The Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Competition is a prestigious international entrepreneurship competition for high school students. It introduces students to the Blue Ocean Strategy, an innovative business strategy approach, and is created by INSEAD professors Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.
The objective is to help you engage in conceiving, researching, developing, and presenting a novel business concept, and inspire them to create innovative solutions. As a participant of the competition, you are constantly encouraged to develop innovative business ideas that have the potential to create new market spaces.
This review will provide a detailed analysis of this prestigious competition, shedding light on its structure, eligibility criteria, costs, and more.
Note: The Blue Ocean strategy focuses on creating product differentiation and innovative price points to open up new markets and generate more demand for a product offering.
Who is eligible?
The competition is open to high school students from across the globe, making it accessible for students from diverse backgrounds! There are no academic prerequisites, making it accessible to any high school student with a passion for entrepreneurship and a desire to make a difference.
Participation is not just limited to teams but is also open to individuals. The judging criteria is the same for both categories.
How is the program structured?
The competition is structured around the principles of the Blue Ocean Strategy. Participants are expected to develop a business concept that achieves both differentiation and low cost and opens up a new market space of zero competition or a “blue ocean”.
The competition evaluates entries based on several criteria, each carrying equal weightage. You should keep these in mind while crafting your submission, as adhering to these guidelines will increase your chances at winning the contest.
Blue Ocean Creativity & Value Innovation, which assesses the novelty of the idea and its potential to create a new market space
Impact Potential, to gauge the market size or global impact of the idea
Technical Feasibility, which examines whether the technology behind the concept exists and is feasible, or if innovations in technology are required
Commercial Viability & Scalability, which evaluates the business model's potential for commercial success and scalability
Quality of Presentation & Use of Blue Ocean Tools, which looks at how clearly and compellingly the concept is articulated using the appropriate Blue Ocean tools and frameworks, which are all comprehensively provided to participants in the form of a mandatory online Blue Ocean Mini-Course.
Is the program prestigious?
Since its inception in Maryland in 2014, it has grown from a countywide competition to the largest virtual high school entrepreneurship competition in the world. In 2021, 139 of the US News and World Report Top 250 STEM high schools in the US participated in the competition. In 2022, the total number of participants jumped to 2500, and further doubled to over 5000 in 2023.
Students from 5 continents and more than 1700 schools, representing Ireland, Uganda, Italy, Egypt, Japan, and Australia, have participated, making the competition quite global in nature. The competition's judges are seasoned entrepreneurs and business people from around the globe, further adding to its prestige.
Prize and Registration Costs
Participation is completely free of charge. However, participants may incur costs related to developing their business concept and preparing their presentation. These costs could include research materials, software, or even professional consulting services.
Note: It is not mandatory that ideas be fleshed out as prototypes - winning pitches can consist of ideas without prototypes.
The Top 3 winning pitches receive $1000, $750, and $500 respectively, as well two $1,000 and one $750 category prizes. Top 8 participating schools with the most submissions receive $1000 in prize money.
Pros and Cons of the Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Competition
Fosters innovative thinking: The structure of the program is such that it forces you to think outside the box and come up with radically innovative solutions to real-world problems. This fosters creativity and problem-solving skills, which are the cornerstones of entrepreneurship. For high school students who have yet to step into college and experience dynamic problem-solving, this is an amazing opportunity to get a head start in developing these skills.
Helps you build key skills: Even though you do not experience the entrepreneurial life cycle end-to-end, you land up working on your communication skills while pitching, thinking of a business plan and things like profit, unit economics, operations, and competitors.
Provides a valuable learning opportunity: In several college-level courses, the Blue Ocean Strategy is mandatory reading. The competition provides students with excellent resources to build and deepen their understanding of the Strategy and the tools used to implement it. Naturally, implementing these learnings in developing their idea pitch cements their knowledge even further.
Gives global exposure: The competition provides students with an opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial skills on a global platform, judged by entrepreneurs from various industries. You’ll also learn about problems and solutions that you didn’t know even existed! This exposure can be invaluable, opening doors to future opportunities and connections.
Provides networking opportunities: Participants get a chance to connect with like-minded peers from around the world. These connections can be formed not only with fellow students but also with mentors and experts in the field. These relationships can provide invaluable guidance and support as students navigate their entrepreneurial journey.
Cash prizes: The winners of the Blue Ocean Competition receive cash prizes of up to $1,000, funds that you can use to propel your innovation or idea further, or save up for college!
Highly competitive and a relatively small chance of winning: While this isn’t necessarily a con (and is a pro if you win), it simply means that you should be mentally prepared to give it your best shot and not win. Given its global reach and the prestige associated with it, this is a highly competitive competition. In 2023, there were over 5,000 participants with 6 winners. This means that you’ll find yourself up against a fairly large and talented pool of students from all over the world, solving all kinds of problems. You can refine your idea and turn it into a passion project or operationalize it into a startup of your own.
Time-intensive commitment: Identifying a novel, high-impact solution to a global problem and then presenting it as concisely and intelligently as possible is naturally an intense and time-consuming endeavor. This requires a significant time commitment and may not be suitable for students who are already juggling multiple obligations.
Focused on assessing a singular skill-set: While the competition is an excellent kick-off point into the world of entrepreneurship, it covers the skills of pitching exhaustively. If you are looking for more hands-on and thorough experience with the full end-to-end chain of ideation, research, development and commercialization then you may want to check one of the many other Entrepreneurial Competitions that we have covered here.
The Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Competition is a unique and valuable platform for high school students interested in entrepreneurship. It can provide a good opportunity to hone and showcase your skills like out-of-the-box thinking, problem-solving, innovation and business acumen at a global scale, while providing proportional resources and exposure.
While the competition is highly competitive and can be time-intensive, the potential benefits make it a worthwhile endeavor. The learning opportunities, global exposure, and networking possibilities provided by the competition can be invaluable for students interested in entrepreneurship.
Furthermore, the competition's inclusivity and lack of specific academic prerequisites make it accessible to a diverse range of students.
If you're a high school student with a passion for innovation and a desire to make a difference, this competition could be the perfect platform for you.
If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!
Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world!
The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas. The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK.
The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.
You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship.
In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment.
Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)
Location: Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.
Application deadline: April 16 and May 14
Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August
Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!
One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are interested in doing research in business, entrepreneurship and innovation, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image Source: Blue Ocean Competition