e-Fest is an in-person, three-day event held at the University of St. Thomas in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. There is currently no virtual option available for the competitions.
Who are the Judges?
Our main criterion is that judges are able to provide thoughtful and expert evaluations of entrepreneurship projects and submissions based on the judging criteria. Judges are spread across North America with a good representation from the Midwest (we’re based in Minneapolis). Their experience is typically as an investor, an entrepreneur, and/or a VP+ level in a business. Many have MBAs and have started successful ventures. Most of our panel have judged other business plan competitions before. And, as volunteers (no arm twisting on our parts to recruit), each of them really wants to be involved and are enthusiastic about e-Fest, working with student teams, and understanding the ventures.
Does our team advisor have to travel to Minneapolis, if we’re a finalist team?
Yes. Your advisor, or a substitute faculty or staff advisor, will need to accompany your team to Minneapolis. We do offer a travel stipend to help cover the cost for the trip for the whole team, and we have a program for both students and advisors. It’s a great experience!
Development Grant Questions
Who can apply for the Development Grant?
Faculty members, center directors, and program managers from a four-year college or university in North America. Schools may apply for the grant yearly; regardless of if they received money the prior year.
What are the Development Grant conditions?
There are only two conditions.
The grant should be used towards student entrepreneurship related programs, activities, and/or the development of an e-Fest team. The grant is given in good faith, and no follow-up documentation needs to be submitted following the receipt of grant funds.
Schools receiving the grant must develop at least one student team for e-Fest. The student team only needs to submit their concept to the online round and does not need to make it into the top 25.
When will my school receive the funds?
Once approved, it may take up to 12 weeks for processing, cutting the check, and mailing it to the address indicated on the application. Checks will arrive from the Schulze Family Foundation.
Because of the timeframe for receiving funds, we encourage recipients to view the funds as a reimbursement.
Student Submission Questions
What do teams submit and what is the submission process?
Round One – Online Submission Checklist
Up to a 7-minute pitch video
A slide deck of up to 15 slides (not including a title slide)
Invite the Team Advisor
Plus, any other team members to be able to view and edit the submission. Note: Only the team advisor should complete the approval form.*
Upload the Video & Slides
Check out the Resources page for information on creating winning submission videos and slide decks
Approve the Submission*
The team advisor (faculty or staff member) must complete the approval form on e-Fest portal in order for the submission to move onto judging.
What makes a good video?
There are no creative constraints on the video; teams have total freedom. When planning your video as a communication tool, the fundamental questions are: What do you want to show, and What do you want to say? It can help to create a video script or outline in order to plan the messages and have a good To Do list.
This being said, of the nine judging criteria, only one criterion deals specifically with the video presentation, the other eight criteria focus on the merits of the venture. So, a good video, fundamentally, will thoroughly describe the venture. At the same time, don’t rule out the ability of creativity to capture the judges’ attention and interest.
We have more tips for students in the Resources section of this website.
Can our team be just one person?
No, the minimum team size is 2 undergraduate students. One of the goals of e-Fest is to promote entrepreneurial networking as well as effective communication. The right team can help make a big difference!
Can our team have graduate students? Or graduated undergraduates?
No. Undergraduates only, but having graduated in December of the last full-term school year is allowed.
Is it OK if our venture already has sales?
Yes, but early stage is the critical consideration and qualification for e-Fest. Getting the first deal or two can help validate the ideas and product. Ventures without any sales can still be highly competitive with good research (last year’s champions were still working on the prototype!). But, if your venture has been in business a while and/or is making money, we reserve the right to disallow your submission to offer the fairest playing field for all teams.
Team ventures cannot have more than $50,000 in all time sales, as of the date of their e-Fest submission.
If we are selected as finalists, can we change our presentation from what we provided for the first round?
Yes. Your first-round performance earned you the opportunity to compete at e-Fest 2023. For the finals round, you can update or change your slides. You can have more than 15 slides. However, live presentations are limited to 15 minutes. The judges will have 5 minutes for Q&A.
Onsite Event Questions
What is the dress code?
There is not an “official” dress code for e-Fest. We would encourage participants to treat the Pitch Slam! on Thursday evening and the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge on Saturday morning as important business events, so dress in business or business casual attire. Friday is more casual with workshops and the Innovation Challenge.
Do we have to stay at the preferred event hotel?
While a block of rooms will be held at the DoubleTree Hotel adjacent to University of St. Thomas’ Minneapolis Campus, where e-Fest takes place, you do not need to stay at this hotel. Regardless of where you choose to stay, teams (advisors) are responsible for reserving the number of hotel rooms needed for their team. Travel stipends are provided to all team advisors to pay for hotel, travel and other related expenses.
Can we bring a product prototype, sample, or other props for our live presentation?
Yes. However, do not bring anything that could make a mess, or which is potentially dangerous or hazardous. If TSA lets you fly with it, it is likely OK to use as a prop in your presentation. Keep in mind, you have 15 minutes to set up, present, and wrap up.
Are there any meals that are NOT provided during e-Fest?
We provide either full meals OR heavy hors d’oeuvres throughout most of the event, starting Thursday evening and continuing through a dessert reception early Saturday evening. If you like having snacks around, there are plenty of local places to buy some! We also try our best to make accommodations for any special dietary needs.
Is Wi-Fi Available?
Yes. The University of St Thomas has an open wi-fi network. Details will be provided. The open network times out every 3 hours, so plan to refresh your connection periodically.
If we win a prize, how is it paid and are there any equity considerations if we accept the money?
Prizes are paid in cash (paid by check with a bit of processing time, to be exact), with no equity consideration for e-Fest.
Funds for team awards (Pitch Slam!, The Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge, and Impact Awards) are paid to the individuals on the team, split evenly among team members who participate at e-Fest.
Funds for the Innovation Challenge are divided equally among the members of the winning teams.
All award recipients will be required to provide an IRS form W9 or equivalent before being issued their cash award.
Please note: all students with winnings over $600 will receive a 1099 from the University of St. Thomas at the end of the year. St. Thomas does not withhold taxes from the payment, that is the responsibility of each individual winner. Anyone who received less than $600 should still report their earnings but that is below the threshold that St. Thomas sends out 1099s. Please plan accordingly and contact a tax professional with questions regarding 1099s and tax obligations.
Does my entire team need to be at e-Fest?
Preferably, yes, all team members should be present at e-Fest. Each team must have at least two registered team members present at the event. If a team member is unable to attend, please notify us as soon as possible.