To broaden students’ entrepreneurial opportunities and help others around the world, Case Western Reserve is one of six universities to join the inaugural Tibetan Innovation Challenge, a social entrepreneurship business plan contest that aims to improve the lives of Tibetans living in refugee camps in India.

The challenge was founded in response to the Dalai Lama’s concern about the number of young Tibetans leaving their communities to find employment. For example, there are about 128,000 Tibetans living outside Tibet—primarily in India, where about 94,000 reside, according to the Central Tibetan Administration’s 2009 census.

Through the competition, student teams are tasked with developing self-sustaining, replicable and practical business ideas for refugees to implement in their communities. The goal is to help refugees create businesses that will have meaningful, long-term impact on Tibetan communities.

“At Case Western Reserve University, our students enter many business competitions,” said Bob Sopko, director of the university’s Blackstone LaunchPad program. “But upon being informed of this one, we immediately recognized it as an important vehicle to have lasting impact.”

The competition, organized by University of Rochester, has two rounds. In the first, student teams will submit a pitch via video, along with other application materials, to Case Western Reserve’s judging panel. The winning team will receive an expenses-paid trip for two team members to the national finals in New York City, where they’ll compete against top teams from University of Rochester, Rice University, Syracuse University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Washington University in St. Louis for the opportunity to win a $5,000 grand prize.

The business proposals will be based on a number of factors, such as an understanding of the Tibetan culture and challenges; originality and creativity; business potential; financial, social and environmental sustainability; scalability; social value and impact; likelihood of success; and overall presentation style.

The finalists will be judged by an esteemed panel, composed of:

  • Lobsang Nyandak, executive director of the Tibet Fund and trustee to the Dalai Lama Trust;
  • Jeff Hoffman, entrepreneur and founder of,, CTI and ColorJar, among others; and
  • Kaydor Aukatsang, representative of the Dalai Lama to North America.

All of the business plans submitted, even if the creators are not selected to compete in the finals, will be given to the Tibetan refugee community to help them form new business ventures.

Submission Details

Recognizing end-of-school-year commitments and obligations, Case Western Reserve will offer a virtual submission opportunity.

To enter the competition, each team must submit an executive summary, full business plan and a link to a video presentation of the plan to Sopko at Videos should be uploaded to a private YouTube account.

All entries must be received by May 28.

Case Western Reserve judges will evaluate the plans, based on a rubric provided by the University of Rochester, to determine what team will advance to the finals in July.

The winning team will be notified by the first week of June.

Teams must consist of two to five students, one of whom must be a graduate business student. Multidisciplinary teams are encouraged.

Detailed information on proposal requirements, submission guidelines and other background information can be found at

For more information on the competition, visit