Frequently Asked Questions

Click on any of the following questions to view the answers and insights provided by the Startup Challenge Monterey Bay team. Don’t see the answer to your question? Please submit here.

Eligibility Questions

Are elementary students allowed to enter Startup Challenge?

Yes. Any student, elementary through university graduate students, is eligible to enter any of the divisions of the Startup Challenge.

My business has not launched and it’s still in the idea stage, can I still participate in StartUp Challenge?

Your product can be in the idea stage as long as you have a developed plan for the business. The Challenge is here to help you develop your idea into a successful startup business.

I have customers in areas besides Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz county, am I still eligible?

Your customers can be anywhere but your business must be based in the tri county area (Monterey, San Benito, or Santa Cruz counties) or in the Gilroy area.

Is there an advantage to being a business that appeals to the tri county area needs, such as agriculture, marine life etc?

There is no advantage in being a business related to agriculture , marine life etc. We want to expand the economy in all industries in the tri county area.

My company has been established for 4+ years, can I still enter?

No, your company cannot be established for more than 3 years, nor have more than $500,000 in cumulative revenues.

What is considered “original work”?

Original work means that the business needs to be your own (or your team’s); you cannot pitch someone else’s business, and it also cannot be a franchise of another business.  For example, pitching a new MacDonald’s franchise would not be allowed. You could, however, pitch a business in which you intend to sell franchises.

I have more than one business idea, can I enter all of my ideas?

Yes! You may enter different ideas but the system will require you to use separate email addresses for each application. It is a lot of work to submit more than one idea so we recommend no more than two, however, if you feel you can manage more than two, go for it! You may not, however, enter the same business in multiple divisions.

Does my company need to have a physical address in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties or can we plan to do business in the area.

The purpose of this competition is to create new businesses and jobs in this region so you need to be located in this region.

Questions related to the application

Can you submit the same business in different divisions?

No, you cannot submit the same business in more than one division.

What is a Social Venture?

A Social Venture is an organization that is focused on its social mission – solving homelessness, making potable water available around the world, ending global warming, contributing to environmental quality. It can be a for-profit or not-for profit organization. Common forms are 501c(3) not-for-profit organizations for not-for-profits and Benefit Corporations for for-profit Social Ventures.

Does my company need to have a physical address in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties or can we plan to do business in the area.

The purpose of this competition is to create new businesses and jobs in this region so you need to be located in this region.

If I’m in the starting stages and the business hasn’t launched, how do I show validation?

There are a variety of ways to provide evidence that your business idea and business model can gain traction in the marketplace. Surveys, speaking with potential customers, experts in the field, data that others have collected, experiments and other ways of showing evidence are appropriate.

I’ve submitted my application but I have changed my mind on aspects of it, am I obligated to stick with what I wrote in my application?

No, you are not obligated to what you wrote in your application. We encourage you to evolve and keep changing throughout the entire process. Let the judges know what you changed and why you changed it – that demonstrates that you are continuing to think through and learn about your business.

I have a successful business in two stores and would like to create a new franchise business based on this business. Should I apply to the Venture Division?

Yes, this new franchise business would be in the Venture Division. You can pitch a business that you are going to franchise to others; but you cannot pitch a business that you are franchising from another company.  You can’t pitch a McDonald’s franchise.

I do not have a full financial plan, will that hinder my chances of continuing in the competition?

The financial plan is one element of the competition.  In the pitches you be expected to address how you will generate revenue and your expected level of revenue in the first few years (three is a good number), and also what your major costs will be.  The judges want to know you have an understanding of how much money your business actually needs. This challenge is meant for those who are starting their business so we do not expect you to have a detailed financial report.

I am filling out the FINANCIALS section of the start-up challenge application and the monthly sales revenue question has got me stumped. I have a P/L sheet that projects clients and sales for the first three years, but I don’t quite know how to boilerplate that down to 300 characters.

Just provide a short summary of your expected monthly sales revenue – I would put what you expect for the first year, then you can show what your expected growth curve looks like by addressing, for example, “in our first quarter we expect to average $XX per month, growing to $YYY by the end of the first year.  The second year we expect to grow these revenues by Z%”

The break-even date is up for debate, bc we will have put up a good deal of money to open the center. We will turn a profit in 8 months but until we recoup all expenditures - that would be years. Are you looking for the date where we are not only profitable but have remade the initial investment?

We’re looking for an estimate of when your operations will reach cash flow breakeven on an operating basis – that is, when the company will be able to pay its bills without needing additional financing.  

Questions related to the Qualifying Round pitch

I was hoping to get some insight into the pitch. Do you have a sample for me to review ? Are you interested in seeing facts and figures/ data or are you looking for me to sell you on the dream and vision of the place?

Starting right after the applications close, we will begin holding “Creating a Winning Pitch” workshops.  Attend one (or more) of those.  There are no slides for the Qualifying Round pitches; you can bring a prop (a poster or product sample) but it should be simple and quick to set up. You will have 5 minutes to describe the opportunity and the business you are designing to take advantage of the opportunity. At this stage, keep the financials very simple.

Is there protection during the pitches that no one will steal your idea?

The pitches for the Startup Challenge are public and you should take reasonable precautions not to include proprietary information in your pitch.  That said, the success of most ideas lies in the execution, not in the idea itself. Pitch your idea and how it will change the world; don’t give away the intellectual property that makes your idea work.

Do I physically need to be present to pitch at the Qualifying Round and the Final Round?

Yes. You must be physically present for both the qualifying pitch round and the final pitch round.

Will judges sign a non-disclosure agreement?

We do not ask our judges to sign a non-disclosure, but we do ask them to sign an agreement that the businesses pitched in the Startup Challenge are the intellectual property of the business owners.  You should never tell others how you make your Secret Sauce, but you should tell them that you are making it and how wonderful it is!

Can I ask judges to sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure that they don’t steal my idea?

No.  You should never tell others how you make your Secret Sauce, but you should tell them that you are making it and how wonderful it is!

Questions related to the Final Event (Final Round Pitches; Venture Showcase, and Otter Tank Competition)

Is it possible to view past winner’s pitches?

You can view a selection of past pitches in action here. There is also a link to those materials on the Startup Challenge Resources page.

Are there any other resources available to help us build our pitch

Please visit the Startup Challenge Resources page for resources to assist you in the competition. 

Submit your question about the Startup Challenge Monterey Bay application process

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