Sunstone CSU Startup Launch

The Sunstone CSU Startup Launch is a showcase and pitch competition designed to level the playing field for aspiring CSU entrepreneurs. If your graduation date is May 2023 or later, this is your competition! With over $200,000 in prizes, this startup competition is sure to attract the best and brightest startups from around the CSU system.

This one-of-a-kind pitch competition supports and recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit of CSU entrepreneurs. 

group of folks in front of a jumbo check being presented for 25,000 dollars

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About the Competition:

The Sunstone CSU Startup Launch Competition is the premier university startup competition in California designed exclusively for emerging startups in the California State University System

At least one founder must be a current undergraduate or graduate student of the respective campus, or have graduated within the past twelve months (no earlier than 5/3/23).

The pitch must be delivered by the team’s CSU student or recent graduate. Only startups with revenue of less than $10,000 to date from product/ services sales are eligible to compete.

Although non-CSU students may be on the team, leadership and decision-making must be composed of students and/or alumni from the participating campus.

Team selection is the choice of the leadership of each participating campus.

The event will feature two phases on competition day, May 3rd, 2024.

The first phase will consist of a "science fair" style expo of the competing teams. All teams will have a 6-foot table with a black tablecloth to showcase their startup. The teams may bring prototypes, presentations, posters, demos, etc. The teams are not guaranteed to have power at each table. Judges will roam around the room evaluating the startups.

Judges will not likely visit all startups and there is no minimum or maximum amount of time that a judge or judges may visit a team. The overall judging time will be no more than 3 hours.

After the completion of the showcase, a group of between 6-8 teams will be selected as finalists to compete in the Grand Finale. Finalists will be announced at the Grand Finale event just prior to their turn to pitch.

Finalists will deliver a 3-minute pitch presentation, followed by a 5-minute Q&A from the judges. No projection of presentation decks will be available. Finalists will be permitted to use small props and materials to the Grand Finale.

All props must be hand carried to the stage by the presenters. Judges will select a Grand Finale winner, 2nd place, and 3rd place winners from amongst the finalists.

The team's pitch may be delivered by a single team member. Other team members are welcome to participate, but all travel expenses are the responsibility of the participating campus.

Judges will primarily, but not exclusively, evaluate each pitch based on the desirability, feasibility and viability of the startup.

*Subject to change

8:00 AM Setup Opens for Showcase

9:00 AM Showcase Judging Begins (Press permitted)

10:00 AM Public access to the showcase opens

12:00 PM Showcase concludes. Lunch is served

1:00 PM Welcome remarks

1:45 PM Grand Finale begins 8 teams pitch 3 minutes. No slides. Props only. 5 min Q&A

3:00 PM Judges retreat to deliberate. Participants: Photos, networking, and snack break

3:30 Awards ceremony

4:15 PM Event concludes


*Subject to change

There will be several awards. These awards are subject to change. Participants will be notified of the final categories prior to competing.

Showcase Award Categories:

1). Value proposition: How well does the startup solve a real problem or address a genuine need for its target customers? How clear and compelling is the startup’s pitch and vision?

2). Market opportunity: How large and attractive is the market that the startup is targeting? How well does the startup understand its customers and their willingness to pay for the product or service?

3). Competitive advantage: How does the startup differentiate itself from its existing or potential competitors? What is the startup’s unique value proposition or innovation that gives it an edge in the market?

4). Business model: How does the startup generate revenue and profit from its product or service? How scalable and sustainable is the startup’s business model? How realistic and reasonable are the startup’s financial projections and assumptions?

5). Team capability: How qualified and experienced are the founders and the team members of the startup? How well do they work together and complement each other’s skills and expertise? How passionate and committed are they to the startup’s success?

6). Impact: How does the startup measure and demonstrate its impact on its customers, society, and the environment? How aligned is the startup’s mission and vision with its impact goals? How positive and significant is the startup’s impact?

7). Partnerships: Has the team secured partnerships with key industry collaborators? To what extent are these partnerships secured and how valuable are they to the startups?

8). Prototype: How well has the team prepared a prototype to demonstrate their concept? Does the prototype demonstrate an iterative process of development? How refined or developed is the prototype? Have good prototyping techniques been demonstrated in the process?

9). Quick Pitch: Has the team developed a concise, persuasive, and effective quick pitch that piques the interest of the listener? Does the quick pitch cover the core elements of the business in a way that is easy for an excited and interested listener to be able to easily understand the business and relay it to a third party in the future in a coherent manner?

10). Market Validation: How well has the team gathered evidence to prove their target market is experiencing the problem stated and that their solution would be in great demand at the prices they are proposing? Finalist Awards (8 teams each with $5K finalist prize) 1st: $30,000 2nd: $20,000 3rd: $10,000