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What is the entry and judging process?

There are four stages in the competition: an executive summary, a short pitch and expert interviews, a full business plan and the final, where ideas are pitched to a panel of judges. Entry ideas must be for businesses with a social or environmental focus. Submissions may include profit or non-profit business plans. The competition is designed for initiatives in the concept or pilot phase only. Ideas will be evaluated for their potential to form the basis of a viable venture and make a meaningful contribution to society or the environment.

Entry process

Stage 1: Registration and executive summary submission

To enter the competition, each team will be asked to submit a short summary of their social enterprise idea, outlining their vision for the project and how it will work in practice. You'll have to consider what social need your enterprise meets, what distinguishes it from existing organisations, and how it might sustain itself financially.

The summary of your idea will be formed from the specific questions provided in the application portal.

Understanding the opportunity

  • Start here: Pitch us the one sentence summary of your company’s awesome mission. (50 words)
  • What is the social problem you’re trying to tackle? What’s the scale/depth of it? Who is affected? (150 words)
  • How will your idea make a real dent on the problem? (150 words)

Planning for change

  • What excites you about your approach? Why is your solution unique? (150 words)
  • How is the social problem you’re tackling addressed today? What are the shortfalls of the current solutions?  Why is NOW the right time for your solution (150 words)
  • How do you intend to thrive? If relevant, what have you tried so far? (150 words)
  • If all goes well, what will the business look like in 5 years? (150 words)

Making it happen

  • Who is on the team? Why are you the right people for this? How far will you take this forward? (150 words)

Stage 2: Quick Pitch and Expert Interviews

After the first round, you'll be invited to attend two interviews via calls/video conferences with some of the UK and Ireland’s leading social entrepreneurs and McKinsey experts to help develop and test your idea. The first interview will be conducted by a subject matter expert on the concept and the market. The second interview will be assessing the viability of your business model. Both interviews will last for approximately 20-30 minutes each, and your mentor is more than welcomed to attend to give you feedback and to help you prepare for the upcoming stages based on the interview outcome. You have to have a short pitch about your venture ready, as you can be asked to present it at the beginning of each interview. At the end of this round, we'll announce the semi-finalists.

Stage 3: Full business plan submission

This is where things get much more detailed. You'll create a full business plan that explains the nuances of your enterprise and the practicalities of how it will be run. But you won't be on your own: you'll receive coaching and support throughout the process from leading social entrepreneurs and McKinsey experts.

Stage 4: The Final

At the end of the process, each remaining team will present their ideas to a judging panel. Your mentor will of course help you prepare for this. The winner will be announced at our awards ceremony, and will be given seed funding and on-going support to make their idea a reality.

Entry categories 

Please note that we welcome all entries that have a clear defined ‘social impact’. However, we are particularly excited about the following categories. When entering the competition, please specify the entry category that is the most appropriate for your idea. In round two, the expert interviewer will be an expert in the category that you entered.

In addition, we will be keen to see some entries that focus on applications of AI, machine learning, big data & design.    

Specific judging criteria

Potential social impact

  • A clear mission statement
  • A defined social problem you want to impact and a clear understanding of the scale of the problem (your addressable market)
  • An articulation of how the solution impacts the problem in a scalable way

Company feasibility and Innovation

  • Belief of the unique value of your approach and how it differs from current solutions
  • Clear understanding of why now is the best time to launch / scale this solution
  • An idea for how your business will thrive
  • Vision for what the business will look like in 5 years

Team and Execution

  • Skills, energy and commitment of the founding team to realise this solution
  • Credibility of the roadmap ahead
  • Subsequent round details and criteria will be released to successful teams of each round.

Team requirements and eligibility

A team may consist of students that are enrolled on a full time programme leading to any degree at an accredited university in the UK or Ireland. Teams can consist of students from different universities. Participation is open to all universities in the UK and Ireland. Visiting students are also eligible, though would need to form a team with students based in the UK or Ireland. We recommend that teams have at least two members. We also suggest that students restrict their participation to a single team although case-by-case exceptions may be given for students participating on two teams.


Business plans and the brief business description that you provide in the pre-registration will be treated as confidential and will only be viewed by judges and the McKinsey Venture Academy organising committee. We may use other materials of finalists (e.g., the video pitch) in promotional activities directly relating the McKinsey Venture Academy competition