First, you must form a team around an idea for a business. Participating teams require at least one Harvard Business School MBA student who plays a primary role in the business and is present at the Super Saturday judging. The HBS student should either be a part of the founding team, a primary contributor, or a significant equity holder if equity has been distributed. RC teams (i.e. any team with a first-year, RC, student) may not enter the Student New Venture Competition with the same idea used for their FIELD III project. You may participate on a maximum of 2 teams, regardless of track.

Key Steps & Deadlines

  1. Registration: An online entry form is required to officially enter the Competition. We urge you to enter ASAP to take advantage of a variety of workshops and mentoring leading up to the final Competition. To be eligible for the $1,000 reimbursement grant, you must enter by February 5, 2014 at 12:00 noon. No exceptions will be made for late reimbursement requests.

    *Note that we will accept plans from teams that have not filed an entry form poll by the above deadline. Teams may decide to participate in the Competition until shortly before plans are due. However, teams that do not submit an entry form poll by the February 5, 2014 deadline will not be eligible for the $1,000 Experimentation fund.
  2. Early-Stage Idea Feedback: To obtain early feedback on your new venture idea, we encourage you to apply to the Early-Stage Idea Feedback Program. There are two dates when you can receive early stage feedback. Deadlines for submission are 11/1/2013 and 12/11/2013.
  3. Intent to present: If you intend to present on Super Saturday, you will need to submit an intent to present form by March 25, 2014. This is a binding contract and you will no longer be able to withdraw from the competition.
  4. Final Plan Submission: The required hard copy deliverables* for Super Saturday must include all elements outlined here.
    • To maintain eligibility in the Competition, you must submit:
      • (10) ten copies of your team’s Executive Summary (max 2-3 pages)
        • with the required Cover Sheet on each copy, stapled
        • not to exceed 30 8.5 x 11" pages
      • (1) one copy of the slide deck presentation
    Deliver all to Anamarie Farr in Rock Center 107 by 12:00 noon on Thursday, April 3, 2014. 

    Finals judges use only your hardcopy deliverables to narrow the 10 semi-finalists down to 4 finalists, so your slide deck and executive summary must be able to stand on their own.

  5. Live Presentations

    First Round of Judging: All business track teams will be invited to make live presentations to a panel of judges on Super Saturday, April 5, 2013.

    Final Judging and Awards Presentation: The ten semi-finalists’ pitch decks will be distributed to a final judging panel of distinguished venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. The semi-finalists will be narrowed down to finalists based solely on their written submission (this semi-final round will not have a live presentation).

    On April 29, 2014, four finalists will make final presentations to a panel of judges and again at the Awards Presentation on April 29, 2014.

Acceptable Business Ventures

The objective of the Student New Venture Competition is to provide a meaningful learning experience for students who are interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity at some point in their careers. As such, most ideas entered in the competition will be ideas for a new business. In certain cases, this business may include a substantial acquisition component. For example, one submission entailed making a significant number of acquisitions of smaller companies in a specific industry. The plan involved a good deal of substantive work on how value would be created through acquisitions and subsequent management, and was a solid piece of work. However, a plan that simply called for the acquisition of one company and the creation of value through “better management” would not be an appropriate submission, nor would a plan to create a hedge fund, investment, private equity or venture capital fund. If your plan is for a social enterprise that creates substantial economic value for its owners, you may decide whether to enter it in the business or the social enterprise track. The decision about which track to participate in is yours, but you may enter your plan in ONLY ONE track.

Note that the Competition is designed for contemplated and embryonic businesses. That is, the Judges do like to see that people are committed, and in some cases, students will have succeeded in raising seed capital, have a beta version of the site, etc. However, there is a $1,500,000 limit in seed capital raised; $2,000,000 in revenue generated.

Requirements for a Team

Participating teams require at least one Harvard Business School MBA student who plays a primary role in the business. The HBS student should either be a part of the founding team, a primary contributor, or a significant equity holder if equity has been distributed. A team may include students from any other school within Harvard, university students from other universities, as well as non-students. Former colleagues and friends are potential team members.

Note that under the terms of the funding for the student business track, prize money and expense reimbursement checks can only be written to current Harvard Business School students.

Note for RC students: While EC students can work on their new ventures under the auspices of a field study for academic credit this option is not available to RC students. RC students should be aware that while the Competition is sanctioned and supported by the School, it is for RC students an extracurricular activity that needs to be treated as such. Thus, participation in the Competition shall not compete with your for-credit courses, and no aspect of your participation in the Competition is a legitimate excuse for missing class or for less-than-adequate preparation.

EC students are in a different situation as they are typically doing much of the work involved in the New Venture Competition (NVC) as a for-credit field study. If you are an RC student on a team with ECs, you should be aware of these differing contexts. Since the Competition was designed to serve as a capstone experience for EC students, it dovetails with the EC calendar.

It is strongly encouraged that teams include a minimum of three members.

Students may participate on a maximum two teams, regardless of track. However, past experience suggests that students should restrict their participation to a single team for several reasons:

  • to avoid any—real or perceived—conflicts of interest between potential businesses
  • to avoid the perception of a lack of real commitment to one particular business plan. This perception can easily arise among the judges in the case of students participating on more than one team

The HBS Honor Code applies to all aspects of the Competition.

Confidentiality

The only individuals who will have access to your pitch decks (in addition to the faculty co-chairs of the Competition) will be the judges who are assigned to read your plan. These judges are largely professional venture capital investors who regularly deal with confidential information in the course of their work. We have asked them to treat your work product with the same care and respect for confidentiality. We also ask them to remove themselves from judging your plan if they do have a real conflict of interest. Feel free to mark your plan—or particular piece of it—as “confidential,” or to exclude any information you regard as truly proprietary, and to request that the judges give you the hard copy of your plan back after you've completed your presentation. If you are concerned about any particular VC firm—because they have backed a direct competitor—feel free to request that we not put a judge from that firm on your panel.

Note that the short description of your idea which you include with your entry form may be used in public documentation relating to the Competition.

Abiding by Community Values and Academic Policies

As members of the HBS Community, students agree to abide by our shared Community Values of respect for others, honesty and integrity, and accountability for personal behavior.

In particular, students should be aware that it is not permissible for conduct “surveys” of companies who are potential competitors for your proposed venture under the guise of an “HBS student project.” you must be honest and open about your intentions, and if you believe your honesty may inhibit people from speaking with you, that should serve as further evidence of the importance of adhering to the principle.

Similarly, if you are working on your plan with any “outsider” from academia or industry, you also have a responsibility to respect their intellectual property and to treat any information received from them as confidential.

For ECs: Multiple students in multiple courses working on the same project naturally raises issues related to ownership of the work product and attribution of efforts for grading. While the business plan entry itself is not graded as part of the competition, students are nonetheless directed to be sensitive to the issues raised by such projects. According to our self-plagiarism policy, if the business plan (or research products that underpin it) will be submitted to more than one faculty member as part of a paper or project for credit, students must complete the form entitled “Required EC Student Report Disclosure Form (For Disclosure of Multiple Papers/Presentations from a Single Research Base)” and submit it to the various faculty members involved. The form is available at the Registrar Services counter in Spangler. Note that any student projects and business plan submissions that are found to be in violation of these requirements will be disqualified from the competition, and students may be subject to further disciplinary action.

Expense Policy

The business track of the New Venture Competition offers the opportunity for teams (HBS students only) to obtain reimbursement for up to $1,000 of eligible expenses (see definition below) that were incurred in the course of running an experiment to validate core assumptions about your business. All expenses must have been incurred prior to your initial plan submission. This reimbursement is available to HBS students who officially enter the Competition by the 12:00 noon, February 5, 2014 deadline. No exceptions will be made for late reimbursement requests.

We understand that your business idea may evolve and change over the course of the year as you work on it. As such, you are still eligible for the Experimentation fund as long the use of funds relates to testing and development (experimentation). If you elect not to present, you will still be eligible for reimbursement of up to $1,000 of expenses. However, in order to be eligible, you must still submit a document to the student New Venture Competition. This document should be an original executive summary plus a note that describes your reasons for not pursuing the business opportunity. The philosophy here is that the $1,000 grant is designed to facilitate the learning process, and we do not want to penalize teams who learned that their idea was not worthy of pursuit. At the same time, we need to see evidence that substantive intellectual work was done.

  • All eligible expenses must be incurred AND paid for prior to your initial business plan submission on April 5, 2014.
  • The original receipt showing payment or an invoice is required for all items listed on page 2 of the reimbursement form. Invoices MUST include a line showing your payment, including the date of the payment, the method (check, credit card, etc.) and the amount paid. If the invoice does not include this information, that expense will not be accepted for reimbursement.
  • Eligible expenses include: market research, hosting services for running a beta version of a website, software tools and development required to build a website or build other aspects of the product/service, or other expenses related to testing or validation of core assumptions. Payments to others for services required to conduct early development and testing (i.e., legal, accounting, etc.) are also approved as long as the individuals
  • The following expenses are NOT eligible: travel, meals, photocopying, entertainment, survey/focus group/etc. incentives to a third party (such as gift cards or cash), or hardware or electronic items for team members. Also note that we will not reimburse for color copies of your plan, so we recommend making black & white copies.
  • Turn in one reimbursement request form per team as the check will be cut to one individual only.

You must submit the required application form, plus all related ORIGINAL receipts to Anamarie Farr in Rock Center 107 by 4/14/2014.