Judge Criteria

General Judging Criteria Overview

The competition is intended to simulate the real-world process of entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early-stage investors and venture capital firms. The judges function as early stage venture capital investors deciding on which business venture they would most likely fund. The value created by the new product or service, attractiveness of the market opportunity, the competitive advantage of the proposed venture, the operational and technology viability, the capability of the management team, and the capital requirements and financial forecast, and the clarity and persuasiveness of the written plan and oral presentation, all influence the judges’ decisions. Ultimately, the winning team should be the team in which the judges would most likely invest their money.

The competition judges are JHU Alumni, entrepreneurs, and experienced professionals, some of which come from the investment community and are involved in making early-stage investment decisions on an ongoing basis. Their ranking of the top teams is guided by the scorecard (described below), but should be consistent with the approach that would be used by an early-stage venture capital or angel investor.

We recognize that consistent with real life investment situations, early-stage companies can be in very different stages of development. To compensate for this, we would expect that an investor would require the higher investment returns for a very early stage company than for a later stage company which has less risk (i.e., the greater the risk or the longer the time to a liquidity event, the higher the required return). We assume, in general, that these rules would apply for the judges at the JHU Business Plan Competition.

No formal valuation or deal structure is required for any round of the competition. However, some investors prefer to have this information upfront. We recommend that teams be prepared to address questions about their terms, but it is at the discretion of the team regarding how they wish to answer those questions.

During the competition, judges are asked to evaluate each team individually. At the conclusion of the Final Presentation Round in each category the judges will have the opportunity to collaborate and determine the winners in their respective categories. Feedback and scoring information from previous rounds will be provided to the judges for reference purposes during the final presentation round.

Stage 1 – Round 1
Video Pitch and Business Concept Round Judging Criteria
  • Was a clear explanation of the business idea and value proposition provided?
  • Was justification of market potential included?
  • Was the proposition to investors clearly presented?
  • Does the information provided entice the audience to want to know more about the business?

Stage 1 – Round 2

Full Business Plan Judging Criteria

Value Created by the New Product or Service

  • What is the new and unique value of product/service?
  • Is there a clear customer need satisfied?
  • Is the background explained?
  • How important is this product/service to customers and other stakeholders?
  • Is there a prototype or working description of the product/service?

Attractiveness of the Market Opportunity

  • How large is the market and how fast is it growing?
  • Can you be a “significant player” in this market?
  • What long-run profitability do you expect to see in this market?
  • Is there a clear market entry strategy?
  • Can the product/service be successfully monetized?
  • Is the business model both realistic and viable over the intermediate term (e.g. five to ten years)?
  • Is the product/service scalable?

Competitive Advantage of the Proposed Venture

  • What is the positioning of the product/service in relation to competitors (both direct and indirect)?
  • Is the product/service favorably positioned in the distribution channel?
  • Can this product/service be a leader in its market?
  • Are barriers to entry identified?
  • How long will it take you to get to market?

Operational and Technological Viability

  • How will the product or service be produced and delivered to customers?
  • What are the distribution channels?
  • Is any intellectual property essential to success?
  • How will rights to the intellectual property be secured?
  • Are there regulatory hurdles?
  • How long will it take to develop the property?
  • Are key milestones identified?

Capability of Management Team

  • What roles will the current team play?
  • How will gaps in the management team be filled?
  • Have the team members identified key risks and how will they be mitigated?

Capital Requirements and Financial Forecast

  • What type and amount of capital investment is required?
  • Is the investment required all at once or can it be staged?
  • Is any intellectual property essential to success?
  • Are summary financials provided that include 5 year forecast, revenue, major expenditures and net income?

NOTE: No exit strategy is required for the Executive Summary Round of the competition. For the Written Business Plan Round, exit strategies should be included in the plan. No formal valuation or deal structure is required for either round of the competition.

Stage 2 – Round 1

Three-Minute Pitch Round Judging Criteria

Problem and Solution

  • What is the new and unique value of the product or service?
  • Is a clear customer need satisfied?
  • How important is this product or service to customers and other stakeholders?

Marketing Opportunity

  • Who is the target customer?
  • How large is the market and how fast is it growing?
  • Can this product or service be a “significant player” in this market?

Operational Viability

  • How will the product or service be produced and delivered to customers?
  • What are the distribution channels?

Market Entry Strategy

  • Is a clear market entry strategy described?
  • Does it seem reasonable?

Strength of Presentation

  • Makes clear and consistent eye contact with audience, seldom looking at notes or slides.
  • Poised, relaxed, and self-confident nature, making no mistakes.
  • Displays enthusiasm about topic throughout the presentation.
  • Clear and confident speaking at a good pace without reading off of slides or notes

Stage 2 – Round 2
Final Presentation Round Judging Criteria

During the final presentation round, each team gives a refined eight-minute Power Point presentation followed by five minutes of questions from the judges. The judges score the teams in the following categories:

  • Value created by the new product/services.
  • Attractiveness of the market opportunity.
  • Competitive advantage of the proposed venture.
  • Operational and technology viability.
  • Capability of the management team.
  • Capital requirements and financial forecast.
  • Exit strategy.
  • Strength of the oratory and PowerPoint presentation.

The judges will deliberate at the conclusion of the Final Presentation Round. They may reference the previous round scoring and feedback details prior to determining the winning teams.