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2017 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge

About the Challenge
InnovateHER: SBA is searching for innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and families.

Posted By: Small Business Administration
Category: Ideas
Submission Dates: 12 p.m. ET, Dec 29, 2016 - 11:59 p.m. ET, Jun 23, 2017 Winners Announced: Jul 31, 2017

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UPDATE – 3/23/2017 – Please note the following adjustments to key dates (these changes are also reflected in the relevant sections of the notice):

Wednesday 04/19/17       Last day for prospective host organizations to notify SBA of intent to host

Friday 04/28/17                Deadline for SBA to confirm host organizations

Saturday 06/03/17           Last day to host a competition

Friday 06/23/17                Last Day to Submit Semi-finalist Nomination Packages to SBA

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InnovateHER is a cross-cutting prize competition to unearth innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and families. Through the competition, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) is seeking to amplify products or services that fill a need in the marketplace and have the potential for commercialization.

As the competition unfolds, local competitions will be hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA resource partners, and other economic development organizations. Entrepreneurs selected as winners in local competitions will advance to the semi-final round. From the pool of semifinalists, SBA will select up to 10 finalists who will be invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge to be held in mid-2017.  The finalists will pitch their products and ideas to a panel of expert judges and compete for the top three awards and a total of $70,000 in prizes.

Process for Host Organizations to Submit Their Local Winners:

No later than June 23, 2017, host organizations must select and submit one winner from the local competition along with a nomination package to SBA through this website. The nomination package must contain all of the following:

  1. A single cover page detailing:
    1. The name of the winning individual (in the case of a winning team, please provide the name of the team’s self-identified project lead); company name (if applicable); product/service name; company address, city, state, and place of incorporation (if applicable); product/service website (if applicable); telephone number of winning individual; and his/her e-mail address;
    2. The host organization’s official legal name, street address, city, state, designated POC, and his/her best contact number and e-mail address (Note: This information must match the information provided by the organization as part of its request to SBA to host a local competition);
    3. A concise, two-sentence description of the product or service (Note: this description may also be used in promotional or informational materials in connection with InnovateHER).
    4. The total number of applicants that participated in the host organization’s InnovateHER competition.
  2. A business plan from the winning individual/team (maximum length: 20 pages, including attachments.
  3. A signed statement of support prepared by the host organization that explains why the winner of the local competition best satisfied the Challenge criteria and presented the greatest potential for success (maximum length: 2 pages).

Each host organization is responsible for preparing the complete nomination package, including obtaining a copy of the relevant business plan from the winner and ensuring that the full package is submitted timely to the SBA via the “Submit Solution” tab on the left.

Process for Becoming a Host Organization:

If you’d like to serve as an InnovateHER Host Organization, you must send a written request to the SBA via womenbusiness@sba.gov by no later than April 19th, 2017 with the following information needed for the vetting process:

  1. The organization’s official legal name, street address, city, state;
  2. Website of the organization (if applicable);
  3. The name of the organization’s designated Point of Contact (POC) for the local competition; his/her email address, and phone number.

Once SBA approves your request, you can host a local competition anytime through June 3, 2017.

Judging Criteria

Potential for commercialization

Impact on the lives of women and families

Fills a need in the marketplace

How to Enter

Registration Process for Participants: The Challenge launches on December 29, 2016. The initial round of the Challenge will take the form of local competitions that will be run across the country beginning no earlier than December 29, 2016 and ending no later than June 3, 2017 by host organizations such as universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, and SBA Resource Partners. For more information regarding these local competitions as it becomes available, please visit sba.gov/InnovateHER. SBA will continue to update the list of local competitions as details are confirmed. While these local competitions will be identified as part of the InnovateHER Challenge and will be conducted in a manner that is consistent with these Challenge Rules, they will be administered solely by the local host organizations and will be judged by individuals selected by each host in their sole discretion. At a minimum, however, each application must contain a business plan covering the contestant’s proposed product or service and must satisfy the Challenge criteria outlined in the Challenge description.

Each host organization is responsible for preparing the complete nomination package, including obtaining a copy of the relevant business plan from the winner and ensuring that the full package is submitted timely to the SBA via the “Submit Solution” tab on the left. (If you’d like to serve as an InnovateHER Host Organization, you must send a written request to the SBA via womenbusiness@sba.gov by no later than April 19, 2017 including the information outlined in the Challenge description.)

Following the completion of the local competitions, each host organization will identify one winner that will advance to the semi-final round of the Challenge. For a winning entry that has been submitted by a team of competitors, the host organization must list the team’s self-identified project leader as the winner who will advance to the semi-final round. No later than June 23, 2017, each host organization will submit a nomination package to www.Challenge.gov containing the winning individual/team’s business plan and other required information to SBA, which will administer the semi-final and final rounds of the Challenge. Selection as a semi-finalist following a local competition is the only means of registering for the Challenge. All nominations will be screened by SBA for eligibility. Contestants cannot submit entries directly to SBA.

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Rules
  1. Eligibility Rules for Participating in the Challenge: This Challenge is open only to: (1) citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of their submission of an entry (or teams of such individuals); and (2) private entities, such as corporations or other organizations, that are incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. Individuals submitting on behalf of corporations, nonprofits, or groups of individuals (such as an academic class or other team) must meet the eligibility requirements for individual contestants. An individual may belong to more than one team submitting an entry in this Challenge. SBA employees are not eligible, nor are Federal entities or Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment. Individuals or organizations that are currently suspended or disbarred by the federal government are not eligible for this Challenge.
  2. Registration Process for Participants: The Challenge launches on December 29, 2016. The initial round of the Challenge will take the form of local competitions that will be run across the country beginning no earlier than December 29, 2016 and ending no later than June 3, 2017 by host organizations such as universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, and SBA Resource Partners. For more information regarding these local competitions as it becomes available, please visit sba.gov/InnovateHER. SBA will continue to update the list of local competitions as details are confirmed. While these local competitions will be identified as part of the InnovateHER Challenge and will be conducted in a manner that is consistent with these Challenge Rules, they will be administered solely by the local host organizations and will be judged by individuals selected by each host in their sole discretion. At a minimum, however, each application must contain a business plan covering the contestant’s proposed product or service and must satisfy the Challenge criteria identified by SBA in the Challenge details.

Following the completion of the local competitions, each host organization will identify one winner that will advance to the semi-final round of the Challenge. For a winning entry that has been submitted by a team of competitors, the host organization must list the team’s self-identified project leader as the winner who will advance to the semi-final round. No later than June 23, 2017, each host organization will submit a nomination package to www.Challenge.gov containing the winning individual/team’s business plan and other required information to SBA, which will administer the semi-final and final rounds of the Challenge. Selection as a semi-finalist following a local competition is the only means of registering for the Challenge. All nominations will be screened by SBA for eligibility. Contestants cannot submit entries directly to SBA.

For winning entries submitted by teams of competitors, prize money will be awarded to the self-identified project leader for distribution to the rest of the team at their discretion and independently from SBA.

Process for Host Organizations:  Each host organization will determine the type of local competition, conducted in a manner that is consistent with these Challenge Rules, that will best identify the most innovative and entrepreneurial business ideas, including the type of application that individuals need to prepare in order to compete. At a minimum, however, each application must contain a business plan covering the contestant’s proposed product or service and must satisfy the Challenge criteria identified by SBA in Paragraph 1 above. The local competitions will be administered solely by the local host organizations and will be judged by individuals selected by each host in their sole discretion. However, no individual acting as a judge at any stage of this Challenge may have personal or financial interests in, or be an employee, officer, director, or agent of any contestant or have a familial or financial relationship with a contestant. Host organizations will also publicize the competition locally. Host organizations should notify SBA of the date and location of the local competitions for the purposes of publication at www.sba.gov/InnovateHER.

Initial Round – Local Competitions – Organizations that wish to host a local competition as part of the initial round of this Challenge must send a request to the SBA at womenbusiness@sba.gov no later than April 19th, 2017 with the following information:

  1. The organization’s official legal name, street address, city, state;
  2. Website of the organization (if applicable);
  3. The name of the organization’s designated Point of Contact (POC) for the local competition, his/her email address, and phone number.

SBA will evaluate all requests to host a local InnovateHER competition in its sole discretion and will confirm a host’s participation in writing. Additionally, with some exceptions, organizations that wish to host an InnovateHER local competition will be required to agree to the terms of a Cosponsorship Agreement with the SBA that defines the scope of the relationship for the purposes of InnovateHER and outlines the co-promotion and marketing terms. SBA will notify prospective hosts if such agreement is required. SBA will reject any nomination package submitted to the SBA by an organization that has not been officially confirmed by SBA to participate in the InnovateHER Challenge.

No later than June 3, 2017, host organizations can hold local competitions.

Semi-Final Round – Submission of Local Winners – No later than June 23, 2017, host organizations must select and submit one winner from the local competition along with a Nomination Package to SBA through the Challenge.gov website. The Nomination Package must contain all of the following:

  • A single cover page detailing –
    • The Name of the winning individual (in the case of a winning team, please provide the name of the team’s self-identified project lead); Company name (if applicable); Product/Service Name; Company Address, City, State, and Place of Incorporation (if applicable); Product/Service website (if applicable); telephone number of winning individual; and his/her e-mail address;
    • The host organization’s official legal name, street address, city, state, designated POC, and his/her best contact number and e-mail address (Note: this information must match the information provided by the organization as part of its request to SBA to host a local competition);
    • A concise, two-sentence description of the product or service (Note: this description may also be used in promotional or informational materials in connection with InnovateHER).
    • The total number of applicants that participated in the host organization’s InnovateHER competition.
  • A Business Plan from the winning individual/team (maximum length: 20 pages, including attachments.
  • A signed Statement of Support prepared by the host organization that explains why the winner of the local competition best satisfied the Challenge criteria and presented the greatest potential for success (maximum length: 2 pages).

Each host organization is responsible for preparing the complete Nomination Package, including obtaining a copy of the relevant Business Plan from the winner and ensuring that the full package is timely submitted to the SBA via the www.Challenge.gov website.

Selection of Winners:

  • Final RoundEach finalist will be offered the opportunity to participate in the InnovateHER Final Challenge to be held in September 2017, where they will make a live marketing pitch to a panel of expert judges drawn from the private sector. The panel of judges will select the three finalists whose pitches, in their sole judgment, best satisfy the Challenge criteria and present the greatest potential for success and rank them in descending order. Finalists will be responsible for covering their own travel costs for the national competition.
  • Semi-Final Round – In the semi-final round of the Challenge, SBA will review the semi-finalist nomination packages submitted by the local competition host organizations and select up to 10 Finalists whose products or services, in SBA’s sole judgment, best satisfy the Challenge criteria identified in Paragraph 1 of these Rules and present the greatest potential for success. In addition, in order to achieve nationwide distribution of prizes for the purpose of stimulating the growth and development of new products and services across the entire United States and across a diverse range of project types, SBA may take into account nominees’ geographic locations when selecting winners, including support to geographic regions that traditionally have limited access to capital, as well as diversity in the types of products and services. Finalists selected by SBA will be required to sign a form certifying that they meet the eligibility requirements identified in the Challenge description and have complied with these Challenge Rules.
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