Frequently Asked Questions

If I’ve already entered my new venture in the McCloskey Business Plan Competition, may I enter again?

YES, as long as you can demonstrate that the business model has changed significantly in response to feedback from the judges/mentors. You cannot enter the exact same venture twice; the business model must have changed significantly in response to the feedback you received the 1st time you entered. See ELIGIBILITY for more specific information.

May I have non-ND individuals on my team?

YES; as long as a current graduate or undergraduate student is leading the team and integrally involved in the business planning process. However, at least 50% of the team members must be affliated with Notre Dame, as current students or alumni.

How many team members may be on my team?

A maximum of 7 individuals may compete on one team.

What if my new venture is a SOCIAL venture?

All social ventures compete for the Greatest Social Impact prize, a $15,000 cash award. Are you passionate about solving a particular social, humanitarian, or environmental problem? Does your business address a profound human need? Simply indicate that you are a social venture when you register. Teams will be evaluated based upon their potential for sustainability: they must demonstrate potential for growth as well as a measurable social and/or environmental impact. Nonprofit and for-profit social ventures will be considered as long as the double or triple bottom line strategy is achieved, including financial viability. Nonprofits must include a revenue-generating income stream in addition to traditional philanthropic sources (donations, grants, foundations, etc.).

Can nonprofits enter the Competition?

YES, as long as you are able to demonstrate that the proposed new venture includes a revenue-generating income stream in addition to traditional philanthropic sources (donations, grants, foundations, etc.). In other words, you cannot be 100% dependent upon philanthropy and must meet the financial bottom line by means of a revenue-generating income stream. If you will be completely dependent upon donations, grants and other means of philanthropy, then you cannot enter. While we recognize that startup funding and initial capital for operations may come from philanthropic funds/individual donations, we view a social enterprise – regardless of the type of entity formation – as designed to operate like a for-profit business, which must include a revenue-generating income stream in addition to traditional philanthropic sources (donations, grants, foundations, etc.). See ELIGIBILITY for more specific information. All entries in the McCloskey Business Plan Competition will be judged on their ability to become financially self-sustaining, that is, to generate revenue in excess of costs.

Can Notre Dame alumni and/or faculty enter the Competition?

Alumni and faculty participants selected to advance to round 2 may continue in the Competition as long as a current Notre Dame student is invited into the process to lead the team effort for the purposes of the Competition, at least 50% of team must be affliated with Notre Dame, as current students or alumni and student(s) must be integrally involved in the business planning process, including the development of the business model, writing the business plan and presenting at subsequent rounds of the Competition. The alumni/faculty essentially become advisors to the team as the students develop the business model. The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship will help facilitate the “matching” process, assisting these faculty/alumni participants identify student(s) who would like to work with these faculty/alumni teams.

What are the requirments for Round 1 and their purpose?

The requirements for round 1 is an overview of your proposed new venture and an optional 2-minute Venture Presentation Pitch Video. The purpose of the Overview is to provide a vision for the proposed venture, including the business concept, target customers, industry overview, competitive landscape and revenue potential. The Overview is not intended to be as comprehensive as a detailed business plan, but should provide the reader with a summary of the major elements of the proposed venture. The 2-minute Venture Presentation Pitch Video is a simple video of you giving your pitch, no fancy gimics or props, just you selling your idea to the judges. The pitch should includ your idea, what unique problem does it solve, what have you accomplished so far and what do you need. See REQUIREMENTS for detailed information relating to the required round 1 Overview and optional 2-minute Venture Presentation Pitch Video.

What is the “public summary” and its purpose?

Also required for round 1 is the public summary, a 50-100 word summary of the venture that contains non-confidential information. This will be completed at the time you enter your information into the Reviewr platform. These summaries will be used to publicly for competition marketing and communication purposes. The summaries will also be shared with members of the Notre Dame's Irish Entrepreneurs Network, as these individuals have interest and capacity for mentoring and private investment.

If I am selected for the Round 2, what is the business plan and its purpose?

The requirement for the round 2 is a 10-page “transitional” business plan, with up to five (5) additional pages in appendices (for financials and supporting documentation). The purpose of the business plan is to demonstrate the details of the proposed venture. A strong business plan illustrates the current status, the expected needs and the projected results of the new business. It demonstrates the feasibility of the business, the potential problems that may arise, the competition's strengths and weaknesses and how and when the goals of the business will be accomplished. Suggested content guidelines for the business plan are provided: see REQUIREMENTS for detailed information relating to the required round 2 business plan.

What happens if I am selected as a semifinalist?

Contestants who advance to the semifinal round are required to come to the University of Notre Dame campus mid-April to give an oral presentation to a panel of judges. This oral presentation will be followed by Q&A. Semifinal round judges will select the top finalists who will present LIVE at the final event the following day. Semifinalists must cover their own travel and lodging expenses to attend the finals at Notre Dame. See the SCHEDULE for a detailed list of dates.

What is the judging process?

Outside judges from the IrishAngels and Irish Entrepreneurs Networks, the ND community and other Gigot Center contacts serve as our judges. These individuals are experienced with entrepreneurial endeavors will evaluate the requirements at rounds 1 (Overview and optional video) and 2 (business plans). The judges will base their decisions upon the strength of the business opportunity and viability of the concept, as well as the entrepreneur's skills and strength of the management team (or the potential to attract a strong management team). Marketing, financial, operational, intellectual property and other considerations will also be important factors during the evaluation. During rounds 1 and 2, judges will evaluate each team based on the written documents provided by each team. Those selected for the 3rd (semifinal) round will be invited to make a 10-minute oral presentation to a panel of judges. These oral presentation will take place LIVE on campus in mid-April; each will be followed by an intense 30-minute session of Q&A. Finalists and winning teams will be selected on the basis of both the written and oral presentations of their business plans.

What about feedback?

The feedback provided by our judges is a valuable resource. Teams will have direct access to all feedback, and may contact judges after each round using the contact information provided on the evaluation form. Judges may prefer to remain anonymous; however, most of our judges are delighted to discuss their feedback directly with the team.

What is a mentor?

Each team in round 2 may request a mentor who will serve as an advisor or coach. These individuals have significant entrepreneurial experience and can provide valuable advice to teams as they develop their business models and write the business plan. Typically they are members of the Irish Entrepreneurs or IrishAngels Networks, or are from within the University of Notre Dame startup community. While each mentor's involvement will vary, the mentor will typically provide ongoing advising and will conduct one to two reviews of a team's business plan as it is being developed for round 2. We strongly recommend that our semifinalist take full advantage of this resource.

Is my challenge entry confidential?

Judges and members of the Gigot Center staff who will be in contact with the competition entries must be able to discuss the competition entries amongst themselves. It is not feasible for judges to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (“NDAs”) for individual competition entries. Furthermore, venture capitalists who are involved with the competition may be prohibited by company policy from signing NDAs or other confidentiality agreements. Challenge participants who are selected to compete in the semifinal and final rounds of the competitions will be giving a presentation that is open to the public. Therefore, the confidentiality of entries cannot be guaranteed. How is my intellectual property protected? It should not be necessary in the Overview, vidoe, business plan, or presentation rounds to disclose information that would jeopardize intellectual property rights. However, due to the complexity of federal and state intellectual property laws, it is recommended that contestants seek competent legal counsel if they have specific questions or concerns related to intellectual property issues. The Gigot Center staff, challenge mentors and judges cannot offer legal advice. All contestants must warrant that all ideas contained in their entry are their own, and do not infringe the proprietary rights, including but not limited to copyright, trademark, trade secret, or patent, of any other person or entity. If others’ ideas or intellectual property have been incorporated into their entry, then their permission must be obtained in writing, in advance. If any part of contestants’ idea contains or pertains to research conducted at the University of Notre Dame, this must be properly disclosed to the Office of Technology Transfer, and written permission, in the form of a license or otherwise, to utilize this research must be obtained in writing, in advance. The University will also review ideas that could include use of Notre Dame trademarks, such as the interlocking ND, leprechaun or other University marks protected under copyright and trademark laws.

Is there a comprehensive list of all of the important dates for the competitions?


If I have further questions, who can I contact?

Please contact us by email at, or by telephone at (574) 631-3042.