Business plans are judged by a group of professionals from various industries including venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. The objective of the first round of judging will be to reduce the pool of contestants to a smaller group of "semi-finalists."
Judges will be asked to evaluate the plans based upon their likelihood of actually becoming the basis of a viable business; or, in the case of an entrepreneurial venture, the likelihood of making a meaningful contribution to the existing business. This consideration, in turn, will include such factors as:
- the clarity and potential of the market opportunity defined in the plan, and the strength of the team's argument that their product/service meets that need,
- the overall evaluation of potential reward to risk,
- the appropriateness of the strategy for exploiting the opportunity,
- the reasonableness of the plan for financing the business,
- and the team's ability to actually implement the plan.
Note that while the Contest is referred to as a "business plan" contest, it is really about the commercial merit of the proposed new venture. The judges evaluate the plans not as documents per se, but as visions for a potential new venture and, as such, focus on the idea, its potential for economic success and the likelihood of achieving that success based upon the team's plan and experience.
Naturally, the more concrete the plan—all else being equal—the better. Thus, teams/individuals that have a proven technology, recruited partners, or even attracted "beta" customers will likely be seen to have raised their chances of success. On the other hand, where business plans reflect the work of individuals prior to the start of the Business Plan Contest (i.e., teaming up with scientists that have been working on the project for several years) then the judges will do their best to "level the playing field" by calibrating the degree of accomplishment to the additional time and resources expended.
Note that the Contest has a strong preference for operating, rather than "investing" businesses. That is, hedge funds, investment and private equity funds, are not recommended because it is almost impossible to judge the merit of the idea without a substantial track record.
Judges will make further distinctions based upon the potential of the business to create value. We especially seek a small scale, "boot-strapped venture," which might not require much capital, and thus, would typically be uninteresting to a traditional venture fund.
$50,000 in Prizes
Prizes are generously provided by the Sales Executives Club Foundation of New Jersey, who continues to support the Rutgers Business School Business Plan Competition. In addition to the monetary prizes, other benefits are provided to the business plan competition participants: access to mentors during the process helps participants develop their plans into solid businesses with real world growth potential.
A total of $50,000 will be awarded to the winners of the Business Plan Competition.