The “You’re in Business!” Million Dollar Idea Competition Official Rules
1. Description: The Million Dollar Idea Competition (“Contest”) is designed to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and greater awareness of the resources available to stimulate entrepreneurship in America including opportunities to access investment capital. The Contest is open to anyone meeting our eligibility criteria (“Contestant(s)”) with a goal of not less than 100,000 submissions. All Contestants will register online and submit an executive summary and/or a full business plan (“entry”) for their ideas. After registering, Contestants will have until the submission deadline date to submit their plans. The sooner a Contestant registers, the more time he or she will have to produce a plan. Contestants may purchase a copy of the “You’re in Business!” Startup Kit and those who are members of the NLS Business Network will each have exclusive access to premium web site content and various resources for assistance in producing his or her plan. The Contest is comprised of three rounds of judging. Only plans that meet all of the required criteria will be evaluated by our expert panel in official judging. After a round of judging by industry experts, one hundred semi-finalists will move on to a second round. Moving to the second round entitles the selected participants access to invite-only events to broaden the participant’s network in the larger entrepreneurial community. The second round of judging will identify twenty finalists, all of whom will have their plans reviewed by investors. The final round of judging will identify eight cash prize winners, one of whom will have the opportunity to receive one million dollars in equity financing. All winners will be selected on an objective basis as determined by the criteria set forth below. This competition is void where prohibited by law.
2. Sponsor: The Contest is sponsored by Next Level Solutions, LLC. (“NLS”), a Maryland corporation with principal place of business at 1101 30th Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20007, USA.
3. Contest Period: The Contest begins on July 1, 2011 at 6:00:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Registration will close and all entries are due by January 30, 2012 at 11:59:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time (EST). NLS may, at its sole discretion, choose to extend registration or close registration early in the event that the target number of registrations is reached. The Contest ends on March 30, 2012 at 11:59:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time (EST). IT IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED THAT YOU REGISTER AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Premium registered contestants receive the You’re in Business! Startup Kit and are eligible for other assistance, which could aid in producing the best possible plan.
4. Binding Agreement: In order to enter the Contest, you must agree to these Official Rules (“Rules”). The Rules consist of: (i) the terms and conditions contained herein; and (ii) the Entry Form. If you are a minor, you must obtain the prior permission of your parent and/or legal guardian, who must agree to these Rules on his/her and your behalf before you can enter this Contest. Because these Rules form a legally binding agreement with respect to this Contest, please read them carefully. If you do not agree to the Rules, you are not eligible to participate in the Contest or to win any of the prizes. You agree that registration for this Contest and/or a submission of an entry in the Contest constitutes your agreement to these Rules. These Rules are final and shall supersede and render void any and all other previous representations, contracts and/or agreements regarding the Contest. In the unlikely event of any conflict between the Rules and the provisions of any document, statement, or representation of NLS or its representatives whatsoever, the Rules shall control.
5. Fee: There is no fee to enter this competition. Any fees paid to NLS for other products and services, even if paid concurrently with registration, have no bearing on the outcome of the contest. Such fees are nonrefundable.
6. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO WIN. A PURCHASE OR DOWNLOAD OF ANY KIND WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. THIS CONTEST IS INTENDED FOR PLAY IN THE UNITED STATES ONLY AND WILL BE GOVERNED BY U.S. LAW. DO NOT SUBMIT AN ENTRY IF YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE AND ARE NOT LOCATED IN THE UNITED STATES AT THE TIME OF SUBMISSION.
7. Prizes: The winners will be determined from all accepted Contestants. The winners will be presented with awards at the 2012 National Small Business Week Events to be held in May 20-26, 2012. As defined herein, cash prize will likely be paid out well before this date. Winners are not required to be present at the awards ceremony, but all finalists are requested to participate in or attend the National Small Business Week Conference and will be expected to make a brief 15-minute presentation about their companies during the conference. The maximum award distribution for the Grand, First, Second, and Third prizes shall not exceed $1,100,000. All Contestants are encouraged to attend this valuable conference to gain further knowledge and advice to further their businesses.
- Grand Prize: $1,000,000 in equity financing by NLS Venture Capital subject to terms agreeable to both parties. THIS IS NOT A GRANT. NLS will require a minority stake in the business.
- First Prize: $50,000 unconditional grant for one (1) Contestant.
- Second Prize: $25,000 unconditional grant for one (1) Contestant.
- Third Prize: $5,000 unconditional grant for up to (5) Contestants.
NOTE: The Grand Prize may be awarded to any Contestant whether or not that Contestant has won another prize. NLS reserves the right to add additional awards, to grant ties, or to award fewer than the full set of awards designated above.
8. Eligibility: Contest open only to individuals who are legal residents of, and eligible to work in, the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia from the time of entry through May 26, 2012. At the time of entry, each Contestant must be 18 years of age or older. A Contestant who is 18 years of age or older but a minor under applicable state law must have permission from his/her parent or legal guardian in order to participate. Contestants may be supported by the assistance of others or work in teams, however, only the named, registered Contestant will be recognized by the Contest. Only one entry per Contestant is permitted. In the case of duplicate or multiple entries from the same Contestant, the first entry to arrive at the designated submission address (as determined by the “received by” date) will be accepted as the entry into the Contest. Internet access is required to register for the Contest.
The Contest is intended primarily for new, independent ventures in the seed, start-up, or early growth stages. Entry must be for a new business idea or concept requiring start-up capital, or a unique existing business requiring growth capital. All business types are acceptable. However, any of the following would be less likely to advance to the later rounds of judging unless judges were to find the plan to be exceptional: buy-outs, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, and spin-outs from existing corporations. A plan that simply called for the acquisition of one company and the creation of value through “better management” would not be an appropriate submission, nor would a plan to create a hedge fund, investment, private equity or venture capital fund. Another type of valid submission would include the opportunity to substantially remake an existing enterprise with a dramatically new strategy—an “intrapreneurial” opportunity as one Harvard professor puts it.
Winning Contestants will be required to provide additional personal information such as, but not limited to, social security number for tax purposes. Contestants certify that their submission is original, and that they are the sole and exclusive owner and rights holder of the submitted submission (or if they are not sole and exclusive owner and rights holder of the submission, that they have obtained the necessary permission to include the submission in the Contest) and that they have the right to submit the submission in the Contest. Each Contestant agrees not to participate in the Contest in any manner that might: (i) infringe any third-party proprietary, intellectual property, industrial property, personal rights or other rights, including without limitation, copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret or confidentiality obligation; or (2) otherwise violate applicable law in any countries in the world. Directors, officers, employees and independent contractors of Sponsor and its affiliates, subsidiaries, divisions, and advertising and promotion agencies involved in this Contest (as well as each member of their immediate family and of their household) are not eligible. Void outside of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, and where prohibited by law. All federal, state and local laws apply.
9. Entry Process: The following steps must be completed in order to submit a valid entry for the Contest.
- Register for the competition at the youreinbusiness.com web site.
- You must complete all require fields on the registration form.
- Submit an eligible business plan to email@example.com.
Entries must adhere to the Formatting & Submission requirements contained herein, as well as all other eligibility requirements. Note, only one business plan may be submitted per Contestant. Note, it is your responsibility to ensure your e-mail account filters are configured to accept all messages from youreinbusiness.com and nlsventurecapital.com. If you do not receive the e-mail notification from NLS you will not be able to submit an entry to the competition. NLS cannot be held responsible for messages that are not successfully received by the intended recipient due to e-mail filtering issues or for any other reason.
10. Confidentiality: NLS recognizes that Contestants may be concerned about the confidentiality of their business plans. The only individuals who will have access to your business plans will be the reviewers and judges who are assigned to read your plan. These judges are largely professional venture capital investors who regularly deal with confidential information in the course of their work. We have asked them to treat your work product with the same care and respect for confidentiality. We also ask them to remove themselves from judging your plan if they do have a real conflict of interest. Any data or information discussed or divulged in public sessions by Contestants should be considered information that could possibly enter the public realm, and Contestants should not assume any right of confidentiality in any data or information discussed, divulged, or presented in these sessions. Due to the nature of the competition, we are not able to ask judges, reviewers, staff, or the audience to agree to or sign non-disclosure statements. Contestants are permitted to exclude any information they regard as confidential. The name of your Team, business name, business description included within the Executive Summary of your submission, first name, last name, city, state and country will be considered “public information” and may be used in public documentation related to the Contest. While we will take measures to ensure the protection of intellectual property and preserve the confidentiality of each submission, NLS cannot take further responsibility to protect the intellectual property or other rights of each Contestant. Protection of such rights is ultimately the responsibility of each Contestant.
11. Winner Selection & Notification: The competition is intended to simulate the real-world process of entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early-stage investors and venture capital firms. The judges function as early stage venture capital investors deciding on which business venture they would most likely fund. The quality of the idea, the size of the market, the competitive differentiation, the strength of the management team, and the clarity and persuasiveness of the presentation, all influence the judges’ decisions. Ultimately, the winning Contestant should be the one in which the judges would most likely invest their money. NLS will designate judges from within its organization to review entries. At its own discretion, NLS may also engage outside contractors or volunteers to review entries. Nonetheless, all screeners and reviewers shall have formal business training and the final judging panel will be comprised of at least one of each of the following: an MBA, a CPA, an attorney, a CFA, and a principal of NLS. Designated judges will use their own discretion in evaluating entries. The decisions of individual judges are final. The following are some of the elements that judges will be asked to consider in order to narrow the field of entries to those that will be considered for cash prizes:
- Clarity of Product/Service description
- Soundness/Completeness of Operational Plan
- Strength of Management Team
- Strength of Marketing Plan
- Quality of Financial Analysis
- Overall Feasibility of Venture
NLS reserves the right to use any method it deems appropriate to ultimately select the winner of the cash prize. NLS will select the winning entry for the cash prize within a reasonable timeframe after the submission deadline (actual review period will depend upon the total number of entries received). NLS cannot and will not provide any feedback to Contestants regarding their business plan submission (other than to confirm the business plan was received). Only the winners of the cash prizes will be contacted. The winners will be contacted at the e-mail address provided in the competition entry and must respond within 10 calendar days.
Note, it is your responsibility to ensure your e-mail account filters are configured to accept all messages from NLS.com. NLS cannot be held responsible for messages that are not successfully received by the intended recipient due to e-mail filtering issues or for any other reason.
The decision of NLS is final, including the interpretation of the Contest Rules. As such NLS may disqualify any Contestant or entry that it believes has violated the rules of the Contest. NLS intends to post information concerning the winning Contestants on youreinbusiness.com within 30 days after the cash prize is distributed to the winner. There will also subsequently be a formal awards ceremony held in conjunction with National Small Business Week 2012 in Washington, DC.
12. Disbursement of Cash Prizes: The cash prize will be distributed to the selected Contestants following the end of the competition. NLS will distribute the cash prize directly to each individual Contestant who has been selected as the winner of the cash prize and will not be involved, either voluntarily or by request, with any Contestant and/or team decisions concerning the allocation or use of the cash prize. The cash prizes are taxable. Potential prize winners may be required to sign, notarize, and return an affidavit or declaration of eligibility, a liability/publicity release, an I.R.S. Form W-9, within ten (10) days and provide any additional information that may be required by NLS. Failure to comply within this time period may result in disqualification and selection of an alternate winner. NLS is not responsible for any typographical or other error in the printing of the offer, administration of the Contest or in the announcement of the prizes.
13. Core Sections of Business Plan: Contestants are strongly encouraged to complete each of the business plan sections identified below. Applicants who fail to complete one or more sections are unlikely to advance to the subsequent rounds and may be disqualified from the Contest at the sole discretion of NLS. Each entry should contain at least the following sections:
- Cover Page
- Executive Summary
- Products / Services
- Marketing Plan
- Operational Plan
- Management and Organization
- Financial Plan
14. Formatting & Submission Requirements: Entries must be submitted as electronic files delivered via email in Microsoft Word format (1997-2004 or higher) or Adobe Acrobat (PDF). No other format will be accepted. Business Plan entries must be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org after all other entry requirements have been met. Business Plan entries will not be accepted by any other method. Business plans are limited to 20 pages of text, and includes the executive summary and summary financial data. Detailed spreadsheets and appropriate appendices should follow the text portion of the plan but will be limited to 10 pages. Plans with fewer than 10 pages of appendices may not use the remaining pages to increase the size of their business plan beyond 20 pages. In total, the maximum number of pages is 30.
- Required Font Type: Times New Roman, Arial, Tahoma, or Verdana.
- Required Font Size: 12 pt.
- Required Margins: 1 inch all sides.
- The cover page must include the following:
- Business Name
- Contestant First Name and Last Name
- Contestant Legal Address
- Contestant Email Address
15. Decisions regarding the Competition and the Winners: All decisions regarding the competition rules, procedures, and processes are at the sole discretion of NLS. Changes and/or interpretations of these rules may be made by NLS at any time, even though they may be (or may appear to be) in conflict some previously published information. The selection of the teams to compete and the decision of the winners are at the sole discretion of the judges and NLS. Best efforts will be made to make decisions in accordance with this Official Rules document. There is no guarantee, expressed or implied, that any business will receive an award. Should no entries into the competition meet the entry criteria, should no entry have a reasonable chance for success and should the selection committee determine no winner exists for that year of the competition, no award will be made for that year and the award money will be used for the following year’s competition. The odds of winning a prize depend on the skill of the Contestants and the number of entries received. All taxes associated with the prize are the sole responsibility of the prizewinner. Prizes are not transferable.
16. Release and Waiver: By entering, Contestants, without limitation, release and hold harmless Sponsors, and their respective directors, officers, employees, and agents from any and all liability for any injuries, loss, or damage of any kind in connection with the Contest. By entering this Contest, you agree to waive any right to claim ambiguity or error in these Official Rules or in the Contest itself.
17. Rights Reserved: Sponsors reserve the right to change these Official Rules at any time, in its sole discretion, and to suspend or cancel the Contest or any Contestant’s participation in the Contest should unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond Sponsors’ control, affect the administration, security, or proper play of the Contest. No responsibility is assumed and Contestants waive all claims for lost, late or misdirected entries, or for any problems of technical malfunction of any telephone or network lines, computer online systems, servers or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of any email or entry received by Sponsors on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet, the website or any combination, thereof including, without limitation, any injury or damage to Contestant’s or any other person’s computer resulting from any causes, including without limitation downloading any materials in the promotion. Contestants who violate these Official Rules, tamper with the operation of the Contest or engage in any conduct that is detrimental or unfair to Sponsors, the Competition, or any other Contestant (in each case as determined in Sponsors’ sole discretion) are subject to disqualification from entry into the Contest and forfeiture of the any fees. Sponsors reserve the right to lock out any Contestant whose eligibility is in question.
18. Changes to Competition Rules: While not anticipated, these rules and prizes are subject to change at the discretion of NLS at any time. NLS staff has the right to interpret these rules according to its own judgment. Contestants will be immediately notified of any changes.
19. Other Funding or Competitions: Contestants that have already secured funding from any source must disclose the amounts and sources at the time of entry, or as soon as they become aware of any funding commitment during the duration of the competition. Teams that have entered a plan into any other business plan competition must disclose this at the time of entry or as soon as they enter their plan in another competition during the duration of the Competition.
20. Original Work of Authorship: All entries must be original and free from any claim of copyright or other restriction relating to the Competition.
21. Publicity: The winner agrees to allow NLS to use his or her name, photograph, likeness, voice, prize information, and biographical information for publicity and promotional purposes without further compensation where permitted by law.
22. Number of Entries: No individual may be included as a “team member” on more than one business plan, and no business may enter more than one business plan.
23. Payment of Prizes: With the exception of the Grand Prize, the cash awards paid by the sponsors/judges do not constitute an investment in the winning business plans. Sponsors/judges will not receive equity in the winning companies in exchange for the prize money. Awards to the winners of the Competition will be issued in the name of the company as set forth in the plan and the sponsors/judges do not assume any liability for any subsequent distribution.
24. Conduct: By entering the Contest, you agree to comply with and be bound by the Rules, which will also be posted on the Contest Website. Failure to comply with these Rules may result in your disqualification from the Contest. You further agree to comply with and be bound by the decisions of the judges, which are final and binding in all respects. NLS reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any Contestant it finds to be: (1) tampering or attempting to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Contest; (2) violating the Rules; (3) violating the terms of service, conditions of use or general rules or guidelines of any NLS property or service; (4) acting in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person; or (5) failure to provide documentation verifying U.S. citizenship or permanent U.S. residency. Any false information provided within the context of the Contest by any Contestant concerning identity, postal address, ownership of rights or non-compliance with the Rules may result in the immediate disqualification of a Contestant from the Contest. NLS further reserves the right to disqualify any entry that it believes in its sole and unfettered discretion, infringes upon any third party right, violates any law or otherwise does not comply with these Rules. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY A CONTESTANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY PROPERTY OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE CONTEST MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, NLS RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.
25. No Recourse to Judicial or Other Procedures: To the extent permitted by law, the rights to litigate, to seek injunctive relief, or to any other recourse to judicial or any other procedure in case of disputes or claims resulting from or in connection with this Contest are hereby excluded, and you expressly waive any and all such rights.
26. LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY: TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, YOU INDEMNIFY AND AGREE TO KEEP INDEMNIFIED NLS AT ALL TIMES FROM AND AGAINST ANY LIABILITY, CLAIMS, DEMANDS, LOSSES, DAMAGES, COSTS AND EXPENSES RESULTING FROM ANY ACT, DEFAULT OR OMISSION BY YOU AND/OR A BREACH OF ANY WARRANTY BY YOU SET FORTH HEREIN. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, YOU INDEMNIFY AND AGREE TO KEEP INDEMNIFIED NLS AT ALL TIMES FROM AND AGAINST ANY LIABILITY, ACTIONS, CLAIMS, DEMANDS, LOSSES, DAMAGES, COSTS AND EXPENSES FOR OR IN RESPECT OF WHICH NLS WILL OR MAY BECOME LIABLE BY REASON OF OR RELATED OR INCIDENTAL TO ANY ACT, DEFAULT OR OMISSION BY YOU UNDER THESE RULES INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION RESULTING FROM OR IN RELATION TO ANY BREACH, NON-OBSERVANCE, ACT OR OMISSION WHETHER NEGLIGENT OR OTHERWISE, PURSUANT TO THESE RULES BY YOU. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, YOU AGREE TO HOLD NLS, ITS RESPECTIVE DIRECTORS, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES AND ASSIGNS HARMLESS FOR ANY INJURY OR DAMAGE CAUSED OR CLAIMED TO BE CAUSED BY PARTICIPATION IN THE CONTEST AND/OR USE OR ACCEPTANCE OF ANY PRIZE WON.
27. Third Parties: NLS is not responsible for the policies, actions, or inactions of others, including Contestant’s representatives that might prevent the Contestant from entering, participating, and/or claiming a prize in this Contest.
28. Intellectual Property: By registering for the Contest and/or submitting an entry you agree explicitly that all components of your submission are indeed original creations. Any intellectual property infringement, misuse or plagiarism of another’s work in any form or state will result in immediate disqualification and forfeiture of eligibility to receive all awards, recognition and prizes. You also agree to allow NLS to make public statements regarding any disqualifications and any grounds for disqualification. All intellectual property and industrial property rights in any entries that belonged to the Contestants will remain with the Contestants, but the submissions will otherwise become the property of NLS, and will not be returned after the Contest. You grant NLS permission to use, copy, modify, distribute, and share your Contest submission for the limited purpose of brokering business finance options for you, without any attribution or compensation to you.
29. Internet: NLS is not responsible for electronic transmission errors resulting in omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operations or transmission. NLS is not responsible for theft or destruction or unauthorized access to or alterations of Contest materials, or for technical, network, telephone equipment, electronic, computer, hardware or software malfunctions or limitations of any kind. NLS is not responsible for inaccurate transmissions of or failure to display Contest materials on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website or any combination thereof. If for any reason the Internet portion of the Contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this Contest, NLS reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest.
30. Severability: If any provision(s) of these Rules are held to be invalid or unenforceable, all remaining provisions hereof will remain in full force and effect.
31. Winner List: The names of the winners will be posted on the Contest Website within one (1) week of the end of the Contest.