mail in March.

These forms are mailed directly from Penn’s Accounts Payable Office. Students with questions about these forms should contact AP directly at 215-898-2626 or Please note that Venture Lab cannot provide any advice or guidance regarding taxes, or send students duplicate copies of these forms.

Venture Lab is grateful to the donors who support the Startup Internship Award. This award would not be possible without their generous support.

  • The Rosalind (WG’76) and Roy (WG’76) Neff Entrepreneurial Internship Fund
  • The Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund
  • Anonymous, in honor of Dr. William Zucker, Meshulam Riklis Professor Emeritus of Creative Management, The Wharton School
  • Rajeev Amara (W’97)
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