Posted on November 6, 2022 by Chris Reichert

Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition

Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition

School of Data Science relaunching new data science business plan competition


The University of Texas at San Antonio School of Data Science is pleased to announce the return of the UTSA Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition. Originally established at UTSA in 2020, the competition is made possible by a $1 million donation by third-generation venture capitalist and founder of Draper University Timothy Draper, and his wife Melissa Parker Draper. Although the Draper Competition exists in various forms at other universities, the UTSA Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition is unique for its focus on data science and its applications, says School of Data Science Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Amanda Mukengeshayi.

“We are looking for any kind of business that uses data science as a tool, technology, or methodology in solving the business’s challenge,” Mukengeshayi said. “There are tons and tons of student competitions out there, but there aren’t many that focus on data science technologies.”

The competition is open to university students within the United States at the graduate and undergraduate level who are interested in launching new, independent for-profit business ventures and are in the start-up or early growth stage and feature a sustainable revenue model. Applicants will be competing for cash prizes ranging from $1,000-$30,000. The competition will be held at San Pedro I on Friday, April 21, 2023.

Learn more Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition

Although the competition was established at UTSA in 2020 and an initial call for applications was put out in 2021, the competition never began. This makes the 2022 competition simultaneously a relaunch and an inaugural event.

“Last year we encountered a few technical challenges,” Mukengeshayi said, “and it really didn’t feel right proceeding that way, so we decided to take a step back, and reassess, and learn from those lessons, and improve the planning process this time around.”

The challenges, Mukengeshayi explains, were both internal – such as ensuring the right parties were involved in the right decision-making processes – and external, such as navigating pandemic-related travel restrictions, establishing the competition and its events in a hybrid format, and coordinating logistics with teams of international applicants.

“Last year was a big learning curve, but it definitely helped us improve the process this year. So I will say it was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I think we are in much better shape this time than we were last time.”

With the competition returning with an in-person format, Mukengeshayi says she’s seeing high levels of enthusiasm from faculty, students, and everyone involved. The original call for applications in 2021 received 17 applications from multiple countries; even though this year’s competition is reserved to US students, Mukengeshayi still hopes to receive between 15 and 20 applications.

“There is lots of excitement about just being in that same space, being able to pitch business ideas in person,” she said, “So if we can fall in that same range, I think that will be an excellent start.”

Each application for the UTSA Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition has two parts. The first is a general application submission. From there, teams must submit additional materials including a one-page business plan and a 60-second video pitch. These resources give the judging committee an insight into how applicants would pitch their ideas to a venture capitalist or angel investor such as how they speak or present themselves on camera. From there the committee decides which teams will be invited to the competition finals on April 21, 2023. Mukengeshayi says the proposed business ventures can be in any field, from art to technology, so long as they feature novel applications of data science techniques.

“We are hoping and expecting to see innovative and instructive ideas come from student entrepreneurs across the nation who understand the potential of data science as an interdisciplinary field,” Mukengeshayi said.

Besides the potential monetary benefit to contestants, Mukengeshayi says the competition provides students with invaluable experience in business and entrepreneurship, networking and career opportunities, and a chance to practice the skills they’re learning in their classes.

“It very much follows UTSA’s model of aligning classroom and experiential learning,” she said.

Mukengeshayi also hopes the competition results in increased engagement with the local community. Dubbed by some as “the Texas Innovation Corridor” or “the New Silicone Valley,” the region between Austin and San Antonio has seen job growth at more than double the rate of Texas as a whole, reports the Austin Business Journal. San Antonio especially has become renowned as a leader in fields such as data and information technology and cybersecurity. As a Carnegie R1 institution, UTSA’s location within this tech-corridor allows it to increasingly expand its level of excellence in areas of academics and research. As such, an event like the UTSA Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition represents a key opportunity for students and businesses alike.

“This is a great opportunity to engage all those businesses and the community at large,” Mukengeshayi said. “Not only do our participants learn the skills that prepare them for high-demand careers, but those businesses in return get to see what the new talent is able to bring to the table, and what the future talent in this region looks like.”

In the future, Mukengeshayi hopes the competition becomes a signature event for the university, known around the country like the Rice Business Plan Competition. She says the competition may even extend to international applicants again at some point in the future. For now however, her goal is a successful launch and implementation of the lessons learned from previous years. This, she says, will be a university-wide effort.

“Students applying and our faculty and staff being involved, whether through supporting the activities on the day of or marketing the event, that internal buy-in will go a long ways towards the competition being successful,” Mukengeshayi said.

Applications for the UTSA Draper Data Science Business Plan Competition opened on November 7, 2022. The deadline to apply is January 27, 2023. For more information visit

— Chris Reichert