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Boyd Venture Challenge

The Boyd Venture Challenge is a seed-fund grant competition conducted in the spring semester each year. Companies are awarded up to $30,000 in startup capital. Funds may be awarded to one company or split among several companies.

Click below to view the 2021 schedule.

2021 Schedule

  • March 1 – Application Period Opens
  • April 5 – Applications due by 11:59 p.m.
  • April 14 – Invitation to Compete Issured
  • April 23 – Presentations to Judges
  • Awards Later in Summer TBA


In general, any legally established, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student-owned business is eligible to apply. Specifically:

  • Student-owned businesses must have a federal tax ID (FEIN or TIN).
  • Student-owned businesses can be a corporation, LLC or partnership.
    • In the past, the Anderson Center has allowed students with a sole proprietorship to apply to the Boyd Venture Challenge. A sole proprietorship with a business license is a legal business, but is not a legal entity, and provides no liability protection. Further, outside investment is not possible. Effective with the 2020 Boyd Venture Challenge, students may apply as a sole proprietorship but will be required to form a legal entity before any award payment is made. Options include an LLC or "S" corporation. The Anderson Center will provide guidance in entity selection if required.
  • The student owner must hold majority interest in the business.
  • Student-owned businesses awarded funds in previous Boyd Venture Challenge competitions can apply again but must show how past funds were used to advance the business.


The application period opens during the spring semester each year. To apply, student owner(s) should submit an executive summary of their business, a pro forma budget and financial statements for five quarters out. If the business is currently generating revenue, please submit the financial statements for the previous five quarters. Additionally, applicants should submit a statement detailing how the grant funds would be used to propel their business.

Send applications to ACEI@utk.edu with “Boyd Venture Challenge” in the subject line. The grant-award committee will consider each company’s need for capital, business concept viability and growth potential.

Executive summaries should include:

  • Name of the business
  • Activities to date
  • A clear definition of the market problem or opportunity
  • Business model (price, cost, profit)
  • Value proposition
  • Talent required/talent already hired
  • Timeline, milestones and costs to move from current status to operating entity, if not already in operation
  • Financial projections
  • How will business achieve sustainability; what future products or services will follow

Applications should include a cover sheet with name, contact information, academic year and major. Do not include your name in the submission document itself. The document author must remain anonymous to the judges.

Once the applications are received, judges will review the executive summaries and invite selected applicants to pitch their business plan in person. Pitches may be conducted via video conferencing for management teams not on campus.

Our Benefactor

The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, founder and executive chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, the makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence and SportDog brands. Radio Systems is a business built on the knowledge that pets are members of the family. Radio Systems’ 400 worldwide employees produce the industry’s most popular and innovative products in pet training, containment, safety and lifestyle for an audience dear to their hearts: their own pets.