San Jose State University Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition

    The Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition is sponsored by San Jose State University’s College of Business. The $10,000 first prize is given by Wanda Ginner, an SJSU alumna, and a special $5,000 prize is donated by Annex Ventures, with an additional prize for the best-written business plan.

    The competition is meant to be a link between the university and the “real” entrepreneurial world of the famed Silicon Valley. At least one member of every participating team must be a current student, graduate, faculty member, or staff member of San Jose State University. No teams that have previously won money from the Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition or similar contests are allowed to enter.

    In terms of time span, the Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition is one of the shorter contests. Potential candidates must register online by the beginning of April, plans are submitted just a month later, and the whole competition is over by the final week of May. Despite the short time frame of the official contest, there are several seminars during the winter semester at SJSU devoted to helping entrepreneurs begin their business plans for the competition.

    Judges look at two main aspects of the teams to determine winners. First, they examine the quality of writing for the business plan itself. Second, they judge the commercial viability of the potential company. Finalists are also judged on a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation, which could make the difference for the judges between a good plan and a great one.

    Because contest organizers want to encourage potential entrepreneurs to actually create new businesses (rather than just participate in the academic exercise of simply writing a business plan), the prize money is awarded in parts. At the initial awards ceremony, only 25 percent of the full amount is awarded. Then as the company begins spending money for “valid business start-up expenses,” they submit receipts to the competition directors for reimbursement. These expenses are limited to costs of incorporation, patent application, legal and professional services, advertising and marketing material, books, classes, conferences, and trade publications, association fees, consulting expenses, market research, communication and IT services, travel, insurance, rent for facilities, equipment purchases, and office supplies. Salaries and benefits are not valid expenses for reimbursement.