THE MOST COMMON QUESTION:
What is the process for entering the Minnesota Cup?
1) In the upper righthand corner of the Minnesota Cup homepage, click on "Enter the Competition".
2) You'll be taken automatically to a Minnesota Cup application page, which is where all initial entries will be submitted.
3) The application page will prompt you to create a username (your email address) and password for accessing your entry.
4) The system will send you a registration confirmation email, in which you must click a link to confirm your email address and access the entry form.
5) The official Minnesota Cup entry form will then be displayed and you can begin working on your entry. You'll be able to log-out and log back in as many times as you would like prior to the entry deadline of 11:59pm on May 9 to update your entry.
6) Please make sure all fields are filled out before 11:59pm on May 9, 2014, as that will be the final entry.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MINNESOTA CUP PROGRAM:
Is this for me?
If you are an entrepreneur, inventor or small business person either working on an innovative new business concept - or if you have already started on your journey but are generating less than $1 million per year in revenue - this program is for you.
For those that participate, we will provide you with access to some great tools and resources, the entry process will help you refine your investor pitch and if you do well, there are great prizes including as much as $80,000 in seed capital, attention in the media and an opportunity to pitch your idea to leaders in the business and investor communities.
What sort of ideas can be entered?
We are seeking new and innovative ideas. We don't want to create too many barriers or limitations, as we are likely to see concepts and ideas that span a wide variety of industries, product and service types, or even new business models.
Some entries will be for entirely new products, services or business processes while others may be for dramatic improvements to things that already exist but have yet to reach their potential.
The only major constraints are that the idea needs to be economically viable and it cannot violate or infringe on the copyright or intellectual property of another.
Can I enter more than one division?
No, you can only enter one division. And we do realize that some entries will straddle the fence of multiple divisions.
Which division should I enter?
You should enter the division that you feel best represents your entry. Additionally, if we believe an entry is misplaced, we will move it to the division we believe it stands the best chance to succeed in.
What is the student competition?
We have a student division that seeks to support student entrepreneurs attending a Minnesota college or university. The grand prize for the student division is $10,000.
Eligibility for the student award is limited to individuals enrolled as full or part-time undergraduate or graduate students attending a college or university in Minnesota and who are between the ages of 19 and 30 and have less than 5 years of work experience. Student finalists will be required to provide documentation of their enrollment.
Is my idea really a 'breakthrough idea'?
Who would have thought 20 years ago that selling coffee was a breakthrough idea? Yet Starbucks pioneered an entirely new business model for cafes that sell premium coffee. In our view, this certainly is an example of a breakthrough idea. The point being, innovation has many, many forms and we look forward to seeing and learning about your innovative ideas.
I have already been at work on my 'breakthrough idea', we already are incorporated and we have been generating some revenue. Is this program for me?
We seek innovation in business, and we want to support and discover the entrepreneurs and ideas that have not yet had the opportunity to breakthrough. If you have yet to reach $1 million in annual revenue, you are eligible for this program, and we hope you will enter.
In the past nine years, many of the semi-finalists had launched their businesses and were actively pursuing their breakthrough ideas. The other half were in the R&D stage and / or other stages of business inception.
I just started working on my idea. I don't have employees or revenue - I just have a plan that I'm looking to turn into a business. Am I ready for this competition?
If you have a great idea, a passion to build a business and plan to start up a new business, then this program is for you.
In the past three years, roughly half of the semi-finalists were at the inception stage and just starting out.
My idea is very low tech. Is this program available to me or is this purely for those with high tech ideas?
Innovation has many forms. In some cases, that innovation is connected to amazing technology. In other cases, great innovation comes without advanced technology of any kind. In past years, we have been very impressed by the diverse mix of ideas - some that were high tech and some that were no tech. Whether your idea is high tech or no tech, we want to hear about it.
Can I enter more than one idea?
No. We are only taking one entry per person. If you have multiple ideas that you believe are a fit for this contest, we ask that you choose your very best idea and enter that one.
Can I enter by mail or fax?
No. The only way to enter the Minnesota Cup is by completing the official entry form that can be accessed from our website. There are several reasons for this, most notably that we need to ensure a level playing field for all entrants. Further, with all entries online, we are able to manage and distribute them to review board members most effectively, particularly considering the volume of entries we will receive.
Who is eligible to enter?
Any and all residents of the State of Minnesota are eligible to enter.
Students who attend school in Minnesota and reside in the state while classes are in session are also eligible.
I am a resident of Wisconsin, can I enter?
No, but Wisconsin has a tremendous program called the Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Contest that is for Wisconsin residents.
I entered the Minnesota Cup last year, can I enter again?
Absolutely. We hope that all Minnesota Cup entrants have continued to pursue their breakthrough ideas, worked on their plans and made progress and we look forward to seeing your ideas and how they have progressed in the past year.
One small note, prior finalists that have won prize money are ineligible. For finalists who did not win prize money, you are welcome to enter the competition with new ideas. Anyone else who entered in prior years is eligible, and we hope that you will enter again.
Is there a cost to enter Minnesota Cup?
There is no cost to enter this competition.
What happens if my idea gets past the first round?
There will be as many as 80 entries that move on to the semi-final round. At that point, you will have six weeks to put together a much more detailed and thorough plan.
How can I be assured that my idea is safe?
The judges are experienced investors, executives and entrepreneurs and all sign confidentiality agreements at the start of each competition. We have never had a breach of confidentiality in the history of the competition.
Do I maintain ownership of my idea?
Absolutely. This is your idea, your innovation and it is your intellectual property.
How will my entry be judged?
Entries will be judged on the following criteria:
An idea can be for a product or service and can be an entirely new idea or the evolution of a previous idea. Ideas that show the greatest innovation will be viewed more favorably.
Can this idea be commercialized within two years (only exception to this criteria are entries in the Energy & Clean Technology and Life Science & Health IT divisions who MAY be allowed a longer time to commercialization due to, e.g., extensive FDA hurdles, the amount of capital initially required (especially medical devices) and the time it takes to secure necessary IP protection)? Can this idea create or serve a market need? What is the entrant's strategy for making the idea into a high-growth business? Judges will be evaluating ideas on their potential to generate revenue, profits and employment.
Quality of Presentation:
This is a secondary criteria, but please make sure that all content is well written and clear. As the competition progresses, quality of presentation will factor in more substantially.
Conflict of Interest and Recusals
With such a large review board, it is inevitable that there will be some number of entrants that have some level of relationship with one or more than one member of the review board.
The Minnesota Cup has a firm policy that any relationship of any kind between a member of the review board and an entrant be disclosed to other members of the review board and for that particular entry, the review board member will recuse themselves from all manner of judging.
Can I include a picture, illustration or attachment with my entry?
The first round of the competition is "text only", so there is no way to get an illustration or other attachment included with the entry.
That said, there is one common work around that a modest number of entrants use which is they will provide a hyperlink to a webpage that includes images / illustrations etc.