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About the Competition, Rules and Guidelines

Rules & Guidelines

2016 Venture Creation Competition

About the VCU Venture Creation Competition

Hosted by the VCU da Vinci Center, the VCU Venture Creation Competition (VCC) provides opportunities for the VCU community to learn about entrepreneurship through the development of a venture description, business model canvass, and venture presentation to our panel of judges.  The winners of the 2016 Competition will be announced at the end of the day on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, following the students’ final presentations.

The Competition is open to all VCU students, including full-time, part-time, undergraduate and graduate students, are eligible to participate.  Non-VCU students such as students from other universities, VCU faculty, VCU alumni, and local residents may participate in the Venture Creation Competition so long as VCU students comprise 50% of the team and only the VCU student team members make the final presentation to the judges.

VCC participants learn first-hand what venture creation means and the necessary elements for moving an idea/concept/technology forward towards becoming a real venture.  Those students selected as VCC finalists compete for cash prizes and in-kind services that can be used to realize the commercial potential of the respective concept, invention, and/or technology. In addition to the cash prizes, in-kind services such as free legal and consulting services will be offered to Competition finishers.

The prize packages for the undergraduate and graduate divisions are as follows:

1st Place                 $4,000

2nd Place               $3,000

3rd Place                $2,000

Finalist                  $1,000

Finalist                  $1,000 

How the VCU Venture Creation Competition Is Organized

The Student Competition comprises three stages:  Stage One – Venture Description, Stage Two – Business Model Canvas, and Stage Three – Venture Presentation.   In conjunction with submitting the Venture Description, student teams must officially register for the competition and be certified as eligible to participate.  The deadline for registration and submission of the Venture Description is February 8, 2016 at 11:59pm (extended deadline).  The presentation stage represents the Competition finals and will be held Wednesday April 13, 2016.  Teams making it to Stage Three compete for cash prizes totaling $11,000 in prize money per division.  All teams making it to the final round win a minimum of $1,000.


Teams complete a one page venture description.  Venture Descriptions longer than one page will not be considered.  The one page description should specifically address the following areas:

Venture Concept Description – describe the venture and provide a general idea of what the venture seeks to accomplish, e.g., what is the venture’s purpose, what problem does the venture solve?

Market Description – clarify the customer(s)/market(s) to be pursued and suggest the market size.  Who specifically will be interested in the venture and why?

Product/Service Description – discuss what will be offered to the “customer?” What are the attributes/features of the “offering?”

Competitive Advantage – discuss the uniqueness/technology behind the venture?  Clarify the competitive advantage of the proposed product/service.

Financial Situation – suggest the expected financial performance to be generated from the venture and how much money is needed to get the venture started.

The judges will evaluate and select semi-finalist teams among the submitted Venture Descriptions.  Only semi-finalist teams will be allowed to proceed to Stage Two.  The decision of the judges is final.


Each semi-finalist team will develop and explain their venture by using a business model canvas methodology.  The submission will include a one page cover page covering the areas noted below, a one page business model canvas, and up to a two pages of an addendum explaining the different areas of the business model canvas (identified below), listing /describing the people interviewed to validate the business model canvas, and any other information that the team wishes to share.  A pdf file of the Business Model Canvas deliverable is due on Monday, March 21, 2016; the pdf file should be labeled YourTeamName_BusinessModel2016.pdf and sent to the da Vinci Center at  The one page cover sheet should answer the following questions:

Venture Concept Description – what is the venture’s purpose, what problem does the venture solve?

Market Description – who specifically will be interested in the venture and why?  How big is the market?  How do you know this market is possible?

Product/Service Description – what actually will be offered to the “customer,” e.g., is the venture a product or service?  What are the attributes/features of the “offering?”  What is the competitive advantage of the product/service?  What makes the product/service unique?

Management Team – what makes your management team capable of succeeding at this venture?  What skills, connections, partnerships, advisors, etc. do you have?

Financial Situation – what is the expected financial performance of the venture?  How much money do you need to get the venture started?

Team Statement – why is your team deserving to win?  Is the business scalable?  Will it make a big impact?

The business model canvas should address the following nine areas:

Customer Segments – which customer group(s) do you intend to serve?

Value Propositions – what customer problems do you seek to solve, and correspondingly, what customer needs do you propose to satisfy?

Channels – how is the value proposition going to be delivered to the customer through communication, distribution, and sales channels?

Customer Relationships – what relationships will be established with customers and how will these be maintained, assuming the customer relationship is maintained?

Revenue Streams – what revenue will be generated from the value proposition being successfully offered to customers?

Key Resources – what major resources are needed to offer and deliver the “offering?”

Key Activities – what key activities need to happen to bring the venture to fruition?

Key Partnerships – which activities can be outsourced and which activities can be acquired outside the venture team?

Cost Structure – what is the venture’s cost budget?

In addition, the student team must interview people to show validation of the nine areas of their business model canvas.  As part of the addendum, indicate who makes up the management team and provide details about company ownership and company structure.

The team of judges will evaluate and select finalist teams from the submitted business plans.  Only finalist teams will be allowed to proceed to Stage Three.  The decision of the judges is final.

Information sessions on the business model canvas approach will be held for semi-finalists.  Semi-finalists are encouraged to attend these sessions and reference these websites:


On Wednesday, April 13, 2016, each of the finalist teams in the undergraduate and graduate divisions will make a 20 minute presentation to a panel of judges, followed by a ten minute questions and answer period.  The presentation should be a synopsis of the venture, updated based on any previous judges’ feedback and the discretion of the student team regarding what they wish to present.  The orientation of the presentation should be to convince the judges that they need to invest in the team’s venture.  In other words, the presentation should clearly demonstrate why your venture is scalable, destined for success, and should win!

Awards will be given based upon the team presentation and the previously submitted or updated business model canvass.  The official announcement of how finalist teams placed will occur at an evening awards reception on April 13.  The VCU Venture Creation Competition reception will be held after all presentations have been made.

Examples of Winning VCU Venture Creation Competition Presentations.

How to Register for the 2016 VCU Venture Creation Competition

Registration has now closed for the 2016 Competition.

Student teams must register online through the VCU da Vinci Center website in conjunction with submitting the Venture Description by noon on Monday, February 8, 2016. The VCU da Vinci Center will certify that the registering team’s membership comprises a majority of currently enrolled VCU students.  Note that any prize money awarded to the team will be equally split among team members originally registered.  Team composition cannot change once the registration period has closed and the Competition has begun; this means that teams cannot add, remove, or substitute team members after registration closes on February 8.  The team must check a box declaring that the intellectual property on which the venture is based is owned by the team or can be licensed to the team; this will be certified by the VCU da Vinci Center.

Am I Eligible to Participate in the VCU Venture Creation Competition

All VCU students are eligible to participate in the VCU Venture Creation Competition.  VCU faculty, VCU staff, students from other universities, VCU alumni, and local residents may also participate in a team.  All teams must comprise a majority of VCU students, and only VCU students can appear in front of and make the final presentation to the judges.  Students cannot be on more than one team.  Teams in the undergraduate student division must comprise 50% undergraduate students and only undergraduate students are allowed to make the final presentation.  Teams in the graduate student division must comprise 50% graduate students and only graduate students are allowed to make the final presentation.

A student team or same venture plan that has placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in any previous VCU Venture Creation Competition is ineligible to participate.

If individual or team violates the language, spirit or intent of the eligibility rules, the team may be disqualified and any prize money forfeited based on the sole discretion of the organizers, who shall be held harmless due to such actions.

Is My Venture Idea Eligible

Ventures entered into the Competition should be original and based on the independent thinking of the submitting individual/ team. If the idea includes or is based on scientific knowledge and developments that might be considered “intellectual property,” the individual/team must certify and attest to the fact that (a) the science or innovation is the result of their independent work, (b) any collaborators who may have participated in the work have given their permission for the science or technology to be presented in an open forum, and (c) any monies resulting from the Competition are to benefit the team.

The certification of the ownership of the technology must be verifiable. Failure to do so will result in disqualification of the individual/team and/or forfeiture of any prize money won.  Individuals/teams will not be permitted to present ideas based on science and technology owned by third parties who are not a member of the team or VCU.  The organizers of the competition may disqualify any team failing to comply with the spirit and intent of the intellectual property rule and shall be held harmless due to such action.

What Are the Judging Criteria

The Venture Description will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Commercial Viability: apparent need for the product/service, addressable market size, potential market growth, defendable competition, and competitive advantage
  • Technical Viability: uniqueness and features strength of the product/service and intellectual property position
  • Financial Viability: plausibility of the financial case and profit potential

The Business Model Canvass will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Commercial Viability: clarified need for product/service, addressable market size, evident market opportunity and competitive advantage
  • Technical Viability: uniqueness and features strength of the product/service and intellectual property position
  • Financial viability: realism of the financial case including profit potential and funding requirements
  • Management team viability: appropriate industry experience, industry advisors, and technical advisors.

Final Presentations will be evaluated the Business Model Canvass criteria along with funding worthiness due to evidence that the venture can become a scalable and successful venture.  Other criteria for the final presentation include:

  • Quality and persuasiveness of the oral presentation
  • Professionalism:  the clarity, demeanor, and professional delivery of the team and its presentation
  • Quality of answers during the Q&A portion of the presentation

Entries that describe exciting technological breakthroughs but fail to show a clear path to commercialization will not do well in the competition. Likewise, winners will not be chosen based solely on the potential size or profitability of the projected enterprise, but on how well the team has prepared its business model, conducted research to clarify the business model, explained the implementation, and presented during the live presentations.

Judges will rely on evaluation forms to guide their decisions, however, the goal of the judging panel is to arrive at a consensus as to which venture they would most likely fund if they were an investment group. Ultimately, the winning team is the team which convinces them to invest in their idea.

Who Are the Judges

Judges represent different functional and industry areas to ensure a balance of business and technical expertise.  Judges also have meaningful experience in, or exposure to, the early-stage venture creation process and thereby understand the research, development, and venture formation challenges faced by different types of business entities.  Judges will include noteworthy entrepreneurs and individuals from venture capital firms, private equity firms, accounting firms, law firms, and corporations.


For a schedule of important dates, click here.