Guidelines and Requirements

InNOLEvation® Challenge 2020

Eligibility Guidelines

The organizers of the InNOLEvation® Challenge recognize that no set of criteria can apply to every circumstance and therefore reserve the right to determine eligibility or to disqualify any team that it determines to be in violation of the spirit of the competition. Similarly, students who feel they fit the spirit of the competition, but may be in minor violation of the eligibility criteria, may submit a petition to Wendy Plant. All decisions will be made by the InNOLEvation® Challenge organizers and are final.

Team Composition

Students are encouraged, but not required, to work in teams instead of working alone to develop their ideas. For best results, team members should have complementary skills and a wide range of backgrounds.

Competing teams should consist of no more than 5 degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate students enrolled part-time (6 credit hours or more) or full-time at Florida State University at the time of application. Non-students may be part of the venture but cannot participate in the competition (e.g., video submission, pitching, Q&A, etc.). Students in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering are eligible to participate in the competition.

A member of the student team should be CEO, COO, or president of the venture, or members of the student team should occupy 51% or more of the functional area management positions that would report directly to CEO, COO, or president position.


The student team must have a minimum of 51% ownership in the venture and must have played a major role in creating the venture. The business model submitted must be original work done by the student team.


The student team must control a minimum of 51% of the venture’s voting rights. The InNOLEvation® Challenge organizers recommend maintaining this control for at least 2 years beyond the date of the competition.


Because revenue is often the best form of validation, minimal revenues gained in the process of validation are allowable for the competition. Excessive revenues will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the InNOLEvation® Challenge organizers. Specifically, the company must not have booked substantial revenue prior to September 1, 2023.


No more than $100,000 will be allowed from friends and family, debt (any source — convertible, venture, traditional), and accelerators. Any convertible debt must be in the form of a standard debt note with a separate agreement specifying the rules for conversion. Conversion cannot occur for at least 2 years from the date of the competition. Specifically, the company must not have received angel or venture capital financing before September 1, 2023.

  • NOTE: We do not encourage investment prior to the start of the competition because investment encourages scaling. Premature scaling is a leading cause of startup failure.

Nature of Venture

Ventures cannot be a buyout, an expansion of an existing company, a real estate syndication, a tax shelter, a franchise, a licensing agreement for distribution in a different geographical area, or a spin-out from an existing corporation.

Licensing technologies from universities or research labs is encouraged, assuming they have not been commercialized previously.

Ventures can be either for-profit or nonprofit, and ventures with a social mission at their core are encouraged.

Prior Activity

Recipients of cash awards from a previous InNOLEvation® Challenge may not compete in this or any future InNOLEvation® Challenge competitions under the same company name. There may be some exceptions that will be determined on a case by case basis. Please email Wendy Plant at with any questions.

Certifications and Agreements

By submitting a Business Model (“the Model”) to the InNOLEvation® Challenge Business Model Competition (“the Competition”), each Contestant listed below agrees to the following conditions:

  • Originality of Model – The ideas and concepts set forth in the Model are the original work of the Contestants, and no Contestant is under any agreement or restrictions that prohibit or restrict his or her ability to disclose or submit such ideas or concepts to the Competition.
  • Compliance with the Eligibility Guidelines of the Competition – Each Contestant has reviewed the Eligibility Guidelines (“Guidelines”) and by submitting his or her application, certifies that this entry and the team or individual it represents complies with the Guidelines and agrees to abide by the Guidelines. Each Contestant also certifies that the venture had no substantial revenues and raised no outside equity capital prior to the current academic year.
  • Waivers and Releases – Each Contestant understands that the InNOLEvation® Challenge Business Model Competition organizing committee, any co-sponsors, judges, mentors, co-organizers (“Competition Officials”) and its directors, officers, partners, employees, consultants, and agents (collectively “Organizer Representatives”) are volunteers and are under no obligation to render any advice or service to any Contestant. The views expressed by the judges, co-sponsors, co-organizers, and the Organizer Representatives are their own and not those of the InNOLEvation® Challenge organizing committee or any other person or entity.

Each Contestant also understands and agrees that although the Competition Officials have taken and will take the steps described in the Guidelines regarding confidentiality of the ideas and models submitted by the Contestants, the legal protection of the ideas and the Models submitted by the Contestants to the Competition is otherwise the sole responsibility of the Contestant. In consideration of the time, expertise, and other resources provided by the Competition Officials and Organizer Representatives to the Competition, each Contestant hereby voluntarily releases each Competition Official and each Organizer Representative from any further liabilities, responsibilities, and accountabilities relating to or arising out of such Competition Officials or Organizer Representative’s participation in the Competition.

Requesting Your InNOLEvation® Challenge Prize

Contestants are allowed to remain at the status of “just an idea” rather than required to register as a legal entity throughout the competition as a temporary accommodation. However, prizes will be distributed to a legal business entity – other than a sole proprietorship – and not to an individual or individuals. Any exceptions to this will be on a case by case basis.

Winning teams must submit the correct paperwork prior to June 1, 2024 or forfeit their winnings. The company name and address on all paperwork and filings must be identical, and all members of the company that were documented and submitted during the competition must be listed on the filings for the legal business entity. Awards are not transferable.

Award Disbursement Procedures

Prior to the disbursement of any prize money, proof of the establishment of a legal business entity must be provided. The following should be setup:

  • Federal Tax EIN
  • Florida Business Registration from
  • Establishment of a business banking account is required

Funds can only be disbursed after the above is completed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a FAMU student enrolled in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Am I eligible to compete?
For purposes of the competition, you meet the requirement to be a student enrolled at FSU. You will need to verify that you meet the rest of the requirements at Eligibility Guidelines. FAMU-FSU College of Engineering students can participate on a team in the competition. At least 51% of the students on the team need to be FSU students (FAMU-FSU College of Engineering students are included in this percentage).

Can I change team members after applying?
Team members must be solidified by the Semi-Finals.

Are there restrictions on other changes that I might want to make?
You cannot make any changes during the competition which cause your team to no longer meet the eligibility qualifications. Also, after applying, you can no longer change the name of the team/company, the members, or the value proposition.

Can I participate on more than one team?
Yes. However, past experience shows that the Validation and Pivot processes for each team will take a good amount of time to complete, so you will want to carefully consider if this will overextend your capacity to do well by each team.

How can I make sure my Submissions are made on time?
Submissions need to be received by 11:59 PM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time for each stage.

What do you mean by a “social enterprise”?
A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being—this may include maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders. A social mission is at the core of the enterprise.