The CSULB Innovation Challenge is a great opportunity to develop your business, leadership, and analytical skills, as well as make connections and meet people with similar interests. To enter, you need to submit a letter of intent. See below for details.
What are we looking for?
The Innovation Challenge is a learning environment created to find an innovative product, service, or technology that meets a market need in a new or better way. The Sunstone Innovation Challenge at CSULB is an annual campus-wide business plan competition. We are looking for diverse teams to develop, promote and launch sustainable, entrepreneurial and innovative business ideas through the presentation of a well-crafted business plan that address the core concepts of Desirability, Viability, and Feasibility (descriptions available in the judging rubric).
- We define entrepreneurial as being active in solving a problem. You are being tasked with finding an idea that challenges the status quo or existing assumptions. These concepts need to be the inspiration to any team’s innovative product, service or technology.
- We define a sustainable business as one that strives to meet the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit.
- The value of a well-crafted business plan will enable you to continue pursuing your business beyond the Innovation Challenge. It is a road map that will help you run your business with a cohesive vision in areas such as organizational management, sales strategies, funding requirements and financial projections.
What are we NOT looking for?
We are not looking for existing businesses that are earning revenue. Although prototypes can provide useful information when developing your business plan, a prototype is not required. If your business is in a beta testing period please talk to us about your eligibility to compete.
- You must be part of a team of 2-5 individuals in order to submit your business plan in February. Only one team member needs to submit a business plan.
- University students and independent professionals are eligible to enter, however at least one decision-making member of the team must be an enrolled (fall semester) CSULB student.
- Businesses must not have made substantial revenue (please talk to us for clarification).
- If you have competed in previous years and made it to the finals, you may not enter with the same business plan that was previously submitted.
Challenge Registration and Deadlines
There is no fee participate in this competition. Your Letter of Intent (LOI) is all you need to submit to register for the competition.
LOIs have a soft deadline of October 2021. After this time entry will be accepted by consultation. LOIs may be submitted prior to October if ready. Mentors will be assigned once LOIs are reviewed.
Business plans* are submitted by the February 2022 deadline.
*Late entries will not be considered.
Submit a Letter of Intent
The Letter of Intent (PDF), also available on the Resources page, includes data about the team and the general innovative business/technology area and targeted market. It will be used to select the mentors most suited to assist each team. Mentors will be assigned to team applicants within two weeks of submitting their LOI. To be considered, LOIs must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Form a Team
Each team must have at least one current CSULB student in a leading role and should include 2-5 members with varied entrepreneurial, technical, and business skills. We encourage anyone interested in participating in the Innovation Challenge to attend organized information sessions and mixers available in various areas of campus during the month of September. Shortly after submitting your LOI, you will be assigned a mentor who has expert experience in various business, design, and/or engineering fields. You will also be assigned an MBA student to support your business plan development. You are encouraged to attend the weekly Apostle Incubator Meetings to continue networking and developing your business needs.
Can I register for the challenge as an individual?
- Yes, you can submit an LOI for the challenge and access our resources as an individual. However, in order to submit your final business plan, you will have to either join an existing team or recruit additional team members to work with you.
Can I participate on more than one team?
- Yes, you can participate on more than one team for the challenge.
Can a team submit more than one entry?
- No, teams may submit only one entry per team.
You will be asked to engage with your mentor a minimum of 3 times. This can occur in person or remotely. The mentor must sign off on the business plan and that signed checklist must be submitted with your final business plan.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property
Entrants retain ownership of all ideas and materials/images submitted to the challenge and only the Innovation Challenge steering committee and the judging panelists will have access to complete entry materials. We encourage that you discuss your idea with as many people affiliated in our program as you can, however in order to protect your intellectual property we advise that you do not disclose specific functions (i.e. operations, codes, etc.) that produces your business’s ‘secret sauce’. Entering teams must recognize that any information submitted as part of the Challenge is at risk of inadvertent public disclosure. The organizers, judges, and other affiliates of the Challenge will NOT enter into nondisclosure agreements with entering teams. The Innovation Challenge organizers retains the right to reproduce and distribute materials submitted for public view (e.g. images, overview text, and video).
Submit a Business Plan
Teams are encouraged to work from the Business Model Canvas (PDF) to outline their business plan.
Business plans submissions are due by the February 2022 deadline and must contain the following:
- Business plans should not be more than 20 pages including; cover sheet, appendix, etc.
- Your completed financial projections spreadsheet.
- The signed mentor checklist.
Need help getting started? Visit the “Resources” section on the website.
Eight semi-finalists will be selected by a judging committee to pitch in a public forum in March.
The final four teams selected by a new judging committee present to a final panel of judges in April at the Pointe in the Walter Pyramid at CSULB.
Teams will be provided with feedback after the committee reviews the business plans and will have the opportunity to update their business plan before submitting to the next judging committee. Teams who are not selected to continue in the competition are encouraged to reach out for feedback on their business plan and discuss other opportunities that can support their business needs.
Judges will evaluate business plans based on the juding rubric that evaluates core concepts addressing Desirability, Viability, and Feasibility. Judging Rubric (PDF)
The winning team receives $15,000 in seed funding to help launch their business. As well as in-kind contributions, such as:
- Office space for one year
- Printing services for business cards, stationery, and brochures
- Marketing services/consultation
- Legal assistance
- Accounting and tax assistance for one year
- Communication services: web, phone
- Business consulting and mentoring, as needed
New this year ➨ The runner up team receives $10,000 in seed funding to help launch their business and two honorable mentions will receieve $5,000 each!
Teams invited to present at the final competition will receive certificates and honorable mention prizes at the award ceremony.
Terms and Conditions
By submitting a letter of intent or business plan to the CSULB Innovation Challenge ("Challenge"), each Applicant listed above agrees to the following conditions:
- Each team member has reviewed the Innovation Challenge official rules and agrees to abide by them. Failure to do so will result in entry disqualification and/or forfeiture of any awards.
- It is the Applicant's responsibility to protect any confidential or trade secret information. Proposals will be handled confidentially. The legal protection of the ideas and plans submitted by the applicants to the Challenge is otherwise the sole responsibility of the Applicants.
- Once submitted, Applications become part of the Challenge and will not be returned. Applicants are advised to keep their own copies for reference.
- All decisions made by the Challenge judges and organizers on all matters relating to the Challenge will be final and not open to appeal or negotiation.
- The Challenge reserves the unrestricted right to interpret these terms and the Challenge Guidelines and to alter, amend, or change them at its discretion.
- Each Applicant understands that the Challenge’s co-sponsors, judges, mentors, co-organizers (the "Challenge Officials") and its directors, officers, partners, employees, consultants and agents (collectively "Organizer Representatives") are volunteers. In consideration for their time, expertise and other resources, each Applicant hereby voluntarily releases the Challenge, each Challenge Official, each Organizer Representative, and the CSU from any liabilities and claims of any kind whatsoever, whether known or unknown, which arise out of or pertain to the Applicant's participation in the Challenge or the Challenge Official's or Organizer Representative's participation in the Challenge.