Please click through our FAQs below to learn more about the details of the competition. If we don’t answer your question below, please don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected].

For Judges and Mentors

Judge and mentor registration opens on November 15, 2023. Learn more about registering for the competition here.

Mentors remotely review business plan submissions and provide feedback to student teams via LivePlan, a business plan development platform, or through their preferred communication method (Zoom, Skype, email, phone, etc.) during the first round (late February) and second round (late March) of competition. During the final pitch review round, mentors will meet with teams to listen to, give feedback, and ask questions regarding the team’s pitch. Mentors can select their preferred category during registration.

On average, mentors are asked to provide feedback to 3 teams. During the first round, mentors will likely spend an average of 30 minutes reviewing each team’s submission and providing feedback. In the second round, mentors will spend an average of 1-2 hours reviewing each team’s submission (their full business plan) and providing feedback. In the final round, mentors will spend roughly 30 minutes meeting with teams to review and provide feedback on the team’s pitch. Mentors can choose their preferred method of communication (video conference, email, commenting directly on the team’s Liveplan template, or a combination of methods).

Judges attend the in-person competition event held on Friday, April 26. This all-day event includes two rounds of judging and a reception/awards ceremony. In the first round, judges will evaluate three-minute pitch in their assigned category. Each pitch is followed by a five-minute Q&A. In the final round, finalists will present for eight minutes to judges, followed by a seven-minute Q&A. Judges will then convene to select first, second, and third place winners in their category.

Absolutely! Interested individuals can serve as a judge, a mentor, or both. In fact, many of our participants choose to mentor and judge.

We prefer that mentors work with teams within the same category, but mentors are welcome to identify more than one category in which they would like to mentor in the event that there is a need for more mentors in a particular category. Because our presentation sessions run concurrently during Competition Day, judges are only able to serve in one category. During registration, we ask that you select all of the categories in which you have expertise in the event that additional coverage is needed in a particular session.

We provide rubrics on the day of the event. Here are examples of our first round score sheet and our final round score sheet.


For Competitors

Each team must have at least one member that meets both of the following requirements:
  1. a current part-time, full-time, or postdoctoral student at any of the nine divisions of Johns Hopkins University during the current academic year.
  2. a member of the venture’s startup management team. As long as at least one member of the team meets both of these requirements, additional individuals not affiliated with Johns Hopkins can participate.

Yes. Each team must be limited to eight presenters. Additional members can take part in the development of the business plan, but only eight members total can register for the event and present on competition day. At least one team member on each team must meet the eligibility requirements.

Yes! However, if you will be your team’s sole member, you must be a current undergraduate or graduate student or postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

Absolutely! However, teams are prohibited from submitting a venture that won 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place in a previous competition.

No, there is no cost associated with competing in the competition.

Participants can submit a venture in one of two categories: General Enterprise and Technology or Medical Technology & Life Sciences.

All submissions must be new ventures. By “new,” we mean ventures that are pre-profit and have less than $25,000 in outside investment funding as of August 2023. Ventures that have raised equity capital from sources other than the members of the student team or their friends and families before the current academic year, i.e., before August 2023 that exceeds $25,000, are excluded. However, both student and other team members may have worked on an idea or new technology in previous academic years or in the case of the student team members even prior to entering Johns Hopkins University, provided that their venture had no revenues and raised no outside equity capital prior to the current academic year.

Yes. Teams may submit distinct ventures both categories. Keep in mind, however, final round presentations in all categories are delivered in concurrently running sessions. On Competition Day, a team pitching more than one venture will need to identify members who can pitch each venture if the team’s pitches are scheduled at conflicting times.


Mentors will provide feedback through Liveplan, a business plan development platform, in Stage 1 of the competition. HopStart staff will also review Stage 1 submissions to determine whether each team has sufficiently completed all sections of its business plan. All teams will be notified of their eligibility to compete in Stage 2 (Competition Day) on April 3, 2023. On Competition Day, teams will pitch their ventures in 3-minute presentations live to judges, who will rate teams using this rubric, then convene to select finalists in each category. In Round 2, judges will evaluate finalists’ live presentations using this rubric. These rubrics are meant to provide general guidance to judges during deliberations. Winners are selected based on a combination of rubric scores and discussion at the conclusion of the presentations.

HopStart staff will evaluate Stage 1 submissions to ensure they are complete and developed enough for presentation on Competition Day (Stage 2). All competing teams will be notified on Monday, April 8 about whether they will move onto Competition Day (April 26).

All competitors are strongly encouraged to attend the entire event, regardless of their status after the first round of competition. Our reception and awards ceremony offers ample opportunity to network with judges and alumni.

In each category, winning teams receive $5,000 for 1st place, $3,000 for 2nd place, and $1,000 for 3rd place.

Teams have full control over the distribution of prize money. Prizes are awarded through Hopkins’ vendor payment process, and prize recipients receive 1099s in January for tax purposes. This is important to keep in mind when deciding on how your team will receive its prize money.

Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions by email at [email protected].