Learn more about each stage of HopStart, including what to submit when, how to engage effectively with your mentors, and more. For information about how to register for the competition and gain access to your competition template in LivePlan, read our registration guidelines. 

STAGE 1 – The LivePlan Rounds

Teams must complete both rounds of Stage 1 in order to advance to Stage 2. If teams do not complete all parts of their template, they will not be eligible to compete on competition day and team members’ registrations will be cancelled.

Round 1: Summary of Idea (deadline February 18, 2024)

In Stage 1, competitors will engage in two remote, asynchronous rounds of competition using the business plan creation platform LivePlan. After registration (see our registration guidelines for details on registering for the event), competitors will receive an invitation to their team’s LivePlan template.

Using LivePlan
  • After registering for the event, you will receive an email invitation from LivePlan providing you with access to your team’s template. Each member who registers will receive an invitation. If any team member does not plan to attend the final live presentation round but would like to assist in the preparation of their team’s business plan, they should email [email protected] request access to their team’s template.
  • Log into your LivePlan account using the link provided in your email invitation.
  • Navigate to the “Plan” tab of your template and begin entering your responses to the prompts by clicking the “Edit” button next to each section.
  • If you wish to leave a comment for your mentors, you can do so in the comment fields beneath each section.
  • Your team should feel free to use the additional tabs (“Pitch,” “Forecast,” “Benchmarks,” and “Schedule”) when developing your plan. However, mentors cannot evaluate or comment on the content in these tabs.
Completing Round 1
  • Prepare by previewing the template for both LivePlan rounds.
  • Round 1 requires a brief written response to three key questions about the team’s venture in addition to a 3-minute video pitch.
  • Please note there are no requirements for the video pitch other than length, though teams are encouraged to address the three Round 1 prompts in their video.
  • Teams should visit our free video production resources and video pitch examples for more information on crafting their videos.
  • For the first round of competition, teams should only complete the content under “Round 1: Summary of Idea.” DO NOT move onto “Round 2: Business Plan” until after receiving feedback from your mentors.
  • There is no “submission” button. Content will be live and viewable to mentors beginning February 22.
  • Teams that do not submit Round 1 content by the submission deadline will not be matched with mentors and will be unregistered from the event.
Mentorship Window 1 (February 21 – March 3, 2024)

HopStart is first and foremost a learning experience, and effective engagement with HopStart mentors is a vital component of that learning experience. Mentorship can help teams prepare for Stage 2 presentations, think through the details of their venture, and preempt questions posed by judges.

Mentors will have two weeks to review Round 1 submissions and provide feedback. Each team will be assigned multiple mentors so that they receive diverse feedback.

How to Engage with Mentors
  • On the first day of the mentorship period, a HopStart staff member will connect registered team members and assigned mentors via email. Mentors will be encouraged to identify their preferred method of communication and to review their team’s Round 1 business plan content.
  • Mentors may choose to leave comments directly on the LivePlan template, email teams their feedback, or set up a phone call or Zoom meeting. Please be proactive about responding to any feedback or setting up a meeting time per a mentor’s request.
  • Team members should receive a notification whenever a comment is left on their team’s template. Please also plan to check in on your LivePlan template regularly to ensure that you are continuing the conversation with your mentor(s).
  • View mentorship as a two-way street. Ask thoughtful questions or for clarification when you need it. Showing your mentor that you value the mentorship process is important to building the mentor/mentee relationship.
  • Your mentors may attend the competition. Make sure to connect with them and thank them for their contributions during networking opportunities throughout the day.
  • At the end of the mentorship window, teams will be prompted via email to complete Round 2.

Round 2: Full Business Plan (deadline March 17, 2024)

  • Return to your LivePlan template to complete Round 2: Full Business Plan.
  • We strongly encourage teams to start early on their Round 2 submissions. This round is lengthy and detailed in order to prepare teams to deliver their pitches effectively in Stage 2.
  • In Round 2, teams will provide detailed background on their venture, including a market analysis, marketing and operations plans, and details on costs and financing.
  • Teams should consider their mentors’ Round 1 feedback when crafting their full business plans.
  • Teams that do not complete all sections of the Round 2 LivePlan template will not qualify to move onto Stage 2 – Competition Day.
  • A variety of on-campus resources, including the Center for Leadership Education, FastFoward U, Social Innovation Lab, and TCO Labs, are available to assist students in crafting their business plans and preparing their pitches.
Mentorship Window 2 (March 26 – April 7, 2024)

Mentors will again have two weeks to review Round 2 submissions and provide feedback to their assigned teams. Teams should make every effort to check in regularly with mentors throughout these 2 weeks to ensure they are responding proactively to mentors’ questions and feedback.

On April 1, teams will be notified via email about whether they will move on to competition day.

STAGE 2 – Competition Day (April 26, 2024)

Advancing teams will receive detailed instructions during the first week of April for pitching their ventures on competition day.

All teams that move onto competition day will present in their assigned category during Round 1 presentations. Category assignments and the presentation schedule will be distributed via email ahead of the competition. Business attire is highly encouraged.

Round 1 Guidelines

  • In Round 1 presentations, teams will deliver a three-minute pitch without an accompanying slide deck. However, teams are welcome to incorporate handouts, posters, prototypes, or other visuals that do not necessitate the use of AV equipment or other presentation technology.
  • Teams must arrive to their category’s room 10 minutes before their scheduled presentation time. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.
  • Time keepers will alert presenters using signs when they have 1 minute remaining and when time is up. Teams are required to stick to the allotted time so the competition remains on schedule.
  • At the conclusion of each team’s presentation, judges will have 5 minutes to ask each team questions about their venture.
  • During lunch, the director of the competition will read aloud the list of teams that will move onto the final round of competition. At that time, an email will also be distributed to all competitors with a list of finalists.

Round 2 Guidelines

  • During the final round of competition, teams will present for 8 minutes with a full slide deck.
  • Slide decks must be accessible via laptop, thumb drive, or cloud-based storage. HDMI cables and wireless connections will be available in each category’s presentation room.
  • Teams must arrive to their category’s presentation room 10 minutes before their scheduled presentation time. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.
  • Slide decks should model the template teams completed during Stage 1 – Round 2.
  • Timekeepers will notify presenters using signs when they have 2 minutes remaining, 1 minute remaining, and when time is up.
  • At the conclusion of each team’s presentation, judges will have 7 minutes to ask each team questions about their venture.
  • After all teams have presented, judges will deliberate to select 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners.

Evening Reception & Awards Ceremony

  • Winners in each category will be announced during an awards ceremony and reception from 4:00-6:00 PM.
  • All competitors, regardless of their competition status, are encouraged to attend the reception to network with judges and mentors who represent a variety of industries and to enjoy the festivities.