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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

New Venture Competition

April 12-13, 2021 | Via Zoom

Workshops FAQ

New Venture Competition
New Venture Competitors

Bring Your Business to Life

The New Venture Competition is a celebration of entrepreneurial learning and competition. All student-created, managed and owned ventures are welcome. Graduate and undergraduate business plan competitions will be held for Nebraska students during the two-day event. All graduate students are eligible to participate, including MBAs. Students pitch their business plans to judges from the Lincoln and Omaha business community and field questions on current traction, monetization strategies, risky assumptions and more.


April 12-13, 2021
2021 competition is being held live on-line via Zoom

By registering you are not locked into participating nor are you guaranteed a spot in the competition. Once completing the registration, you will have access to the resources available to the new venture community.

Get Started

Step 1

Register to unlock access to resources and join the new venture community. By registering you are not locked into participating in the event nor are you guaranteed a spot in the competition.

Register Now

Step 2

After registering, you will be invited to join the New Venture Competition community where you will have greater access to resources that will help you develop your venture, plan and summary. Submit your executive summary (required) and business plan (recommended) prior to the close of registration on April 6.

How It Works

The New Venture Competition runs in a bracket, or knockout format. Teams advance through two preliminary round. Following elimination rounds, four teams compete against each other for two grand prizes. Two grand prizes of $25,000 along with additional cash prizes will be awarded during the Networking and Awards Reception.

Required documents: Registered teams are required to present an executive summary prior to the last day of registration. Business Plans are not a requirement but are strongly recommended for teams that want to be competitive. *Neither are required as part of the registration process.

Two Grand Prizes


Second Place


Third Place


Thomas G. Guy Startup Team Award

Awarded to the team demonstrating the best organization and collaboration



Attend any of these free workshops that will help you prepare and present your best plan.
All workshops in the NVC preparatory series will be available via Zoom.

Customer Discovery




3:30 p.m.

Dr. Sam Nelson, Director, Center for Entrepreneurship

The number one reasons businesses fail is because they build something nobody wants. This session will discuss the importance of discovering who your customer is and how to do it as quickly as possible.

Know Your Market




3:30 p.m.

Craig Boesch, Director for SE Region, Nebraska Business Development Center

Understanding where your idea fits in the world, and what makes it uniquely valuable.





3:30 p.m.

Umeda Islamova, Director of Business Consulting, Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship

Financial projections is a report every startup needs to think through and it’s also every bank and investor will ask for. We will run through the basics of revenue, expenses and how to project these numbers when you don’t have a background in that business. We will also cover the startup cost, pricing, and sources of financing.

Launching and Scaling




3:30 p.m.

Dr. Sam Nelson, Director, Center for Entrepreneurship

Once you have validated that you have customers you must determine the next steps of your launch. This session will discuss the process of launching your business and the factors to consider when scaling your business.

Polishing your Presentation Skills




3:30 p.m.

Dr. Kyle Gibson, Associate Director, Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship

Having a clear and polished presentation that contains the right amount of information can eliminate much of the pressure that comes with pitching your business to strangers. In this workshop, we will discuss what to include in your presentation (and what not to) and how to properly tailor it for any audience.

Legal Advice




3:30 p.m.

Brett Stohs, Cline Williams Director, Weibling Entrepreneurship Clinic

Brett and others from the Weibling Entrepreneurship Clinic will bring the legal lens to the conversation and will address common and often overlooked legal considerations while also being there to bring clarity to questions you may have regarding your venture.

Past New Venture Competition Winners Panel




4:30 p.m.

Lizz Whitacre, Josh DeMers & Hannah Esch

This panel of recent past NVC winners will bring a great deal of insight to the session. Each has continued to successfully grow and develop their venture and want share what they have learned along the way. Each has presented their business pitch before judges and investors on countless occasions and have learned some tips, tricks, pitfalls and some sound advice that all hopeful competitors will want to hear.

General Q&A




3:30 p.m.

One final chance to have any new or lingering questions answered prior to the submission deadline.

Volunteer to Judge

Judges for the New Venture Competition come from a variety of sectors and bring diverse and valued perspectives gained through their professional experiences to their roles in evaluating the competition. Judges also play important roles as role models and sources of encouragement as well as trusted voices to offer constructive critiques and reinforce student learning.

If you would like to become involved as a judge for this or other competitions hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship, please register via the link below.

Register Now

Frequently Asked Questions

Event Specifics

  • When do I need to submit my application to compete/business plan?
    • All applications are due by midnight on the final day of registration, April 6.
  • What is the structure of the New Venture Competition?
    • The competition is run in a bracket (knockout) format. Teams advance through two preliminary rounds. After elimination rounds, four teams compete head-to-head in a final round.
  • Do I have to show up at check in or only when I present?
    • You must show up at check in.
  • Who are the judges?
    • Judges include entrepreneurs, investors and successful leaders of the Nebraska business community.
  • Will there be investors there?
    • Likely, but you may not recognize them. Many of our judges and attendees are successful entrepreneurs and have experience investing in early-stage companies. If someone is interested in investing in your company, they will get in touch with you.
  • Are there separate competitions for undergraduate and graduate students?
    • No, all students will compete under one bracket.
  • What are the "Small Business" and "High Growth" categories?
    • Small Business: a business that is limited in size and in revenue (depending on the industry).

      High Growth: a business that is often, but not always, technology-focused. This category of firm uses newer business models such as online advertising and 'software as a service' (SaaS). Such companies have a nearly unlimited potential for growth, regardless of the number of people they employ, but this comes with the costs of high competition and unproven markets.
  • Can I submit more than one business plan?
    • No.
  • Do you accept paper copies of the business plan or other materials?
    • No. NVC is a paperless submission competition, all documents that you wish to be included must be submitted to electronically by the close of the final day of registration.

About Teams

  • Can I compete in Center for Entrepreneurship (C4E) competitions if I am not in the College of Business or in any entrepreneurship classes?
    • Absolutely! Competitions are open to all UNL undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Is the competition for individuals, or is it team-based?
    • You are welcome to present as an individual or as a team. Each student member of the team present at the competition must participate in the formal presentation of the plan, even if only being present to answer questions from judges.
  • Do all team members need to be students?
    • No, but for companies in the concept phase, students must have played a major role in conceiving the venture and have key management roles within it. Existing companies must be at least 50 percent student-owned.

      Students include: currently enrolled UNL students and graduates who were enrolled during the spring, summer or fall semesters of the 2018 calendar year.
  • Do all team members need to be at the competition?
    • No.
  • Do all team members need to present?
    • No. However, we strongly encourage your entire team to participate in the presentation.
  • Are there restrictions as to who can present?
    • If there are non-students who are members of your venture's management team, they are not allowed to present. They can participate in planning the venture and may help answer questions from the judges, but cannot present.

About the Business Plan/Pitch

  • How many times do I need to present?
    • There are three rounds of presentations - two preliminary rounds on Day 1 and a final round on Day 2. Because the competition is run in a bracket (knockout) format, you may be required to present once, twice or three times. If you are a finalist, you will present your business plan three times.
  • Does it need to be an existing business?
    • No. The competition is for new, independent ventures in the idea development/pre-launch, seed, startup or early growth stages.
  • Can it be an existing business?
    • Yes. All new, student-created, managed and owned ventures are welcome. The competition is for new, independent ventures in the idea development/pre-launch, seed, startup or early growth stages.
  • How long is the presentation?
    • Each team will be given five minutes to set up and then 15 minutes to present its business plan, followed by a 10-minute question and answer session with the judges. These time limits will be strictly enforced.
  • Do I need to submit a written business plan?
    • No, but it is in your best interests to submit a business plan. There is limited space in the competition and not everyone who submits will be accepted. Providing a business plan will nearly always give you an edge over someone who submits only a brief description of their business. Also, if you are serious about your business, a business plan is the only way to effectively organize and present the strategy you will need to make it happen.
  • Are there resources to assist me with my business plan and/or financial projections?
    • There are always people available at the Center for Entrepreneurship who can and will help you with questions and advice. Contact Brent Martin to set up an appointment, or stop by HLH 315 any time.

      The C4E recommends a business plan development platform called LivePlan which has all of the tools you need to create a business plan from start to finish. Short-term LivePlan access codes are available to registered competition participants for no cost. Contact the center to request a code.

      LivePlan includes tools for financial projections, but if you would prefer a free option, we recommend a financial workbook from SCORE (download). For this competition, the most important financials for you are one and three-year cash flow statements and a break-even analysis. See the corresponding tabs along the bottom of the workbook, fill in the numbers and it will calculate things for you. Let the Center for Entrepreneurship know if you need a hand.
  • How long is the Question and Answer?
    • Each team will be given five minutes to set up and then 15 minutes to present its business plan, followed by a 10-minute question and answer session with the judges. These time limits will be strictly enforced.
  • Can the judges ask questions during presentations?
    • Judges will typically reserve all questions until after the team has finished presenting. At that time, there will be a 10-minute question and answer session with the judges.
  • Can I have props?
    • If your company manufactures or sells a physical product, you can use your product as a prop. Otherwise, we advise against props because they are distracting.
  • How long should my business plan be?
    • There are no length requirements, but all business plans should include: a problem statement, solution, target market(s), business model, marketing and sales plans, competition, management team, financial projections, key metrics, current status, accomplishments to date, timeline and use of funds.
  • Do I need to use PowerPoint?
    • A slide deck (presentation slides) is not required but is recommended. A presentation should be around 10-15 slides to fit within the 15-minute presentation limit. Teams will be responsible for determining the best way to show their slides while presenting on zoom. Teams of 1 individual can request assistance from the Center for Entrepreneurship prior to the competition.
  • Can I use Google Slides?
    • No. Presentations will only be accepted in PowerPoint format.
  • Will there be an internet connection?
    • Maybe, but we cannot rely on it being up on any or all computers. If you have music, videos or a website, make sure they are available offline on the same flash drive containing your presentation. (applies to in-person competitions)
  • Can I observe other teams' presentations and/or their question and answer sessions?
    • Teams are not allowed to observe other teams' presentations or question and answer sessions before they have presented. After presenting, teams are welcome to observe both the presentations and question and answer sessions of other teams.
  • Can my friends and family come to watch me present at the NVC?
    • Absolutely. All rounds of the competition are open to the public. Friends and family are welcome.

About Prizes

  • What are the prizes?
    • Two Grand Prizes: $25,000 each

      Second Prize: $10,000 each

      Third Prize: $7,500 each

      We will also award the Thomas G. Guy Startup Team Award for the team demonstrating the best organization and collaboration: $2,500
  • If I win, how do I receive the prize money?
    • Employees of the university are paid via payroll. All other winners are paid via check.
  • If I win, do I have to spend the money on my business?
    • Grand Prize: Both $25,000 grand prizes must be used to develop the respective business. In addition, a faculty member of the Center for Entrepreneurship must serve on the business' Board of Directors for one year.

      All Other Prizes: These prizes may be spent at the winners' discretion.
  • Is there one Grand Prize per business category ("Small Business" and "High Growth")?
    • No. The grand prizes will be awarded to the top two teams, as decided by the judges.

Selected Previous Winners

Hannah Esch

2019 Grand Prize Winner, Hannah Esch, ’20, from Unadilla, Nebraska, founded Oak Barn Beef, which provides a unique farm-to-table experience, selling high quality beef directly to consumers.

Lizz Whitacre

2018 Grand Prize Winner, Lizz Whitacre, ’17, from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, turned her passion for pets into Pawlytics, a software company helping foster-based rescue organizations allot more time and attention to animals, saving countless lives of companion animals.

Upstream Farms

2018 Grand Prize Winners, Joseph Brugger, ’19, and Matthew Brugger, ’19, brothers from Albion, Nebraska, founded Upstream Farms, a single source farm that provides consumers with high quality agricultural products like beef and pork, as well as produces their own whiskey.

Past Winners

2019 – Oak Barn Beef, Savannah Breeders Service

2018 – Pawlytics, Upstream Farms

2017 – Terrace Ag

2016 – Concise Research Group

2015 – Bongo Watersports

2015 – T&B Innovations, LLC

2014 – Stahla Services

2013 – PickIt


Center for Entrepreneurship
HLH 315