Cheat Sheet for the 2024 New Venture Competition Application

We are thrilled that you’re considering or have decided to apply to the New Venture Competition! We want you to feel prepared and confident in your application, so we have created this cheat sheet to help guide you through the application questions. Once the application opens, we recommend having your application open in one tab and this open in another so you can refer to it as you go. The questions below are taken word-for-word from the application, and the judging criteria are taken from the scoring rubric. If you’d like to be notified when the application goes live, sign up at the bottom of the page.

Let’s dive in!

First, you will be asked to answer demographic questions at the beginning of the application.

  • Email Address
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • BU School/College
  • BU student status
  • Graduation Year (must be current BU student or BU 2023 alum)
  • Please confirm that you are the founder or one of the co-founders of the venture (please read the competition’s requirements on Innovate@BU site if you have any questions on this).
  • What are your preferred pronouns?
  • Are you an international student (non-resident alien)?
  • What is your race/ethnicity? You may select as many as applicable.
  • Track you are applying for: General Track or Social Impact.

Next, you will be asked to answer questions about your venture. Please read through the tips and the related criteria judges will consider for each question.

Team/Idea/Venture Name
This can always change later! If you don’t have one picked out right now, do your best. Don’t let not having a name hold up your application.


Please provide a 1-2 sentence description of your venture.
When answering the question, focus on conveying the core essence of your venture succinctly. Clearly state the problem your venture addresses, the solution it offers, and any unique value propositions. Keep it concise and compelling to capture the reader’s attention. Note that Innovate@BU will use this description when announcing semi-finalists and finalists.

Related Judging Criteria
A clear and effective solution concept that tackles the problem more adeptly than existing alternatives.


What is the problem that you are working to address? Please describe why it is a large and important problem. (200 word limit)
When addressing this question, emphasize the significance of the problem your venture aims to solve. Clearly articulate the pain points or challenges your target audience faces and explain why addressing these issues is crucial. Use relevant statistics or real-world examples to highlight the scale and impact of the problem, demonstrating its importance in creating a compelling case for your venture’s relevance.

Related Judging Criteria
Identified an important challenge or opportunity that requires a human-centered solution.


Who are your target customers? (200 word limit)
When answering this question, be specific and detailed about your target customers. Clearly define your ideal customer profile, including demographics, preferences, and behaviors. Discuss any segmentation or niche markets you are targeting, and explain why these groups are the most likely to benefit from or engage with your product or service. Show a deep understanding of your audience and how your solution meets their needs.

Related Judging Criteria
Identified and validated their target customers.


What is your proposed solution? (200 word limit)
In addressing this question, provide a clear and concise description of your proposed solution. Focus on how your product or service directly addresses the identified problem. Highlight key features and benefits that set your solution apart from alternatives. Use language that conveys innovation and effectiveness, ensuring the reader understands how your solution provides value and meets the needs of your target customers.

Related Judging Criteria
A clear and effective solution concept that tackles the problem more adeptly than existing alternatives.


Who are your key competitors? In what ways do they not address the problem well? (200 word limit):
When responding to this question, demonstrate a thorough understanding of your competitive landscape. Identify key competitors and, instead of focusing solely on their weaknesses, emphasize how your solution excels in addressing the identified problem. Highlight specific areas where competitors may fall short and explain how your product or service provides a more effective or innovative approach. This allows you to showcase the unique value proposition of your venture without directly criticizing competitors. Focus on differentiation and the specific advantages that set your solution apart.

Related Judging Criteria
A clear and effective solution concept that tackles the problem more adeptly than existing alternatives.


What is unique and different about what you do? (200 word limit)
When answering this question, highlight the unique aspects that distinguish your venture from others. Clearly articulate the key differentiators that set your product or service apart. It could be a unique feature, a novel approach, a proprietary technology, or a distinctive value proposition. Illustrate how these unique elements contribute to solving the identified problem more effectively or efficiently than existing solutions. Provide evidence, examples, or data to support your claims and convey a strong sense of innovation and added value.

Related Judging Criteria
A clear and effective solution concept that tackles the problem more adeptly than existing alternatives.


What is your target market and its size? (Who are your customers, buyers, and how many of them, etc) (200 word limit)
When responding to this question, provide a detailed and well-researched analysis of your target market. Clearly define who your customers and buyers are, including demographics, preferences, and behaviors. Quantify the size of your target market by citing relevant data or statistics. Showcase your market research skills by discussing the total addressable market (TAM), the served addressable market (SAM), and your achievable market share.

Related Judging Criteria
A clear and effective solution concept that tackles the problem more adeptly than existing alternatives.


How will you acquire your first customers? (200 word limit)
When addressing this question, outline a well-thought-out strategy for acquiring your first customers. Showcase a thoughtful and actionable plan for acquiring your first customers, demonstrating that you’ve considered the unique challenges and opportunities within your target market.

Related Judging Criteria
Shared a comprehensive plan outlining how the venture will introduce and promote its products or services to target customers and bring them to market.


(General Track Teams ONLY) How does your venture make money? (200 word limit)
To answer this question, provide a comprehensive and convincing explanation of how your business generates revenue, showcasing a strong understanding of your market and business model. Emphasize the primary sources of revenue for your business. Whether it’s through product sales, subscription fees, licensing, advertising, or a combination, make it clear and specific.

Related Judging Criteria
An understanding of where their revenue is coming from and what costs are associated with running the venture.


(Social Impact Teams ONLY) How will you raise money to fund these activities (200 word limit)
To answer this question, outline a well-thought-out plan that includes multiple funding sources. Mention any grants, awards, or competitions you plan to apply for. This could involve a combination of funding sources such as grants, crowdfunding, and strategic partnerships. Show that you’ve considered various avenues for financial support.

Related Judging Criteria
An understanding of where their revenue is coming from and what costs are associated with running the venture.


What steps have you taken to validate your idea with your potential customers? (200 word limit)
When responding to the question about validating your idea with potential customers in a venture competition application, describe how you conducted interviews and surveys with potential customers to gather feedback on your idea. Highlight key insights and changes made based on customer input. If you have done any prototype testing, pilot programs, customer validation events, or have made sales already – share results, testimonials, and lessons learned from these initiatives, showcasing the tangible impact on your idea’s validation.

Related Judging Criteria
Identified and validated their target customers.
Demonstrates an understanding of and commitment to engaging with the affected community, involving them in the development and implementation of the solution.


If your proposed solution includes critical technology/science/social science related assumptions, what steps have you taken to validate the technical feasibility of your proposed solution? (please put “NA” if your solution does not involve these things).(200 word limit)
In answering these questions, define specific metrics or criteria used to measure the technical feasibility of your solution. Provide evidence or data that supports the validation of critical assumptions and demonstrates progress in achieving technical milestones. Address any identified risks related to the critical technology assumptions and describe the strategies you have in place to mitigate these risks.

Related Judging Criteria
Demonstrated an understanding of what is needed to develop and implement their venture (includes some or all of the following: human, physical, financial, intellectual and social capital).


How long have you been working on this idea, and what actions have you taken to date? (200 word limit)
Clearly state how long you’ve been working on the idea. Provide a concise timeline that outlines key milestones, starting from the conceptualization phase to the present. Demonstrate any progress you have made with any of the following: customer validation, prototyping and testing, partnerships and collaborations, financial and resource management, and achievements up to date. The judges are interested in seeing where you are in your journey.

Related Judging Criteria
Demonstrated an understanding of what is needed to develop and implement their venture (includes some or all of the following: human, physical, financial, intellectual and social capital).


In the next 12 months, what are the next most important actions that you will take? (200 word limit)
When addressing the question about the next most important actions you will take in a venture competition application over the next 12 months, focus on specific actions that align with your venture’s growth and development. Provide a roadmap that demonstrates your understanding of key milestones and priorities. Communicate how you plan to allocate resources, whether it’s financial, human capital, or other assets. Explain how these resources will support the execution of your planned actions and contribute to achieving your goals.

Related Judging Criteria
Demonstrated an understanding of what is needed to develop and implement their venture (includes some or all of the following: human, physical, financial, intellectual and social capital).
Shared a comprehensive plan outlining how the venture will introduce and promote its products or services to target customers and bring them to market.


(Social Impact Teams ONLY) What is the social impact you are aiming to create? (200 word limit)
Begin by clearly defining the social issue or challenge your venture aims to address.Provide context and background information to help judges understand the significance and scope of the problem. Make sure to clearly identify and define the beneficiaries of your social impact. Present a long-term vision for the sustained social impact of your venture. Discuss how your solution is scalable and has the potential to create lasting change beyond the initial stages.

Related Judging Criteria
effectively communicated the positive effects and meaningful changes that their venture brings to society or a specific community.


(Social Impact Teams ONLY) How will you measure that impact? (200 word limit)
Outline specific and measurable outcomes that your venture aims to achieve. Whether it’s improving access to education, reducing poverty rates, or enhancing healthcare outcomes, define clear metrics that demonstrate success.Outline what impact metrics you will use to quantify the positive changes resulting from your venture. This could include the number of lives impacted, improved community well-being, or any other relevant indicators.

Related Judging Criteria
Effectively communicated the positive effects and meaningful changes that their venture brings to society or a specific community.


(General Track ONLY) How will you measure the success of your venture? (200 word limit)
Clearly define specific Key Performance Indicators that align with the goals and objectives of your venture. These KPIs should be measurable, quantifiable, and directly tied to the success of your venture. Discuss how your chosen metrics compare to industry averages or standards and emphasize the importance of customer and user feedback as a key success indicator. Discuss how you plan to collect, analyze, and leverage feedback to iterate on your product or service, ensuring continuous improvement.

Related Judging Criteria
Effectively communicated how they plan to measure the success of their venture.


What is the background/expertise of your team and what makes you believe that you have the team to tackle this problem successfully? (200 word limit)
Discuss how the skills and expertise of each team member complement each other. Highlight the diversity of skills within the team and how this diversity contributes to a well-rounded approach to problem-solving. Showcase any relevant achievements or successes of your team members. This could include awards, recognitions, or notable contributions to previous projects. Such achievements add credibility to your team’s capabilities. Emphasize the team’s passion for the problem you’re tackling. Convey a genuine commitment to making a positive impact and solving the identified challenge.

Related Judging Criteria
An understanding of the relevant knowledge & skills their startup team needs to have in order to execute on their venture idea.


Please list other members on your team, including each member’s name, email, BU school or college name, and graduation year. If you have members on your team outside of BU, please list their college/university, or their work and employer if applicable (please put “NA” if you don’t currently have other team members).
There must be at least one BU student on your team. Your team can be comprised of one person.


Please list any advisors or board members, if applicable (be prepared to provide verification for any advisors or board members listed should you advance into the semi-final).
Clearly highlight the specific expertise or experience that each advisor or board member brings to your venture. This could include industry knowledge, domain expertise, successful entrepreneurial ventures, or key connections.


Please tell us the amount and source for any funding you have raised (please put “NA” if not applicable).
Your team can not have raised more than $250,000 in funding or grants or generated less than $500,000 in annual revenue.


Finally, you will be asked to consent to the following before you can submit the application. Without consent to the following, an application cannot be submitted.

  • Media Release: I consent to and understand that Innovate@BU will take photos and video footage during New Venture Competition events and may use those photos and the 1-2 sentence description of my venture provided earlier in this application for marketing collateral on social media, Innovate@BU’s website, or any other promotional material.
  • Live Streaming: I understand that if I make it to the finals of the competition, my pitch will be livestreamed so that my friends and family will be able to watch if they’re not in Boston.
  • Attendance: I understand that with this completed application, my team commits to attending all of the required events in the spring if I am accepted to the next stage of the program (March 26 and March 27 semi-finals; April 23 and April 24 finals; April 25 Innovators Night)
  • I consent to and understand that: 1) All team members will comply with the rules and guidelines of the New Venture Competition; 2) The ideas and concepts of this proposed venture, as presented in our pitch, are the original work of our venture team; 3) Contestants are responsible for all confidentiality, copyright, trademark, and patent issues; and 4) Protection of sensitive materials such as intellectual property, copyright, patents, or confidentiality is the sole responsibility of contestants in the competition. Boston University and all related parties assume no liability and shall have no liability or obligation.

And that’s it! Well done on making use of this resource—your application thanks you!

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