Since the Wharton Business Plan Competition’s inception nearly 15 years ago, the goal of Phase 1 has always been to serve as a platform through which students could, safely, test multiple ideas or refine one specific business idea. In the past, this was accomplished by students submitting to a closed competition system and receiving feedback from four to six business professionals. Though the feedback was valuable, the system was contained and anonymous, and input only flowed in one direction—from the judges to the students.

With the newly designed Phase 1, students submit to an online community where all students in the network (they gain access to the network by submitting an idea) can see the ideas submitted and provide feedback on the ideas. In this new format, teams will not only benefit from feedback on their own venture, but they will also learn a great deal by reviewing the feedback on other submissions. This format also allows for students with similar ideas or interests to connect with one another and potentially form teams. (The redesign also provided me the added benefit of being able to shift valuable—and scarce—alumni judge resources to Phase 2 of the competition!)

Excitement about this year’s Competition is high on campus. Last week’s Idea Generation Workshop, delivered by Ethan Mollick, the Edward B. and Shirley R. Shils Assistant Professor Management (see slides here), was standing room only, and students are currently submitting their ideas to the online system. It’s rewarding for me to be able to witness the interaction between student entrepreneurs as they provide thoughtful input on their classmates’ ideas. I am also looking forward to seeing if there is any correlation between the ideas that are highly rated by the peer network and the semi-finalists and finalists that emerge in the later phases of the competition!

Editor’s note: The submission deadline for Phase 1 has been extended to November 19. This post first appeared on Wharton’s Entrepreneurship Blog on Nov. 15, 2012.