Competition Rules

Beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year, the following rules describe the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition and the qualifications to compete. There are resources available to help teams qualify, as described in the resources section below.

Competition Rules


  • The Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition is open to all full time University of Nevada, Reno students in good standing enrolled 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, at any point in time, to use its discretion to refuse admittance or to remove from the competition any participant, to change eligibility rules, or to change the competition requirements.

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 to expand an existing business must exhibit the entrant's clear and significant equity interest in the expanded 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

Qualifying process: The process involves two steps, and there are resources available to help students achieve these steps.

Step 1: Students must complete an Intent to Compete, which includes the following elements, no later than January 23, 2019:

Submit a form that identifies the team leader, and provides for each team member, name, contact information, class level, major, and role on the team.

  • Submit names and contact information for any project advisors and mentors.
  • Submit multiple Business Model Canvas (BMC) worksheets (a maximum of 5 worksheets) showing the development and evolution of the business idea; and
  • Submit an summary description of the business venture clearly explaining the business concept (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.

Step 2: Interview: A Pitch followed by Question-and-Answer session

(For the 2018-2019 Academic Year, this will occur on February 1 and 2, 2019)

Teams will have six minutes to make a presentation using Power Point or comparable presentation software, with a maximum of ten slides, to address the following:

  • Elevator pitch;
  • Team;
  • Big idea (problem or need);
  • Product and/or service;
  • Market / Customer;
  • Competition;
  • Revenue model / Finance;
  • Customer validation / Traction; and
  • Barriers to entry / Unfair advantage / IP

Each presentation will be followed by a question & answer session, maximum of eight minutes, with the Sontag Competition Committee.

Selection of Sontag Competitors

  • The Competition Committee will select the top teams (maximum of 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.

Timeline and Schedule

Ozmen Center “Starting a Business Workshop Series”

Registration any time during Fall semester. The workshop series begins on September 20, 2018.

  • Ideation and Team Building – Thursday, September 20, 2018 from 5-6:45 p.m. and repeated Saturday, September 22, 2018 from 10-11;45 a.m.
  • Introduction to Business Model Canvas and Business Lingo - Business Lingo and Business Model Canvas introduction – Thursday, September 27, 2018 from 5-6:45 p.m. and repeated Saturday, September 29, 2018 from 10-11;45 a.m.
  • Advancing Your Business Concept - Thursday, October 4, 2018 from 5-6:45 p.m. and repeated Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 10-11;45 a.m.
  • Pitch Deck and Pitch - Thursday, December 13, 2018 from 5-6:45 p.m. and repeated Saturday, December 15, 2018 from 10-11;45 a.m.
Weekly discussions regarding the Udacity “How to Build a Startup” videos
  • Lessons 1 and 1.5A – Monday, 10/01/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 10/3/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 1.5B - Monday, 10/08/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 10/10/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 2 - Monday, 10/15/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 10/17/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 3 - Monday, 10/22/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 10/24/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 4 – Monday, 10/29/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 10/31/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 5 – Monday, 11/05/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 11/07/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 6 – Monday, 11/12/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 11/14/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 7 – Monday, 11/26/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 11/28/18 from 8-9 a.m.
  • Lesson 8 – Monday, 12/03/18 from 12-1 p.m. and Wednesday, 12/05/18 from 8-9 a.m.
Intent to Compete must be submitted online (need link) no later than 11:59 p.m., Wednesday, January 23, 2019.
  • 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 iv. An abstract describing the business venture (1,500 word maximum).

Teams selected to be interviewed will be notified no later than Saturday, January 26, 2019.

Interviews (presentations followed by Q&A) – Friday, February 1 and Saturday, February 2, 2019. Times will be determined based upon the number of teams competing and the number of judges conducting interviews.

Teams selected to compete in the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition will be notified no later than Saturday, February 2, 2019 within 2 hours following completion of the final interview.

Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition

  • Mentor Mixer - Saturday, February 2, 2019
  • There will be a series of weekly Sontag workshops between February 2 and April 8, 2019
  • Submit pitch deck and business plan – by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, 2019
  • Interviews (pitch followed by Q&A) to select five Sontag finalists – Friday, April 12, 2019
  • Teams notified which were selected as Sontag finalists – no later than Saturday, April 13, 2019
  • Finalist teams must submit final presentation PowerPoint, and any video, Internet based content or streaming they intend to use in their final presentation – no later than 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 16, 2019.
  • Sontag final presentations and winner award – begins at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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.

For more information visit our Facebook page.

Contact Us

Contact Richard Bartholet (0024)

Sontag Competition Director

1664 N. Virginia Street

Reno, NV 89557

Phone (775) 784-6878

Fax (775) 784-1773

Ansari Business Building, 402