2020 JHU Business Plan Competition Instructions

Important details on each stage of the competition, including what to submit when, how to engage effectively with your mentors, and more.
For information about how to register for the competition and gain access to your competition template in LivePlan, read our registration guidelines.


Teams must complete both rounds of Stage 1 in order to advance to Stage 2. If teams do not complete all parts of their template and engage with mentors during the mentorship windows, the team’s registration will be cancelled and they will not be eligible to compete on competition day.

Round 1: Summary of Idea (deadline February 14, 2020)

In Stage 1, competitors will engage in two remote rounds of competition using the business plan creation platform LivePlan. After registration (see our Registration Guidelines for details on registering for the event), competitors will receive an invitation to their team’s LivePlan template.

Using LivePlan

  • Accept your LivePlan invitation within 7 days of receiving the invitation via email (instructions for accepting your LivePlan invitation). If more than 7 days have passed, email bpc@jhu.edu to receive a new invitation. Check your spam folder if you cannot locate your invitation.
  • LivePlan invitations are not automatically generated after registering for the competition. Please allow up to 2 business days to receive your LivePlan invitation.
  • Other registered team members will receive their own invitations to your team’s template, so you can each log in and contribute to your business plan.
  • Only six members of each team can register to attend the in-person competition on April 17, but additional members are welcome to contribute to their team’s Stage 1 submissions. Any team members who do not plan to attend the in-person competition on April 17 should email bpc@jhu.edu to gain access to their team’s LivePlan account.

Completing Round 1

  • Prepare by viewing the template for both LivePlan rounds here.
  • Round 1 requires a brief written response to three central questions about the team’s venture in addition to a 3-minute video pitch.
  • Please note there are no requirements for the video pitch other than length, though teams are encouraged to address the three Round 1 prompts in their video.
  • Teams can access free video production resources and video pitch examples here.
  • To complete Round 1, go to the “Plan” tab of your template, click the “edit” button next to each section, and enter your responses.
  • For the first round of competition, teams should only complete the content under “Round 1: Summary of Idea.” Do not move onto “Round 2: Business Plan” until after receiving feedback from your mentors.
  • Your team should feel free to use the additional tabs (“Pitch,” “Forecast,” “Benchmarks,” and “Schedule”) when developing your plan. Some of these tabs can even populate information in your team’s plan template. However, you should note that though mentors can view the content in the additional tabs, they can only evaluate and comment on the content within the “Plan” tab.
  • There is no “submission” button. Content will be live and viewable to your mentors beginning February 18.

Mentorship Window 1 (February 18 – March 1, 2020)

We strongly encourage competitors to view the BPC as a learning experience. Effective engagement with competition mentors is a vital component of that learning experience.

Mentors will have two weeks to review Round 1 submissions and provide feedback. Each team will be assigned multiple mentors so that they receive diverse feedback. Mentorship can help teams prepare for Stage 2 presentations, think through the details of their venture, and preempt judge questions. Their contributions are valuable and teams are encouraged to see them as such and to take full advantage of the benefits of mentorship.

How to Get the Most out of Mentorship

  • Mentors will be provided with a choice regarding how they engage with teams, including commenting directly on templates using LivePlan comment boxes, via email, or setting up phone calls or video chats. Be sure to use your mentors’ preferred communication platform(s).
  • Check LivePlan regularly to ensure that you are responding to any comments your mentors have provided on your team’s template.
  • Make any scheduled meetings with your mentors a priority and answer any questions posed on your LivePlan template in a timely manner.
  • View mentorship as a two-way street. Ask thoughtful questions or for clarification when you need it. Showing your mentor that you value the mentorship process is important to building the mentor/mentee relationship.
  • Your mentors may attend the competition. Make sure to connect with them and thank them for their contributions during networking opportunities throughout the day.

At the end of the mentorship window, teams will be prompted via email to complete Round 2.

Round 2: Full Business Plan (deadline March 13, 2020)

Considering mentors’ feedback, teams will craft their full business plans (see our LivePlan Template for details). Round 2 requires detailed answers regarding market analysis, marketing and operation plans, and costs and financing, so students are encouraged to start early and reserve enough time to complete the entire plan. Teams that do not complete every section of the Round 2 template will not qualify to move onto competition day.

Follow the same steps listed in Round 1 to complete Round 2 in your team’s LivePlan template.

A variety of on-campus resources, including Center for Leadership Education coursework, FastForward U work space and learning events, and workshops led by the student organization TCO Labs, are available to assist students in crafting their business plans. Learn more about available on-campus resources here.

Mentorship Window 2 (March 17-29, 2020)

Mentors will again have two weeks to review Round 2 submissions and provide feedback to their assigned teams. Teams should make every effort to check in regularly with mentors throughout these 2 weeks to ensure they are engaging with mentors, answering their questions, and asking any questions they may have.

On April 1, teams will be notified via email about whether they will move on to competition day.


Competition Day (April 17, 2020)

All teams that move onto competition day will present in their assigned category during Round 1 presentations. Category assignments and the presentation schedule will be distributed via email ahead of the competition. Business attire is highly encouraged.

Round 1 Guidelines

  • In Round 1 presentations, teams will deliver a three-minute pitch without an accompanying slide deck. However, teams are welcome to incorporate handouts, posters, prototypes, or other visuals that do not necessitate the use of AV equipment or other presentation technology.
  • Teams must arrive to their category’s room 10 minutes before their scheduled presentation time. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.
  • Time keepers will alert presenters using signs when they have 1 minute remaining and when time is up. Teams are required to stick to the allotted time so the competition remains on schedule.
  • At the conclusion of each team’s presentation, judges will have 4 minutes to ask each team questions about their venture.
  • Resources for improving presentation skills can be found on our Resources page.
  • During lunch, the director of the competition will read aloud the list of teams that will move onto the final round of competition. At that time, an email will also be distributed to all competitors with a list of finalists.

Round 2 Guidelines

  • During the final round of competition, teams will present for 8 minutes with a full slide deck.
  • Slide decks must be accessible via laptop, thumb drive, or cloud-based storage. HDMI cables, laptops, and wireless connections will be available in each category’s presentation room.
  • Teams must arrive to their category’s presentation room 10 minutes before their scheduled presentation time. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.
  • Slide decks should model the template teams completed during Stage 1 – Round 2.
  • Timekeepers will notify presenters using signs when they have 2 minutes remaining, 1 minute remaining, and when time is up.
  • At the conclusion of each team’s presentation, judges will have 5 minutes to ask each team questions about their venture.
  • Judges will deliberate to select 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners, which will be announced during the evening reception.

Evening Reception & Awards Ceremony

  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each category will be announced during an awards ceremony and reception from 4:30-6:00 PM.
  • All competitors, regardless of their competition status, are encouraged to attend the reception to network with judges and mentors who represent a variety of industries and to enjoy the festivities.