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National Social Venture Competition draws record interest this year

– The number of entries to the 2003 National Social Venture Competition is the highest in the event's history, despite the difficult climate for business startups, according to the competition's organizers at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, Columbia Business School and The Goldman Sachs Foundation.

This year, 95 teams from leading business schools around the world have entered the competition, marking a 23 percent increase over last year's submissions. Entrants encompass a variety of categories including community development, education, the environment, healthcare, technology and financial services.

The global business plan competition is for teams of MBA students and entrepreneurs seeking to launch businesses that create financial value through positive social or environmental impact.

Participating teams represent a number of prestigious business schools in the United States, including Columbia Business School (Columbia University), Haas School (UC Berkeley), Harvard Business School (Harvard University), Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University), Sloan School of Management (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford University) and Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania). International representation includes the London Business School, IESE at the University of Navarra (Spain) and INSEAD (France).

Of the 95 teams, 65 were selected to advance to the regional finals, to be held at Columbia Business School on March 7 and at the Haas School on March 14. A rigorous judging process will bring together over 40 leaders in the social enterprise arena for full-day sessions at each school to evaluate the business plans.

Of those 65 teams, eight will continue to the final round of judging hosted by the Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School in New York on April 11-12. Columbia will host a kick-off dinner that Friday night for the finalist teams featuring an address by Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of the Acumen Fund. The weekend will culminate in an awards dinner on Saturday at Tavern on the Green. Former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, R. Glenn Hubbard, the Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia Business School, will provide the keynote address.

Teams will compete for a total of $100,000 in prizes in three categories: businesses with high-growth potential, businesses with medium-growth potential (including nonprofit organizations), and businesses that best blend both the financial and the social returns on investment.

The social and environmental impact of the business plans is measured in terms of their Social Return on Investment (SROI), a concept developed in recent years to quantify the financial benefits society derives from a business's positive social or environmental impact.

Competing teams will be judged by a group of venture philanthropists, social venture investors, angel investors, venture capitalists and social venture entrepreneurs, whose expertise spans a breadth of social, environmental and business subjects. Confirmed judges for the final competition are Laura Callahan (Rockefeller Foundation); Cathy Clark (Columbia Business School); Tony Lent (EA Capital); Willy Osborn (Commons Capital, LLC); and William Rosenzweig (Haas School of Business).

"Successful leaders must now be not only good strategists, managers and communicators, but also exemplars of ethical behavior who can produce against a new kind of double bottom line," said Stephanie Bell-Rose, president of The Goldman Sachs Foundation. "Leaders must think carefully about the link between business and social impact and the balance between profits and responsibility."

The competition "provides a framework to help current business school students, the leaders of tomorrow, increase their awareness and heighten their sensitivity to these issues," said Bell-Rose. "For this reason, The Goldman Sachs Foundation is proud to partner with Columbia Business School and the Haas School of Business to develop the next generation of social entrepreneurs individuals who can use highly tuned business skills to impact society through the National Social Venture Competition."

The competition began three years ago as a student-organized social venture competition at the Haas School of Business. It expanded its national scope in 2001 with new partners - the Columbia Business School and The Goldman Sachs Foundation, which has provided $1.5 million in funding for
the competition.