If you are a high school student keen to make your mark in the world of entrepreneurship, one strong starting step to consider is entrepreneurship competitions. There are several that are highly prestigious and hosted by premier institutes.
The exposure to global competitors, challenge of ideation, access to resources, feedback from industry mentors - these are valuable tools for any would-be entrepreneur, and a mark of distinction for your profile. One competition that checks all these boxes and more is the Diamond Challenge.
What is the Diamond Challenge?
The Diamond Challenge is a high-stakes global entrepreneurship competition for high school students, operated by the Horn Entrepreneurship program of the University of Delaware. It is a unique opportunity for young minds to explore their entrepreneurial spirit and bring their innovative ideas to life.
Part of its distinctiveness stems from the fact that the competition is divided into two different tracks, Business Innovation and Social Innovation, which allows students greater freedom in their approach. The business track allows students to pursue an innovative business idea, while the social track encourages them to ideate on solving a not-for-profit, globally relevant problem.
Who Can Participate?
One of the better features of the Diamond Challenge is its accessibility - any high school student between 14-18 years of age, across the world, is eligible to participate. The students must be enrolled in an official high school/secondary education institution or program for the duration of the Diamond Challenge.
Each team requires one adult advisor (21 years of age or older) who is in a position to provide the opportunity to participate and broadly available to offer support to the team.
The advisor also serves as the primary point of contact with the Challenge authorities. Team composition is not geographically restrictive and students may be from more than one school. A team must have between 2 and 4 students, of which one is registered as the team leader.
Competition Structure & Timeline
The Challenge follows a lengthy, detailed process with plenty of time for submissions, feedback and iteration:
1. Registration - Teams will have to register themselves, select their Competition Track (Business / Social), and Virtual / Pitch Location option by Oct 5th 2023
2. Concept Submission - by 9th Jan 2024, teams will have to upload a 3-5 page document and 1-2 min concept video on the Challenge website as their entry. The jury takes 3 weeks to judge the pitches, and sends feedback to the participants by Feb 6th 2024
3. Pitch Submission - utilizing the feedback shared, participants must submit a 10-15 slide pitch deck by Feb 17th 2024 that will be considered their final submission
4. Pitching & Evaluation - between Feb 13th - Feb 27th 2024 the live/virtual pitching and evaluation of the shortlisted submissions will take place
Pitches will be made either in-person or virtually, depending on the option selected during registration. Students are encouraged to thoroughly check the Competition rules for each
5. The Diamond Challenge Summit - the grand culmination of the year-long program. The semi-finalist teams are invited to a 3-day Summit with industry leaders where they engage & network with a global community of entrepreneurs
Prizes at the Diamond Challenge
The Diamond Challenge offers over $100,000 in rewards and resources spread across both tracks. The top Business and Social ventures are awarded prizes of $12,000 each in startup capital. The second and third place winners in each track receive $8,500 and $4000 respectively.
n addition to this, there are also three different Topical Prizes for one winner each, in each track. Aside from the monetary awards, winners also receive an invitation to the Diamond Challenge Summit, an exclusive entrepreneurship education experience that brings its own reward of access to networking and mentorship.
The Diamond Challenge is free to enroll for any high school students across the globe.
Is it prestigious?
With the 2022 competition boasting 2000 participants across 700 teams representing 37 nations, the Diamond Challenge is prestigious. It is also sponsored by numerous and varied organizations, ranging from entrepreneurship incubators to large technology firms to retail banks. Winning alumni are provided guidance & resources to pursue their business ideas.
Pros & Cons of the Diamond Challenge
Offers a great learning opportunity and resources - the Diamond Challenge offers to you months of rigorous problem solving, conceptualization, feedback and iteration to enable students to create robust, innovative, scalable business plans. Notably it also offers its own curriculum freely available for all participants, that is effectively a crash course on entrepreneurship.
Offers significant prizes & resources - as detailed above, winning teams get significant start-up capital from the competition prizes as well as the topical prizes.
Offers great exposure - for students trying to cut their teeth in the business world, there is no currency more valuable than networks, and the Diamond Challenge presents the perfect pathway to them via the Diamond Summit. Students are able to interact with both businesspeople and Challenge sponsors, many of whom have the resources and the inclination to help budding entrepreneurs.
The level of competition at the challenge -that due to the large number of participants and the quality of the pitches, the stakes for victory are high and not everyone will be able to make the cut. This isn’t strictly a con but definitely worth considering!
The extensive time commitment - the event includes three rounds of pitches, multiple iterations and feedback from the judges. It will take a lot of time if you want to be a serious contender.
No free lunch - while the competition itself has no fees, that’s not to say that resources would not be expended in creating a winning product, service and pitch. This is a point most students miss out on, but you should take stock of all the expenses you may have to make for a stellar submission.
How to win the Diamond Challenge
For those of you keen on making a mark in this competition, keep the following tips in mind:
Add value - whether the Business track or the Social track, one of the key criteria for the judges is the growth or impact of the idea. Make sure that your proposal is addressing a real problem for the world and is offering a unique, scalable solution. The Diamond Challenge Facebook page has some useful videos to help you with this.
Do your homework - one can only add value by going one better than the competition. Be thorough in your research about everything in the immediate universe of your chosen proposal - market size, market state, competitors, trends, future outlook, emerging technologies. The more you put in the work, the more refined your final pitch will become by iterations.
Prototype - go above and beyond by having a prototype, pilot or minimum viable product ready for the pitch. Show the judges that not only can your idea work, it’s already been stress tested once.
Show them the money - whether Business or Social, both ideas will need to show revenues. Have a clear revenue model in mind. Even better, make a few sales if possible in your prototyping phase!
Tell a story - even the best business plans with the most innovative solutions can fall flat if they’re not delivered convincingly. 25% of the weightage is awarded to the “Wow factor” of submissions - creativity, ingenuity, persistence, passion, & storytelling. Work hard on the presentation part of your pitch and make it a compelling page turner. This video is an excellent starting point to understand what makes a great pitch.
Our Review and Wrapping Up
All in all, the Diamond Challenge presents high schoolers with a distinct, compelling option of pursuing their dreams of entrepreneurship with the backing of resources, feedback and exposure. It is a nearly year long, 3-round program with plenty of guidance & resources that allows you to take an idea and put it through the crucible of feasibility, scalability, and revenue.
The large prizes at stake are a good simulation for the cutthroat world of business, as is the prestige and network associated with it. The skills and knowledge you will acquire in the pursuit of the perfect pitch will stand you in good stead throughout your years in the world of entrepreneurship and beyond. And should your pitch win, access to the mentors and network of the Diamond Summit will hand you a real opportunity to bring your brainchild to fruition and leave your mark on the world.
The Diamond Challenge is more than a competition; it's a journey of learning, growth, and self-discovery. It's an opportunity to make a difference, one idea at a time.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are passionate about conducting research (including business research), you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students 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 PhD 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: Diamond Challenge logo