The Wharton School announced on Jan. 30 that Ellen and Richard Perlman have contributed $1.65 million to the Wharton Business Plan Competition to go towards funding the grand prize of the competition, now titled the Perlman Prize.
Wharton Entrepreneurship runs the annual competition. Launched in 1998, WBPC is open to students across Penn’s campus. Participants must go through four phases of developing a business idea throughout the semester, creating in-depth business plans and presenting to judges.
This year’s competition is currently underway. This year, over 400 people submitted entries to the competition.
Perlman, a 1968 Wharton graduate, has served as a competition judge for the last two years.
“Entrepreneurship is in the Perlman DNA,” Perlman said in a statement to the Wharton School. “Ellen and I are extremely excited about the opportunity to support Wharton’s program to teach and encourage America’s future entrepreneurs.”
According to Managing Director of Wharton Entrepreneurship Emily Cieri, the gift serves as endowed funding, which will go into Penn’s investment pool. Each year, the money from the investment pool will go towards funding the grand prize as well as the operating expenses of the competition.
The competition usually relies on funding from a sponsor search, but with Perlman’s $1.65 million gift, there is now stable funding for the program for the next few years.
The Perlman Prize is offered to the grand prize winner and includes $30,000 in cash.
Wharton sophomore Daniel Fine, who is participating in the competition, sees this as “beneficial from a competitive standpoint. It’s a good amount of money.”
Fine has launched a company called Glass-U, which provides foldable sunglasses to students around the nation.
Several of the students involved in the program are starting to create their ideas, but Fine has already started selling his product. Still, he wanted to get involved with WBPC.
“There’s nothing I could really lose by getting into the competition,” Fine said. “The prizes are pretty awesome, so there was no reason not to go for it.”
Over the past 14 years, the program has seen students develop and launch big ideas, such as Warby Parker, a company that donates a pair of glasses for each one it sells.
“We’re looking for students who are entrepreneurial-minded,” Cieri said. “Maybe they’ll build the next Google, but more likely they’ll dabble with something while they’re here and maybe a couple of years out of school they’ll build something big.”
Though competitors are still building their business plan, the competition final will be held on April 24, when the winner of the Perlman Prize will be announced.