Tufts $100k New Ventures Competition
Application and Judging
How far along in my venture do I need to be in order to apply?
You can apply at any stage of your venture, however, most of the applicants in prior years tend to have been working on their venture for a while. We would like to see evidence that you have done market research to validate your hypotheses, and you should have a clear proposal for a solution that solves the problem you outlined as well as a good understanding of how it is different and better. We also want you to have a go to market strategy and have thought through the business model and financial aspects. We are looking for the way you think about these things rather than the actual traction.
Do I need to have a working prototype of my solution?
Not exactly. It depends on the type of venture. If you are developing a mobile app, we would expect you to have at least some level of wireframes to illustrate your idea. If you are developing a biotech venture, say, an organ-on-chip for testing drugs that need to get past the blood-brain barrier, we expect you to have the science figured out as well as a plan for how to turn that into a product – but we certainly do not expect to see a working prototype.
Why can’t I apply if I have raised over $250,000?
The $100k New Ventures Competition is designed to help new ventures accelerate their progress through educational workshops, coaching and for the winners, equity-free grant funding. If you have already raised $250,000, you are likely far beyond the stage of development of most other applicants. It would not be fair to have judges compare their ventures with yours which probably has seen much more traction.
Can I apply again if I was part of a winning team in the past?
Applicants who were part of a winning team in the past may re-apply as part of a new team that has not won a prize in the $100k competition in a previous year.
Can I apply as part of multiple teams?
Applicants can be on multiple teams up to the semi-final stage, but can only move into the finals on 1 team.
Who are the judges and how is the judging process managed?
For fairness, judges are drawn from the community and are not involved in the screening process or the coaching process. DEC faculty and staff will serve as MC’s and facilitators but will not be a part of the selection process for the finalists.
Judges will hear the pitches, ask questions, and then spend 1 minute entering their scores and notes after each pitch before moving on to the next pitch. After all teams have pitched, judges will meet in separate Zoom sessions to deliberate verbally about the teams and to pick 4 to 5 teams out of each track to advance to the final round.
Finalist announcements will happen in the main Zoom room.
Why are there three tracks to the $100k?
Tufts University is an incredibly diverse place with 11 schools and colleges. Its students and alumni have interests in many areas, from enterprise software to biotech startups to social enterprises in emerging markets. We created the tracks to allow teams, judges and audience members with different interests to work together on those areas of interest.
Are there differences in the application and judging rubric on a track-by-track basis?
The spirit of the main application and rubric is the same across all three tracks. Within each track, the application and the rubric are both customized for the characteristics of ventures in that track.
Who should enter the General Technology Track?
New ventures or businesses geared towards creating value in the private high-technology or other sectors not classified as Life Sciences or Social Entrepreneurship.
Who should enter the Social Impact Track?
Businesses with a mission to create and sustain social value. Businesses that benefit society and promote active citizenship. A significant part of the venture is dedicated to one or more of the following: creating a positive social impact, improving living conditions, upward economics or social mobility, or environmental impact. Social Ventures can be not-for-profit, for-profit or hybrid.
Who should enter the Healthcare & Life Science Track?
Businesses with a focus on medical, health, and wellness topics. This includes Dental, Veterinary, Biomedical, and Nutrition-focused businesses.
Money and Prizes
How do I claim my prize?
Winners should contact Carol Denning at the Derby Entrepreneurship Center to claim their prize. Winners must claim their prize within 6 months of the competition. If a team is unable to collect within 6 months of the competition, a formal request for an extension must be approved. Approval will be on a case by case basis.
Do I need to incorporate in order to collect my prize?
We do not recommend teams to incorporate until they have had serious conversations about founders’ roles and responsibilities, commitments and contributions. Most applicants to the $100k are not far enough along in their venture for the co-founders to have had these conversations. Incorporating this early locks in a founder equity split that may result in an emotionally charged conversation later on when the founders have had time to work out their personal circumstances, which may change how they are able to contribute.
Having said that, if the venture already is set up as an entity, we will be able to issue a check to that entity.
How is the money divided among team members?
Each team is responsible for deciding how they will divide the prize money among themselves. We do not regulate the use of funds. We strongly urge all teams to have this conversation before applying, so you go in with clear expectations. It is very difficult to have this conversation after the fact.
Can I add or remove team members after I submit my application?
While we understand that startup teams can be very fluid, we ask that you do not change your core team’s composition for the $100k once you submit your application. If you must change the team composition, we need to see a written agreement signed by all team members explaining who is added/removed and why.
What is the format of the 2023 events?
The semi final and final events in 2023 will be held virtually and will both follow this format:
- Everyone start in 1 Zoom session for the kickoff
- Divide up into 3 groups and meet in 3 separate Zoom sessions, one per track, to listen to 8 pitches each
- We will have a short break after the first 4 teams pitch then reconvene to finish it up
- Return to main Zoom session for networking
- Finalists will be announced in the main Zoom session
Why is the event not held in-person?
The Tufts $100k Competition is open to all students at Tufts (across 4 campuses in Massachusetts) as well as to alumni who graduated within the past 5 years. Many of them no longer live within commuting distance of Medford. In addition, COVID is a consideration – if a participant tests positive, they will not be able to come in person.
We strive to maximize equitable access to entrepreneurial learning opportunities, including these types of competitions. After careful consideration, including reviewing the participants’ location from the last two years, we have made the decision to keep the competition virtual.
What is a "watch party"?
In lieu of a live in-person pitching event, we are making it possible for people who are able to make it in person to watch the live presentations together in the Joyce Cummings Center.
Teams who are local will be provided with quiet rooms to present from. After that, they are free to join the watch party for their track. After all teams have presented, the audience will have an opportunity to talk to the presenters and learn more about their ventures.
How would I know where to go with three tracks running simultaneously?
There will be an event landing page with clear instructions to help you navigate both the Zoom links and the watch parties.
How will you communicate with us during the event?
During the event the primary way organizers will communicate with presenters in real time is within the locked channels on Slack for the $100k tracks. It is of utmost importance that all team members accept the Slack workspace invitation and join the locked channels so we have a way to reach you during the day of the event outside Zoom.
How might I prepare my computer and Zoom settings to have the best sound and video?
We recommend that you take the following steps to improve your presence on Zoom.
- Rename yourself thus: “Firstname Lastname (Company name)”
- Do not use a wireless headset because of the risk of running out of batteries or losing connection. Instead use a mic and speaker phone or a wired headset.
- Camera should be oriented horizontally and set up at eye level
- Curate your background: Either find a simple background or use a virtual background designed to show off your logo (a great way to help people see who’s on your team)
- Optimize your lighting: Avoid being backlit; avoid lighting sources that cast a harsh shadow on your face. Ring lights or diffuse natural light is best.
- Think about what ambient noises may come up randomly and take steps to mitigate these noises for the duration of your pitch. For example, if you have a house phone you can unplug it or take out the battery for the duration of the pitch to avoid having it ring in the middle of your pitch.
What if I lose power or WiFi?
If the primary presenter runs into trouble, the organizer will wait a little and if the situation does not improve, we will move on to the next team and return to you after all teams have presented to give you time to recover.
If you know you will be in a place with spotty WiFi, consider calling in with a cellular line and having a teammate present your slides for you OR send us our slides and have us display and advance them for you.
Can I advance my own slides?
Yes, the presenter will be allowed to share slides.
What happens if we get Zoom bombed?
If we do indeed get Zoom bombed, the first step we will take is to pause the event and use a built in Zoom Security feature to suspend all activities. This will immediately stop screen sharing and annotation and turn off audio and video for all participants, as well as disable chat. At that point organizers will work to identify and remove the Zoom bomber from the meeting. During this time, which can last several minutes, we will not have video or sound. Once we have taken care of the offender we will allow video and audio sharing again and resume the event.