- Who is eligible for the student competition?
Business Track: 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.
Social Enterprise Track: Teams must meet the two following criteria: 1) include at least one student who meets one of the criteria listed on our eligibility page; 2) be composed of a majority of Harvard University graduate students, and these members must have meaningful roles in the venture and the Competition presentation.
- How can I find teammates?
Both tracks hold Team Building Mixers in the fall. Additionally, see: Business Track Teams page and Social Enterprise Track Teams page.
- What are the advantages of registering early?
Teams who register early will have access to a variety of different resources.
Business track participants will have access to mentorship from Rock Center Entrepreneurs in Residence, legal advice and be eligible for funding to support experimentation and early exploration of their ideas (for those who apply by the February 5 early registration deadline). In addition, teams will also have the ability to participate in two rounds of Early Stage Feedback (deadlines: Nov 1 and Dec 11) from outside experts. Participants can view the Rock tools page for additional resources.
Social Enterprise will run a Workshop/Speaker series which will include "how to" seminars related to various aspects of business plan development, networking opportunities to speak with other entrepreneurs, and forums in which to test early new venture concepts and receive feedback. See the Calendar page for the full schedules. Participants can also visit the Social Enterprise Tools page to see additional track specific resources. Though not required, we also suggest that Social Enterprise Track teams participate in the Pitch for Change at the annual student-led Social Enterprise Conference, for practice and feedback at an important stage of the business plan process.
- Who are the judges? What are their backgrounds?
Business track judges will be drawn from a variety of backgrounds, including funders, founders, industry experts and executives, lawyers, , and other specialists deemed appropriate to understand the commercial viability of a business idea.
Social Enterprise track judges will be drawn from a variety of backgrounds representing a range of industries, including those from funding organizations (including impact investors, philanthropists, and venture philanthropists), capacity building organizations, and social entrepreneurs.
- How can I protect the confidentiality of intellectual property?
The HBS Honor Code applies to all participants of the New Venture Competition. If you feel that significant confidentiality issues will arise in the course of preparing your plan, you should have a thorough understanding worked out with your team members in advance. While every effort will be made to preserve the confidentiality of each submission, it is suggested that highly sensitive material be excluded from the entry if a team is concerned about the confidentiality of such material. The Rock Center has created a document that may be used as the basis for a discussion and documenting of these issues. Additionally, if you are writing a Non-Disclosure Agreement and/or Assigning Intellectual Property, see this template for a sample NDA and this template for IP Assignment.
The only individuals who will have access to the materials you submit (in addition to faculty and staff) will be the judges assigned to hear your pitch and review your plan. These judges regularly deal with confidential information in the course of their work. We ask 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 materials as "confidential" and to request that the judges give you back hard copies of anything that has been distributed. 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.
Note, however, that teams will be making final presentations to an open audience. Of course, technical drawings and formulae need not be shown at this presentation, or even included in your pitch decks, business plans, or executive summaries. All reasonable measures to ensure the protection of intellectual property introduced and associated with the Competition will be taken. Harvard University, Harvard Business School, and the organizers of the New Venture Competition cannot take further responsibility to protect the intellectual property or other rights of the contestants. Protection of such rights is ultimately the responsibility of each Contestant.
- I am from another program (e.g., Kennedy School, Law School, MIT) but would like to take part. What should I do?
Business Track: Non-HBS students would need to find a team organized by an eligible student. This can be done by attending a Team Building Mixer on November 19th from 6:30-8:30 at the Mass Challenge space or by looking at the resources on the Build a team page.
Social Enterprise Track: See the Eligibility page for requirements for non-HBS student teams, as well as the Social Enterprise Track Teams page to join a team.
- How will I get information about the Competition during the rest of the year?
Students should check the New Venture Competition website regularly and sign up to receive updates by clicking on “Update” on this site. Registered teams will also receive emails from the Competition organizers, usually sent to the team leaders. In addition, HBS students should check their myHBS page and the HBS Event Calendar for occasional event announcements. Direct questions may be addressed to the Competition organizers (Business Track: email@example.com, Social Enterprise Track: firstname.lastname@example.org). Students interested in business track specific information should sign up for the Rock Center Newsletter.
- What type of financial assistance is there to support experimentation and explore ideas?
The Competition offers the opportunity for teams to obtain reimbursement for up to $1,000 of eligible expenses that were incurred in the course of developing and running experiments for all new ventures (download the Business Track Experimentation Fund Form or the Social Enterprise Track Expense Form). This reimbursement is available only to HBS students for the Business Track and eligible Harvard students for the Social Enterprise Track who have registered for the Competition by the February 5, 2014, 12:00 noon deadline. See individual tracks for specific reimbursement eligibility criteria.
- What if my idea changes after I register?
We understand that your business idea may evolve and change over the course of the year as you work on it. As long as the use of funds relates to testing and development (experimentation) and you register by February 5th, if your idea pivots due to results of your testing you will still be eligible for the Business Track Experimentation Fund and the Social Enterprise Track grants.
- What happens if I apply to the competition but decide not to participate? Can I still be eligible for the business track experimentation fund and the social enterprise grants?
If you elect not to present, you will still be eligible for reimbursement of up to $1,000 of expense. 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.
- What are the prizes? How is the prize money split?
The winning team for both the Business and Social Enterprise Tracks will receive $50,000 in cash (taxable) plus in-kind services. One runner up for each track will receive $25,000 in cash (taxable) plus in-kind services. For the Business Track, under the terms of prize funding, prize money checks can only be written to Harvard Business School students. For the SE Track, prize money checks can only be written to HBS students, Center for Public Leadership Fellows or Harvard graduate student currently enrolled in a related course.
Note that these awards are taxable, and that we must have your social security number before a check is cut. Each team winning a prize will have sole responsibility for deciding how to allocate or otherwise use its prize proceeds. The organizers of the Competition will not become involved, either voluntarily or by request, in a team's decision concerning the allocation or use of prize proceeds.
- Do non-winning teams ever become successful?
Each year, many teams go on to launch their ventures, and not all were Competition winners. The Competition is designed to give students the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship and test ideas in a rigorous and supportive environment.
All teams, regardless of placement in the competition, benefit from speakers, workshops, office hours, and written/oral feedback from judges, faculty, and staff.
- Can I use the same topic that I used for FIELD III?
RC teams (i.e. any team with a first-year, RC, student) may not enter the New Venture Competition with the same idea used for their Field III project.
- If I register to participate, can I pull out of the competition later on? At what point am I fully committed in the competition?
Yes, if you register to participate you can pull out of the competition until the Intent to Present form is submitted. After you submit the intent to present form on March 25, 2014, you are fully committed to the competition and can no longer withdraw.
- Can I participate in multiple teams?
You can participate in multiple teams but you can participate in a maximum of 2 teams. Additionally, the project can only be entered in one track of the New Venture Competition (e.g. Business or Social Enterprise).
- Can I compete in the competition 2 years in a row?
Business Track: Yes, but not with the same business idea if you were a grand prize or runner-up winner. You may compete with the same idea if you did not win one of these prizes. You may also compete in your second year with a different idea.
Social Enterprise Track:
- If you were a grand prize or runner-up winner, you may not compete with the same business idea.
- If you were a finalist team that did not place as winner or runner-up, we will look at how the idea has evolved since the initial entry to determine eligibility.
- If you were not a finalist, you may compete with the same idea.
- All teams may also compete a second time with a different idea.