Competition Rules

The following rules apply to the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition and the qualifications to compete. Key dates are included as well. There are resources available to help teams qualify, which can be found on the Sontag Resources page

  • Eligibility
    • The Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition is open to all full-time University of Nevada, Reno students enrolled and in good standing during the academic year of the competition.
      • To be considered a full-time student, undergraduate students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours, and graduate students must be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours.
      • A student may be eligible if they were enrolled full-time in the preceding school year. (Inquire with a competition administrator.)
    • University of Nevada students who enter the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition remain eligible to compete in any other business plan competition.
    • To ensure the integrity of the competition, the Competition Committee reserves the right to, at any point in time, change eligibility rules, change the competition requirements or use its discretion to refuse admittance to or remove from the competition any participant.
  • Team Composition
    • University of Nevada students may enter as individuals or as part of a team.
    • Teams shall consist of one to five members.
    • Non-students may be advisors, mentors, or members of the company formed; however, all team members presenting at competition events must be eligible University of Nevada students.
    • Graduate and undergraduate students may be on the same team.
    • Each team must designate a team leader through whom the Sontag Director and the Competition Committee can communicate with the team.
    • An individual may be a member of only one team in the competition.
    • Changes to the team composition following submission of the Intent to Compete must be approved by the Competition Committee.
  • The Business Venture
    • The business must be a for-profit start-up or early stage venture, less than 2 years old, and having received less than $250,000 revenue (including grants). (A Benefit Corporation is acceptable.)
    • A plan for expanding an existing business may be submitted, with approval of the Competition Committee.
      • Business ideas submitted with the intent to expand an existing business, must exhibit the entrant's clear and significant equity interest in the expansion of the business.
      • If the business idea is based upon research done by a faculty member at a university or research entity, a licensing agreement must be obtained from the university or other entity owning the intellectual property, and the students must have a clearly defined and significant equity interest in the business.
    • The proposed business cannot primarily consist of implementing an existing business model pursuant to a licensing agreement (i.e. becoming a franchisee).
  • Qualifying to compete in the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition

    Step 1:

    Students must complete and submit an Intent to Compete form, which includes the following elements, no later than 11:59 p.m., Thursday, January 21, 2021.

    • Team information form including name and contact information for each team member, class level, major and team role, designation of team leader;
    • The name(s) and contact information for any team mentor(s) and advisor(s);
    • Business Model Canvas worksheet(s) setting forth the business concept; and
    • An abstract describing the business venture (1,500 word maximum).

    Note: The business concept, team makeup, and set of advisors and mentors can evolve after teams qualify to compete. The Competition Committee will review information submitted in Step 1 and will determine which teams will advance to Step 2.

    Teams selected to pitch their concept, will be notified no later than Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

    Step 2:

    Interview: Teams will pitch their business plan to a selection committee. Each pitch will then be followed by an 8-minute question & answer session. For the 2019-2020 Academic Year, the interview will occur on Saturday, February 6, 2021.

    Prior to pitching their business ideas to the selection committee, teams will have the opportunity to meet the committee members at a Mentor Mixer, which will be held on Friday, February 5, 2021.

    Teams will have six minutes to present their pitch, with a maximum of eight slides, using Power Point or comparable presentation software, to address the following:

    • Elevator pitch (short overview of the business concept);
    • Team;
    • Big idea (problem or need);
    • Product and/or service;
    • Market / Customer;
    • Competition / Competitive advantage / IP;
    • Revenue model / Finance / Unit economics;
    • Customer validation / Traction
  • Selection of Sontag Competitors
    • The Competition Committee will select the top teams (approximately 10 teams) to advance into the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition.
    • Selection criteria:
      • The Competition Committee is looking for teams that are formed, functional and have demonstrated they have a product (physical good and/or a service) that may form the basis for a viable business.
      • The Competition Committee recognizes that the competition is a demanding activity that will push students outside their comfort zones, and recognizes the time commitment for competitors will be significant. Therefore, the Competition Committee is also looking for teams that have demonstrated a strong commitment to developing their idea.
      • With these general criteria in mind, the same scoring rubric will be used that will eventually be used to select the winner of the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition.

    Teams selected to compete in the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition will be notified no later than Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

  • Important Dates
    • Submit six-minute video and written business plan – by 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, March 23, 2021. 
      • Note: Business plans are limited to a maximum of 11 pages (including cover page and any appendices).
    • Judges will select semi-finalists by Tuesday, March 29, 2021.
    • Second round of Interviews (pitches followed by Q&A) for Sontag semi-finalists – Friday, April 9, 2021 and Saturday, April 10, 2021 (if two days needed).
    • Teams that have been selected as Sontag finalists – notified no later than Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
    • Finalist teams submit final six-minute video, business plan, pitch deck, and any internet-based content or streaming they intend to use in their final presentation – no later than 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
      • Note: Teams can continue to make revisions to their pitch deck up until Tuesday, April 27, 2021.
    • Sontag final presentations and announcement of winner – event begins at 6:00 p.m., Thursday, April 29, 2021.
  • Sontag Judging

    Judges will be selected by the Competition Committee. The Competition Committee consists of business professionals and UNR faculty appointed by the Director of the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition.
    Judging Criteria

    • Demonstration of the ability to successfully start the proposed business or grow the existing business;
    • Demonstration of the intention to use the award funds to successfully start and/or grow the business;
    • The likelihood the proposed business will survive and be generating significant revenue within three (3) years; and
    • The potential of the proposed business for revenue growth, job creation, and profitability.

    The scoring rubric is intended to measure the teams’ performance relative to the above criteria.

  • Funds Disbursement

    A check for $50,000 will be awarded to the winning team after the end of the spring semester when the winning team indicates they are ready to receive the funds. Funds may be used for: (1) Development of the business opportunity; (2) Educational expenses while enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Nevada.

  • Responsibilities of Participants, Finalists, and the Award Winner
    • Participants agree to complete a survey at the close of the competition designed to determine satisfaction levels and identify areas for improvement.
    • The award winner agrees to submit an annual progress report for three years, starting one year after the receipt of the award, to communicate progress toward business goals.

    If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Dick Bartholet, Sontag Competition Director, at or 775-784-6878. You can also stop by the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship in Ansari Business Room 402.

  • Scoring Rubric

    Business Concept Elements and Rating Criteria

    Likelihood business will successfully launch and prosper. Weight 10
    Would you invest in this business or recommend this investment to a colleague?

    Elevator Pitch (Pitch) / Executive Summary (Business Plan). Weight 1
    Concise overview of the business concept -- providing an understanding of the basic business concept and sufficiently compelling for the audience to want to know more. 

    Communication. Weight 1
    Oral: Articulate and succinct presentation, well designed slide deck, on-point responses to questions.
    Written: Clearly organized, attractive, good use of graphics, concise financial overview, within page limit.

    Team. Weight 1
    Balance, complementary skills, key roles, experience, diversity, work well together.

    Big Idea / Problem or Need. Weight 1
    Clearly identified problem or need. Have validated that it is "real." Their "solution" fills need better than existing solutions. Scalable.

    Product and/or Service. Weight 1
    Stage of development: 1) concept, 2) working prototype/MVP, 3) beta testing with feed-back, 4) business has been launched, with growing sales.

    Market / Customer. Weight 1
    Clear understanding of customer profile(s) and market segment(s), Total Addressable Market (TAM), Service Addressable Market (SAM), Service Obtainable Market (SOM), and Launch Addressable Market (LAM).

    Competition. Weight 1
    Identifies direct and indirect competition, with a plan to effectively compete in the marketspace.

    Revenue Model(s) / Finance / Ask. Weight 1
    Team knows how they will generate revenue, has determined pricing, understands major costs and profitability. Understands cost to acquire customers and long term value. Good explanation of how they will use the $50,000 prize. Includes milestones.

    Customer Validation / Traction. Weight 1
    Team demonstrates how they validated their hypotheses of problem/need, value proposition, product-market fit, revenue models, pricing decisions, costs, and other key decision elements.

    Barriers to Entry / Unfair Advantage / IP. Weight 1
    Business has ways to maintain its unfair competitive advantage (copyright, trademark, patent, proprietary information).

    1 = Strong dislike

    2 = Don’t like it

    3 = Like it

    4 = Love it


If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Dick Bartholet, Sontag Competition Director, at or 775-784-6878.

You can also stop by the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship in Ansari Business Room 402.