The contest, previously known as Bplan, sports a new name this year, LAUNCH, which is intended to reflect the continued move away from long-form business plans to the one-page business model canvas and 10-slide presentation used by today’s startups.
“We thought about what this competition is really trying to do: It’s now much more about catapulting and launching companies from ideas to viable businesses over the course of the competition,” says Moses Lo, MBA ’15, one of the co-chairs of the competition. “LAUNCH exactly describes our aim.”
The competition draws startups from four industries tracks: energy and cleantech, life sciences, products and services, and IT and web. Competing teams pitch at the private semifinals, after which judges select two teams from each track to advance to the final round. First-place winners in each track receive $5,000 and a chance to pitch their idea during the Spring 2014 application cycle for SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s startup accelerator. Second-place track winners receive $2,500.
At the finals event, which will take place on April 24th, judges will select the $20,000 grand prize winner. This winning team will also automatically receive a six-month spot at SkyDeck and be announced at the public finals on the evening of the 24th. Finalists and semifinalists will also be eligible for additional cash prizes, including a $5,000 People’s Choice Award and a $2,500 Elevator Pitch Award, determined by audience votes.
In addition to the new LAUNCH name, teams this year will benefit from a new networking reception and expo, which will provide the 30 semifinalists who don’t advance to the finals with an opportunity to set up visuals and discuss their business ideas with those who attend the finals round. The LAUNCH competition will also feature more of an emphasis on financial and go-to-market strategy, with two new workshops created this year to better prepare teams in these areas.
“The workshops bring in real-world VCs and successful entrepreneurs to relay their insights into our focus areas and allow teams to iterate their content with our practitioners,” says Kristen Duffel, MBA 15, the event’s other student co-chair.