The competition is meant to reward action and encourage students to:

  1. Break down their idea into the key business model hypotheses.
  2. Get outside the building and test their assumptions with customers.
  3. Apply customer development/lean startup principles to make sure they nail the solution.
  4. Learn to pivot (or change) until they have a customer-validated business model with radically improved chances of success.

In order to participate, the team must have a student who possesses at least a 25% equity stake in the project/company.

  • The competition is for new, independent ventures in the seed, start-up or early growth stages. Proposals for the buy-out or expansion of an existing company, tax-shelter opportunities, real estate syndicates, purchase of a franchise and consulting projects or analyses are not eligible. The business may not have generated more than $50,000 in revenues nor have raised more than $250,000 in outside equity capital before February 1 of the year of the competition. (Friends and family funding does not count toward funding limits.)
  • Submissions must represent the original work of each contestant. It may not contain any fabricated information. Presenters may bring samples of their product to show, but may not bring giveaways for the judges.
  • Individuals or groups may enter the competition. All principals involved must be clearly identified in both the application and the presentation by name, address and e-mail address. In the event a team receives an award, check(s) and prizes will be coordinated with the primary contact person listed on the application.
  • Submissions, the competition presentation and the concepts they contain are recognized as confidential and will not be intentionally disclosed outside the committee of judges without the entrant’s permission.
  • Each round of the Business Model Competition is generally judged using the following questions:
    • Did the team use the Business Model Canvas or similar tool to identify and track hypotheses?
    • Did the team clearly state their hypotheses (assumptions)?
    • Did the team identify the most crucial hypotheses to test first (the ones that will kill their business)?
    • Did the team design and conduct low cost, rapid, but reliable tests of these hypotheses?
    • Number of tests: should be adjusted for industry, product type (web vs physical product), and business type (B2B vs B2C).
    • Quality of tests: interviews are high quality, surveys and focus groups are much lower quality (you don’t know which questions to ask) unless interviews have been conducted first.
    • Did the team clearly state their insights and learning, how those validated or invalidated a hypothesis and if that informed any pivots (changes)?
    • If changes were made, was the pivot the team made supported by evidence or did they fail to pivot when the evidence clearly stated it?
    • If appropriate, has the team developed a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP)? Does the team understand the hypotheses they are testing with a prototype or MVP? Is the prototype or MVP appropriate to answer those assumptions? (We want to reward prototypes over full products unless the product is the result of many prototypes tested with customers. In other words, we want to reward testing hypotheses before building and building from prototypes up to products. We do not want to reward just building products too early based on untested hypotheses).
    • Is the team solving a significant problem (defined in terms of money or impact)?
    • Does the team have significant evidence that the solution is validated (i.e., letters of intent, purchase contracts, sales, partners, etc.)?
  • Judges will decide if submissions meet all the requirements for submission and will select a small number of plans as finalists to be announced by mid-March 2018.
  • Finalists will make 8-minute oral presentations (PowerPoint optional) to a panel of judges who are entrepreneurs and investors. The presentation will be followed by questions from the judges, approximately 5 min.
  • The award recipients will be chosen by those judges and announced at the end of the competition.
  • Attendance: To be considered for any award, all competing/presenting team members member must arrive at the University of South Dakota, Beacom Hall on March 23, 2018. Registration will begin in the afternoon.

Award recipients will be provided with contact information for each sponsor and those providing in-kind services. Arrangements for these prizes are made directly between the award recipients and the in-kind providers, and are subject to the provider’s limitations.

Direct Questions or Correspondence to:

Dr. Marcie Sariol
605-658-6540
Marcie.Sariol@usd.edu