4. Hit the contest circuit
4. Hit the contest circuit
The top team at the 2011 Rice Competition, TNG Pharmaceuticals, took home prizes valued at nearly $650,000.
Many major business schools run competitions for students and alumni, awarding prize money to help fund their startups. (Fortune is a sponsor of the Rice University Business Plan Competition.) These can be a great source of seed money, largely because you generally don't have to pay it back. Some venture firms, nonprofits, government agencies that foster business development, and even libraries run contests too. To find out about upcoming contests, visit BizPlanCompetitions.com.

By Verne Harnish, contributor @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 21 2012: 5:36 AM ET
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