Hero Image

Current Competition

Timeline & Deadlines

The SIPA Public Policy Challenge Grant Program consists of three rounds of increasingly demanding competition.  The rounds correspond approximately with the “concept,” “design” and “pilot” phases of enterprise development.  Winners of each round will receive progressively more robust and targeted support and mentorship.

Timeline for Academic Yr 2023 Competition (September 2022 - April 2023)

Summer 2022

SIPA Public Policy Challenge Grant Competition Announced for Fall 2022-Spring 2023

September 26, 2022 at 11:59pm

Round One Deadline: Proposals Due

Open call for student teams to submit concept papers describing a problem, its significance and outlining a possible solution. (Please review the Round One Proposal section for full details and the application form.)

October 2022

Semi-finalists Announced

Semi-finalists selected by committee of Columbia faculty and technology entrepreneurs.

Semi-finalists develop proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes over next 3 months. Each semi-finalist team will be awarded up to $5,000 in support funding. 

October 2022 through January 2023

Semi-finalists Bootcamp

Bootcamp sessions in starting new ventures, prototyping, financial planning, legal issues and effective pitching will be available for semi-finalists.

January 17, 2023

Round Two Deadline: Proposals or Business Models and Prototypes Due

Semi-finalists will submit proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes. Round Two submissions (design phase) should show how initial hypotheses were tested and refined with different target audiences such as potential partners, funders/supporters, customers/users, and others – and how these results were used to refine the proposal/model. 

Round Two Deliverables (Budget Template)

February 2023

Finalists Announced

Finalists selected by committee of CU faculty and technology entrepreneurs.

Finalists refine proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes over next 2 months. Each finalist team will be awarded up to $3,000 in support funding. 

March 2023

Round Three Deadline: Proposals or Business Models and Prototypes Due

The finalists will submit refined proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes.  Round Three submissions (pilot phase) should integrate refinements based on field testing. 


Winners of Total of $50,000 Announced

Winners of the AY 2023 SIPA Dean's Public Policy Challenge competition will be announced at Columbia University's #StartupColumbia Festival. Up to 3 teams will be selected by a committee of CU faculty and technology entrepreneurs.

Team Advisors

Team Advisors

  • Rohit Aggarwala works on cities, transportation, and the environment, from the perspectives of former public official, policy expert, and historian. He is adjunct professor at SIPA, Special Advisor to the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and leads environmental programs for Bloomberg Philanthropies. He is also co-chair of the Fourth Regional Plan of the Regional Plan Association of New York. From 2006 to 2010, Aggarwala was the Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability for the City of New York. In that role, he served as the chief environmental policy advisor to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and led the development and implementation of New York City’s sustainability plan, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York. Mayor Bloomberg called him “the brains behind PlaNYC.” He serves on several boards, including that of the Regional Plan Association; the Urban Green Council; the advisory boards of the Eno Transportation Foundation and New World Capital (a private equity firm); and is a trustee of St. Stephen’s School in Rome, Italy.

  • Alveena Bakhshi is a Subject Matter Expert in Credit Risk. She has extensive experience in debt capital market transactions, structuring and financial modeling. As a Ratings Analyst at Moody's, she managed a portfolio of issuers and rated few billion dollars of debt from 2005 to 2009. Since, she has provided expertise to banking and financial services clients in credit scoring and model risk management. She has a solid base in data and analytics. At Brillio she advises clients on how to extricate value through digitally transforming credit risk for customer experience management. Alveena received her Master of International Economic Policy Management from Columbia University where she specialized in Financial System Stability, publishing research on the Asian Financial Crises and Capital Market Development in China. She is a mentor at the Seattle based incubator/accelerator, 9Mile Labs. She has been a lifelong volunteer and supporter of grass-root organizations that work on behalf of 'at risk' youth. She recently published 'Shot to Make Look Good' for Child Soldiers International for research based advocacy to stop the use of child soldiers.  

  • David Dabscheck is a Visiting Scholar at Columbia Business School in innovation strategy and is the Founder and CEO of HMW Innovate. Through delivering his "G.I.A.N.T. Innovation Labs," David has helped clients from Fortune 500 businesses to global NGOs develop and implement sustainable innovation and creativity programs. David also founded the largest volunteer nonprofit security organization in the US, the Community Security Service (CSS), and served as Deputy Managing Director of a national advocacy project, the Israel Action Network, and an Advisory Board Member for several Israeli and New York technology companies. His writings have appeared in the Daily Beast, the Boston Globe, and Foreign Policy magazine among other publications, and he holds an MBA from Columbia University, an MA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and undergraduate degrees from the University of Queensland, Australia.

  • After careers in law and finance, technology, and venture capital, Richard Fishman recently became senior counselor to Ashoka, the world’s largest organization of leading social entrepreneurs. Richard began his career as a civil rights and legal services lawyer and created the first housing and economic development law program in the Southern U.S. He subsequently headed the American Bar Association’s National Housing Law Program and its National Advisory Commission on Housing and Urban Growth. In private law practice, as a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, he headed the firm’s Structured Finance practice, representing major Wall Street investment banks in structuring complex financial instruments, as well as doing initial public offerings and bank M&A deals. He left the law to become president of Thinking Machines Corporation, which, at the time, used massively parallel processing to build the world’s fastest supercomputers. Upon the reorganization of TMC, he began investing in early-stage companies, initially through boutique VC firms and then heading venture capital investing for MacAndrews & Forbes Group (the diversified holding company of Ronald O. Perelman). Richard has served and currently serves on the boards of numerous publicly traded and privately held companies and non-profit organizations.

  • Sarah Holloway has worked in the public and nonprofit sector for 25 years.  She is currently a full-time member of the SIPA faculty where she teaches nonprofit financial management and social entrepreneurship.  In addition to teaching, she runs the school’s Management Specialization – a set of courses and activities that support knowledge and skill building in non-profit, for-profit and social enterprise management.  Her areas of interest are social enterprise start ups, K-12 education and education technology with a particular focus on urban and NYC efforts.  She is founder or co-founder of 7 start up organizations including MOUSE.org and CSNYC. Sarah is a member the Boards of Directors of the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC), The Armory Foundation, Mission Restore and Columbia Entrepreneurship.  She is a former board member of The Institute of Play, LIFT Investments, the Ft. Tryon Park Trust (NYC Parks Department), Friends of Public School 187 and the New York City Workforce Investment Board. 

  • Jeremy Kagan is the Managing Director of the Eugene Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School, where he oversees the entrepreneurial curriculum, student programs, the Lang venture capital fund, and the Columbia Startup Lab. He is also a Professor and Faculty Director of the Digital Marketing Strategy executive education program, and teaches graduate and executive education classes. His book “Digital Marketing: Strategy and Tactics”, the first textbook for digital marketing, was published in 2018 by the Wessex Press. Kagan previously was the founder and CEO of Pricing Engine, a digital marketing platform that enabled small businesses to benchmark, optimize and expand their search and social advertising campaigns. Kagan has been a speaker and corporate trainer in the digital media industry, where his clients include companies in content, services, and e-commerce, as well as traditional advertising agencies needing digital media expertise. Kagan previously worked at Sony Music Entertainment in the Global Digital Business, where he was the Vice President of Global Account Management, working with large partners such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Before this, he was Vice President/Director of Strategy and Customer Insight for Publicis Modem, a leading digital advertising agency, where Kagan headed research and innovation out of the New York office.

  • Jack M. Kaplan is an experienced well-accomplished serial entrepreneur, consultant to several companies in management organization and financial services, and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School. He also teaches the Entrepreneurship Law Start Up Class with Professor Davis from Goodwin LLC.He was the former president and founder of Datamark Technologies Inc. Ceridian, a Fortune 500 company. He has extensive experience in management organization, international marketing technology innovation, software and communications. During his career, Kaplan started and managed three successful companies, raised capital in excess of 12 million dollars from companies, venture capital, and wealthy angel individuals. He is the author of Patterns of Entrepreneurship Management, John Wiley and Sons, 2016 (5th edition) and Getting Started in Entrepreneurship, John Wiley and Sons, 2006. His previous book, Smart Cards: The Global Information Passport, Coriolis Group, 1995, and articles have appeared in Technology News, Crain’s of New York, and MIT Enterprise Forum. Kaplan’s professional seminar experience includes consulting for Fortune 1000 companies. He is also national and regional judge for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award Program.

  • Sameer Maskey teaches Statistical Methods/Machine Learning for Speech and Natural Language Processing at Columbia University. He is also a CEO of Fusemachines Inc, a VC-backed company, located in New York City. Fusemachines provides a platform that allows users to ask questions against large sets of unstructured and structured data. He has published more than 20 papers in International Conferences and Journals, and has filed several patents. He has served as a Session Chair, a Program Committee member, and a Review Committee member of many International Conferences including ACL, HLT, ICASSP, NAACL and COLING. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Columbia University and Bachelors (Honors) in Mathematics and Physics from Bates College. He has worked on a wide range of topics that deal with a large amount of data and Machine Learning methods.

  • Michael E. McGuire is a lifelong entrepreneur with multiple venture starts who has taught international business and entrepreneurship for the last four years. He is a coach for Babson’s Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program, and has served as a mentor for Goldman Sachs “10KSB” program, and a tutor at Columbia’s Community Impact. He has a MIA from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, a BA from Columbia University and a BS in Entrepreneurial Studies from Babson College. After starting his career at Manufacturers Hanover Trust (now JPMorgan Chase), he founded ARIA Worldwide, Inc., a commodity trade and structured finance company that had exclusive contracts with Cargill and TATA Iron and Steel. ARIA maintained offices in Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi and the United States. His second startup was ARIASYS Inc., an offshore software development company, with teams in the US, Russia and Belarus that focused on high availability and scalable trading systems. From there he leveraged his teams to build ARIA TV, a streaming media platform, which provided Russian television and cycling content to global viewers in the pre-YouTube world. Michael also founded an asset management company, Triple Trunk Investment Management LLC that managed large equity investments in a platinum and palladium mine and a fuel cell company on behalf of international investors. Michael has been on the board of Stillwater Mining (NYSE) and Plug Power (NASDAQ). His non-profit startup, the ITP Foundation, raised money and funded research on ITP, a rare bleeding disorder. He currently manages Triple Trunk Capital LLC, a finance and consulting company in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is also the CEO of a blockchain fintech startup in Greenwich, CT and the Chairman of a tokenization platform in Zug, Switzerland. He has been a founder/CEO and builder of highly performing international teams for the last 25 years. Michael is a dual citizen, USA/Switzerland, and has spent over four years living and working overseas. Michael was also a Finalist for Ernst &Young - Entrepreneur of the Year and is a 5 time Ironman Finisher and competitive cyclist.

  • Debby McLean has extensive experience in the financial services industry. She maintains her professional expertise through her involvement with Circle Financial Group, a high net worth private wealth management membership practice, and Golden Seeds LLC, an angel investing group, where she is active in investment screening, due diligence and deal execution. For many years she has taught Corporate Finance at the graduate and undergraduate levels, currently at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and been engaged with a broad variety of not-for-profit and private company Boards. For the first 15 years of her career, Debby worked for Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, where she was one of the first female Managing Directors. She earned broad transactional and management experience in Mergers & Acquisitions, Corporate Finance, Capital Markets and Product Development, Mortgage Backed Securities and Commercial Real Estate. She also developed substantial international business experience, having served in the New York, London and Tokyo offices of Morgan Stanley during her time at the firm. Subsequently, Debby was the President of an investment banking boutique, Meadowcroft Associates Inc., located in Connecticut, where, in addition to her management responsibilities, she provided financial advice in areas such as bankruptcy and reorganization, valuation, litigation support and mergers and acquisitions. Debby lived in London from 1998-2007, during which time she taught Finance at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Richmond, The American International University in London, and was Chief Financial Officer of Kokua Communications Inc., a satellite based broadband start-up (2000-2001).

  • Zaki Raheem is an Adjunct Professor for SIPA’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Development class and Associate Director of Entrepreneurship & Enterprise Development with DAI’s Sustainable Business Group. Over the past 15 years he has engaged in extensive project design, market research, training, mentoring, and advisory work supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs in frontier and emerging markets. He is presently serving as a senior entrepreneurship advisor for Shell LiveWIRE’s global entrepreneurship program supporting startup boot camps and pitch days for a network of 18 pre-accelerator programs in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia focused on clean tech, agribusiness and local content. In addition, he is an advisor and mentor to the Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC) in Ghana, an agritech incubator and accelerator program that helps young Africans launch tech-enabled agribusiness start-ups. He has led market studies and value chain assessments in over 20 countries in the agribusiness, energy, manufacturing, financial services, and tourism sectors that have informed donor-funded MSME project designs with USAID, DFID, World Bank, and IFC. He is a technical lead for DAI’s engagement with the Global Accelerator Network (GAN) and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE). He received his MIA from SIPA in 2008.

  • Euan Robertson is Chief Operating Officer of the Simons Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. He is responsible for the foundation’s operational and administrative functions. Robertson comes to the foundation from Columbia University, where he advised senior faculty and administrators on issues of entrepreneurship, innovation, tech transfer and real estate development. Prior to Columbia, Robertson served in a variety of senior economic development roles under both the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations, most recently as chief operating officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. During his time in city government, he focused particularly on projects designed to grow the New York City tech economy and strengthen relationships between research institutions and industry.

  • Adam Royalty heads up The Columbia Design Lab offered by Columbia Entrepreneurship to the University community to use as a set of tools, methodologies, and resources for turning ideas into action.  Adam and the design team teach young Columbia entrepreneurs how to use the methods and mindsets of design-thinking to understand problems more deeply and solve them in innovative ways. He specializes in helping teams use human centered design to grow their ventures. Design methods and mindsets are especially useful for uncovering key insights from customers and rapidly iterating the core idea. Both of these together drive product/market fit.

  • Lorna Solis is founder and CEO of Blue Rose Compass, a nonprofit which impacts conflict regions by identifying brilliant young adults – especially girls, and mostly living in refugee camps – and arranging scholarships for them to world-leading universities. In return for the scholarships and guidance through the required exams, scholars commit to return to their country or region of origin on graduation and help rebuild their communities. Founder and CEO of Lynke, a B-corp which engages the private sector as part of the solution to the refugee crisis through offering education and employment opportunities to refugees. After they have completed a six month customized app-building curriculum created by a leading tech company, we help secure gainful employment for the refugees and resettlement to a country that is open to hosting them. Previously, Lorna was Director for Latin America and Africa at Institutional Investor, focusing on increasing FDI for infrastructure projects. She also worked at IDEA on Wall Street, covering Latin America, and at Water & Air Research – an environmental consulting firm – on creating national parks in Honduras and Brazil. Graduated from the University of Florida and Harvard Kennedy School's Global Leadership & Public Policy Executive Program. Member of CFR (Council on Foreign Relations). Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum; also, member of the Young Global Leaders Group advisory board, and Women's Empowerment and Gender Parity (2011-2012). Echoing Green Semi-Finalist in 2012. Organizational Partner of Global Dignity Day. UNHCR Innovation Council Board member. Advisory Board member of the Humanitarian Innovation Project at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre. Lorna is also a figurative sculptor whose work has been exhibited in NYC and has won numerous awards.

  • Linda Tvrdy is an Instructor at Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought and President & Co-Founder of DaisyDebt.org. Linda was a practicing litigation attorney for several years and is currently a legal/fin tech startup entrepreneur. Her nonprofit, DaisyDebt.org, uses technology to help low-income consumers access their rights under federal and state consumer regulations governing third-party debt buyers. She is an advocate for technology and open data to increase access to justice and to improve the processes of judicial administration.

  • Matthew Weber is VP of Product at Development Guild DDI.  Previously he served as a Lecturer and Class Developer at Columbia University, where he oversaw a team of associates in teaching "UX + Design of Analytical Apps" in the Master of Science of Applied Analytics program and developed the class “Research-Based Design.”  He was also the Founder and Principle Organizer of UX + Data Meetup and VP of UX and Design at Zoomdata.

  • Deborah Zajac is a tech-focused new venture creator, strategist, and corporate development executive. For nearly 20 years, Deborah has launched, scaled, optimized, partnered with, and advised businesses in more than 25 countries on 6 continents in a range of industries including technology, healthcare, energy, aerospace, industrials, and consumer solutions across stage and lifecycle while at GE, SaaS start-up Celarix.com, and Andersen [Consulting]. Deborah specializes in leveraging intangible assets such as disruptive technology, new business models, platforms, brand, copyrights, and patents to unlock markets and opportunities. At GE Ventures and GE Corporate, Deborah worked with entrepreneurs from idea to IPO and realized commercial pathways for advanced R&D technologies alongside researchers, engineers, and counsel. Recently, she opened up GE’s patent portfolio to the everyday inventor through startup Quirky, partnered with Gates-backed Global Good on an infectious disease diagnostic platform in developing countries, and served as board member and scaling partner to GE tech-spinouts she helped launch such as Vadu, KemSENSE, and Vener8. Deborah earned her MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship at NYU Stern. She is a founding Advisory Board member of the nationally-ranked Baker Center for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation at Lehigh University, where she served two terms as a Trustee and earned her BS in Finance, BA in Asian Studies and coursework in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

  • Steven Zausner is a co-founder and Managing Partner at WhiteLabel, LLC, a strategy and advisory firm that works across three interconnected practices: Capital, Ventures and Impact. In the world of commercial capital, Steve helped to build, scale and run four asset management firms, developed four research businesses on three different continents and restructured and turned around a multi-billion-dollar division of a major bank, post a major scandal. Steve has sourced, analyzed, structured, and successfully exited or placed more than $10 billion in investments across most asset classes and markets around the globe. As a VC he is particularly proud of investing in two unicorns that IPO’d. As an on-demand executive, Steve has worked with dozens of companies across many different industries, helping them solve their most vexing problems around finance, operations, and strategy. In international development, Steve has successfully led high-profile projects around capital market development, public financial management, entrepreneurship, access to finance, economic growth, and attracting private sector capital. He has structured many significant, and several benchmark, innovative financial transactions and helped launch several initiatives to solve complex social problems. Clients have included large, multinational companies, government agencies, development finance institutions, foundations, non-profits and NGOs.

    Steve began his career as a journalist and continues to write about economics, finance, entrepreneurship, development, and innovation. His work has appeared in The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and Stanford Social Innovation Review. Steve is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University's Walsh Graduate School of Foreign Services where he teaches a course on Financing Social Impact. From 2016-2018, he taught at the University of Virginia's Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. On a pro-bono basis, he is a Board Member of Workshops in Business Opportunities, a non-profit which has helped over 14,000 entrepreneurs in under-served communities learn to build better businesses.