FLoW's business plan competition is for university students and recent graduates focused on cleantech and sustainability. In addition to cleantech and clean energy, FLoW supports a broad spectrum of sustainability-related innovations including those related to natural resource management and agricultural technologies.
The competition has two tracks: the Ready to Commercialize (for ventures closer to launch) and the Transformational Idea Award (for pre-commercial research). Both tracks receive the same top judging and mentoring guidance. However, only the Ready to Commercialize category requires preparing a business plan for the final competition.
The FLoW competition serves as a regional gateway for entry into the DOE's Cleantech UP national competition. FLoW's winner will represent the Western region of the U.S. at Cleantech UP in pursuit of the national prize.
FLoW's Rocket Fund is a separate program from the business plan competition. Learn more about applying for a Rocket Fund grant here.
Why You Should Apply
- $100,000+ in cash prizes
- Application Fast Track for Rocket Fund grant program
- Participation in DOE’s Cleantech UP national competition in Denver, Colorado
- Introductions to incubators, accelerator programs through DOE’s Cleantech Up HUB
- Online webinar series on how to start a business
- Specialized mentor pool of legal and business experts to guide you
- Connections to funds for prototyping, incubator and accelerator programs
- Strategic matchups with utilities
- Facilitated entry to the Cleantech Open Competition.
- Real world feedback from top judges: investors, corporate venturists, utilities experts.
- Transformational Idea Award Learn More ›
2016 FLoW Competition Timeline
Statement of Intent Due
Feb. 15, 2016
Mar. 7, 2016
Apr. 22, 2016
FLoW Final Judging
California Institute of Technology
May 18, 2016
DOE Cleantech UP National Competition
June 21-23, 2016
Steps to Apply
- Review Guidelines to Applicants
and the Ready to Commercialize or Transformational Idea Award Judging Criteria and choose your option; then file a Statement of Intent via FLoW’s website, Deadline: February 15, 2016
NOTE: 20% of the final score for the DOE Cleantech UP prize will be assigned to furthering the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s mission, defined as “to strengthen the United States’ energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality in public-private partnerships. The EERE supports this goal through (1) enhancing energy efficiency and productivity; and (2) bringing clean, reliable and affordable energy technologies to the marketplace.” For Reference see DOE areas of interest.
- After Filing SOI, set up a “YouNoodle” account in your chosen track, and review submission requirements.
- March 7, 2016, Submission Deadline: Ready to Commercialize Track: submit ten slide presentation plus two minute video introducing your concept, team and technology; Transformational Idea Award Track: Submit ten slide presentation deck (see sample TIA Presentation). This is also the deadline to submit your IP Declaration and IP Disclosure forms (required), read information and complete the Mentoring Request Form (required) and sign up for the FLoW JUMP! / NSF I-Corps BLITZ Program (optional but desirable).
- March 8 -14, 2016: Round 1 Judging
- March 8 – 15, 2016: Mentors Assigned, work begins
- April 22, 2016: Semi-Final Rounds (present to judges in person or remotely)
- April 23 – May 13: Refine Pitch, complete business plan (Deadline for plan delivery: May 10, 2016)
- May 18, 2016: Final Regional Judging in Los Angeles
- At least 50% of any participating team’s “formal team members” must be actively enrolled as students (undergraduate, graduate) in an accredited U.S. university or college. “Formal team members” are defined as those individuals eligible to directly receive prize money or services awarded by the competition. Formal team members may be citizens of foreign countries; however at least one U.S. citizen must be a formal team member. U.S. citizens attending universities abroad may participate, given that the overall makeup of the formal team members meets all other criteria.
- Teams may apply from across the country but special attention is paid to applicants from these states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
- Innovations in technology will typically be the foundation of your application, but are not required to be patented at the time of submission.
- Service businesses are also eligible if they represent either novel applications of new or existing technologies or innovative financing models.
- For all FLoW awards and prizes: students are required to present business plans and answer Q&A at all competitive events; non-student members must only act as support. On stage, non-student team members may provide consulting help, but students shall respond to all questions.
- Submissions will be divided into two tracks:
Ready to Commercialize or Transformational Idea.
- Ready to Commercialize track will typically include validated lab prototypes poised for moving into the next stage of prototype development for customer testing; IP either filed or under consideration; some market investigation and customer identification with the applicant ready to use the FLoW 2.0 program to begin customer interactions, and the foundation of a business model. Ready to Commercialize companies do not have to be incorporated at the time of application, but must be incorporated and have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) prior to receiving FLoW prizes. The team or company cannot have secured more than $200k in equity capital prior to submission to the FLoW competition but can raise additional capital during the program.
- Transformational Idea track includes advanced research projects. Judges will be looking for discoveries that will have a major impact on the energy industry and economy. Semi-finalists will be provided with mentoring and legal advice to help the team identify the commercial potential for their innovation, build the business model and set a strategy for moving the project forward.
- For the DOE Cleantech UP competition: all formal team members must demonstrate ownership by way of equity in the incorporated entity that emerges from FLoW and student members of the formal team must have combined minimum equity of 20% of the company. Further, ventures may not have equity capital totaling more than $200,000 prior to selection of the FLoW regional winner.
Participation in FLoW DOE Cleantech UP Competition
All teams intending to apply to FLoW are asked to submit a brief Statement of Intent by February 15, 2016. The SOI is in no way binding on your intention and you can change your topic and focus. However, submitting an SOI helps FLoW organizers identify early on the resources and mentors that might help you.
Statement of Intent Form (online)
Round 1: Screening submissions
All applications must be made online on YouNoodle, either at the Ready to Commercialize or Transformational sites.
Teams may create a YouNoodle account and submit and rework drafts of their entries up to the submission deadline. Your application is secure: only the website administrator and your assigned judges will see it. Both Ready to Commercialize and Transformational Idea Award applicants MUST provide signed IP Declaration and IP Disclosure forms where you show that you have contacted the university tech transfer office or government lab who own the technology.
Keep the presentation itself at a high level, containing the important points you would like the judges to remember. For submission, you will not be expected to provide details about potential customers, or financial projections. However, a well-constructed overview of the business opportunity and considered strategic thinking, based on research, and working with the other team members and your advisors will strengthen your application considerably. Use the notes function to add needed detail. Graphics help. Videos are recommended where a visual demonstration would help explain the technology. Cell phone videos will do, as long as they are uploaded as a link embedded in the presentation.
Round 2: The Regional Semi-Finals
Selected teams will begin work on their business plan and presentation. There will be two semifinal events, one in Los Angeles and one at UC Berkeley. FLoW teams will be assigned based on their location and own preference.
At the semifinals, teams will present their ten slide deck before a panel of judges including VCs, Angel investors, representatives of energy corporation venture funds, Directors of incubators, the utilities and accelerator programs such as the Cleantech Open. The presentation should summarize the strategic and tactical thinking about how to create a business, based on the draft business plan and close work with mentors.
The top 15 of the Ready to Commercialize and the top 10 of the Transformational Idea Award contenders, identified by these two events, will proceed to the Round 3 Finals in Los Angeles. By this round teams should be well along in preparing their business plans and presentations, which should be well reasoned, energetic and professional. Rehearsals before friendly investors and your mentors are strongly encouraged.
All contestants from Round 2 will receive the judging feedback to help you focus and refine your business thinking. Teams are expected to take the initiative in seeking out and working with their mentors (See Mentoring Guidelines) throughout the Round 2 process. As additional mentors are needed, the team can fill out the mentor application form or contact the FLoW office.
Round 3: The Regional Finals
Teams will be required to submit a 10 page business plan plus the final version of the ten-slide, investor presentation deck online in advance of the FLoW 2.0 Finals Judging Event on May 18, 2016.The format will be identical to Round 2 but there will be new panels of judges assessing contestants.