NewSpace Chicago Business Plan Competition

We regret to announce that due to a lack of qualified contestants at this time, we must cancel the NewSpace Chicago Business Plan competition this March.  We are evaluating possible alternatives for rescheduling the event for later this year.  Please stay tuned for further announcements.
(Updated 3/4/2016)

Chicago enters the race to develop commercial ventures in outer space with a Business Plan Competition (BPC), fully focused in space‐related and space‐scalable business start‐ups in or around the Chicagoland area. The NewSpace Chicago BPC will be held from 9:00 to 12:00 on March 16, at 1871, a local high-tech incubator in downtown Chicago. Submissions will be accepted from February 2 until March 9.  Contestants will compete in a “shark-tank” style event, each having 15 minutes to present their business plan and answer questions before a panel of judges.  The winner of the NewSpace Chicago BPC will receive a $3,000 cash prize and a guaranteed place in the national NewSpace BPC, to be held in Seattle on June 23, 2016.

The company should have technologies or products that advance the NewSpace movement. These would include the following general areas:

  • Space-scalable™: Technologies primarily developed to solve problems here on Earth for commercial benefit and profit, but are also scalable to solve key long range space problems when the demand ultimately exists, to help make the settlement of the space frontier a reality. This could include biotechnology, nanotechnology, medicine, radiation mitigation, smart materials, alternative energy, or next-gen IT hardware, among many other possibilities.
  • Space-related: Process engineering, power systems, bioregenerative systems, tourism, media, software, and other supportive solutions.
  • Entrepreneurial space: Those firms directly involved in launch systems hardware technology and supporting infrastructure, including data acquisition, communications, exotic fuels, space suits, flight safety, in-space market activities, etc.

This event is organized by NewSpace Chicago in partnership with the Space Frontier Foundation, Heinlein Prize Trust, and Orbital Transports, LLC. The competition in Chicago is the regional qualifying event for the national NewSpace Business Plan Competition organized by the Space Frontier Foundation.  The national BPC will select the winners from among contestants from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Chattanooga and Colorado Springs.

General Information

The competition is intended to simulate the real world process of entrepreneurs soliciting start up funds from early stage investors and venture capital firms. The judges function as venture capital investors deciding on which business venture they would most likely fund. The quality of the idea, the strength of the management team, and the clarity and persuasiveness of the written plan and oral presentation, all influence the judge’s decisions. Ultimately, the winning team should be the team in which the judges would most likely invest their money.  The judges will evaluate each plan from three different perspectives: entrepreneur, investor, and engineer.  Their ranking of the top teams is guided by the scorecard but should be consistent with the approach that would be used by investors.

Teams are not required to reveal the exact desired terms of the deal (i.e., their proposed company valuation and percentage of company being offered to investors). However, some investors prefer to have this information up front (while some investors feel it is not as important until later). We recommend that teams be prepared to address questions about their terms, but it is up to the team to decide how they want to answer these questions. During the competition, judges are asked to evaluate each team individually and should not discuss their evaluation with other judges until all judges’ evaluation forms have been submitted.

All entries must be submitted through the Descision Desk platform.  Apply here.


Evaluation Criteria

The judges will evaluate each Business Plan based on the following:

  • Executive Summary: Clear, exciting and effective as a stand-alone overview of the plan
  • Products or Services: Description, features and benefits, pricing, current stage of development and proprietary position.
  • Market and Marketing Strategy: Description of market, competitive analysis, needs identification, unique capabilities and sales/promotion.
  • Management: Backgrounds of key individuals, ability to execute strategy, personnel needs, organizational structure.
  • Summary Financials: Presented in summary form, easy to read and understand consistent with plan and effective.
  • Offering and Viability: Overall proposal and terms to investors – is the investment opportunity clear and compelling?
  • Is the opportunity practical for a student team to accomplish and near-term space enabling?


Judges will be asked to remove themselves from judging a plan if they have a conflict of interest, such as a pre-existing family or business relationship with an entrant.

  • Thomas Olsen, Exodus Consulting Group
  • Steven Jorgenson, Space Finance Group
  • Geza Gyuk, Adler Planetarium

Business Plan Guidelines

Your business plan should include all sections as outlined below. See the US Small Business Administration (SBA) “How to write a Business Plan” for guidelines.

  • Your Business Plan, including the financials, must be uploaded as ONE (1) file in PDF format.
  • It should be no longer than 20 (one-sided) pages, excluding financial statements.
  • Use a font no less than 10pt with 1-inch margins.

The Business Plan must contain the following:

  • A one page overview to accompany the business plan following this format .
  • Cover Page with the name of the applicant, street address, telephone number, and email address of the individual entrant(s) and team leader.
  • Team entries must include the names of all team members, and the street address, telephone number, and email address of one designated entrant.
  • A Table of Contents
  • One-page Executive Summary
  • Page Numbers throughout the business plan.

Important Dates

  • Business Plans must be uploaded to NewSpace Chicago Business Plan Competition site no later than midnight on March 9, 2016.
  • The panel of judges will review submitted business plans.
  • The winners will be announced on March 16, 2016.


1st place regional prize: $2,500 and a guaranteed place in the national NewSpace BPC, to be held in Seattle on June 23, 2016, including a private, two-day Boot Camp session to prepare their pitch to investors in the national competition at the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual NewSpace Conference.

Previous national NewSpace BPCs have awarded Grand Prizes up to $100,000, second prizes up to $25,000, and smaller sponsored prizes.

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