FLoW is a business plan competition for university students and recent graduates focused on cleantech and sustainability. In addition to cleantech and clean energy, FLoW supports a broad spectrum of sustainability-related innovations including those related to natural resource management and agricultural technologies.
We offer two tracks: the Ready to Commercialize (for ventures closer to launch) and the Transformational Idea Award (for pre-commercial research). Both tracks receive the same top judging and mentoring guidance. However, only the Ready to Commercialize category requires preparing a business plan for the final competition.
Why You Should Apply
- $100,000+ in cash prizes
- Online webinar series on how to start a business
- Specialized mentor pool of legal and business experts to guide you
- Connections to funds for prototyping, incubator and accelerator programs
- Strategic matchups with utilities
- Facilitated entry to the Cleantech Open Competition.
- Real world feedback from top judges: investors, corporate venturists, utilities experts.
- Transformational Idea Award Learn More ›
- Participation in the DOE’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington, D.C.
2015 FLoW Competition Timeline
Statement of Intent Due
Feb. 1, 2015
Mar. 2, 2015
- FLoW 2.0 SoCal Semi-Final Judging
Apr. 10, 2015
- FLoW 2.0 NorCal Semi-Final Judging
Apr. 10, 2015
FLoW 2.0 Final Judging
California Institute of Technology
May 6, 2015
ETCC FLoW Matchup Program
California Institute of Technology
May 7, 2015
Guidelines for Applicants
Ready to Commercialize Presentation Template
Ready to Commercialize
Transformational Idea Award Presentation Template
Transformational Idea Award
Business Plan Template
Steps to Apply
- Review Guidelines and Eligibility then file a Statement of Intent (SOI) via FLoW's website
- Feb 1, 2015: Deadline to file SOI via FLoW’s website
- After filing SOI, Set up an iStart account and review requirements
- March 2, 2015: Deadline to submit multi-slide presentation introducing your concept, team and technology, and answer online required application questions via your iStart account. This is also the deadline to submit your IP Declaration and IP Disclosure forms -And complete the mentoring request form. (Sample Ready to Commercialize Presentation) (Sample Transformational Idea Presentation)
- March 3-8, 2015: Round 1 Judging / Mentors assigned (Ready to Commercialize Judging Criteria) (Transformational Idea Award Judging Criteria)
- March 9- April 9, 2015: Work with mentors to prepare pitch and business plan draft for semi-final round of judging.
- April 10, 2015 SoCal and NorCal Semi-Finals: Present to judges.
- April 10- May 5, 2015: Refine pitch and complete business plan for finals.
- May 6, 2015: Final Judging in Los Angeles.
- At least half of your team must be students (undergraduate and graduate) attending accredited universities and community colleges in the U.S. or graduated within 12 months, with at least one member a U.S. citizen.
This also includes post-doctoral researchers and U.S. citizens attending universities abroad.
- Teams may apply from across the country but special attention is paid to applicants from these states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
- Innovations in technology will typically be the foundation of your application, but are not required to be patented at the time of submission.
Your company does not have to be incorporated at the time of application.
- Service businesses are also eligible if they represent either novel applications of new or existing technologies or innovative financing models.
- Submissions will be divided into two tracks:
Ready to Commercialize or Transformational Idea.
- Ready to Commercialize track will typically include validated lab prototypes poised for moving into the next stage of prototype development for customer testing; IP either filed or under consideration; some market investigation and customer identification with the applicant ready to use the FLoW 2.0 program to begin customer interactions, and the foundation of a business model. Ready to Commercialize companies must be incorporated in order to receive FLoW prizes. The team or company cannot have secured more than $700k in equity capital prior to selection of the regional winners.
- Transformational Idea track includes advanced research projects. Judges will be looking for discoveries that will have a major impact on the energy industry and economy. Semi-finalists will be provided with mentoring and legal advice to help the team identify the commercial potential for their innovation, build the business model and set a strategy for moving the project forward.
Guidance for Applicants
Participation in FLoW Regional Clean Energy Business Plan Competition
All teams intending to apply to FLoW are asked to submit a brief Statement of Intent by February 1, 2015. The SOI is in no way binding on your intention and you can change your topic and focus. However, submitting an SOI helps FLoW organizers identify early on the resources and mentors that might help you.
Statement of Intent Form (online)
Round 1: Screening submissions
All applications must be made online on iStart, either at the Ready to Commercialize or Transformational sites. Entries consist of an 8-10 slide presentation per the online presentation templates.
Teams may create an iStart account and submit and rework drafts of their entries up to the submission deadline. Your application is secure: only the website administrator and your assigned judges will see it. Both Ready to Commercialize and Transformational Idea Award applicants MUST provide signed IP Declaration and IP Disclosure forms where you show that you have contacted the university tech transfer office or government lab who own the technology.
Keep the presentation itself at a high level, containing the important points you would like the judges to remember. For submission, you will not be expected to provide details about potential customers, or financial projections. However, a well-constructed overview of the business opportunity and considered strategic thinking, based on research, and working with the other team members and your advisors will strengthen your application considerably. Use the notes function to add needed detail. Graphics help. Videos are recommended where a visual demonstration would help explain the technology. Cell phone videos will do, as long as they are uploaded as a link embedded in the presentation.
Round 2: The Regional Semi-Finals
Selected teams will begin work on their business plan and presentation. There will be two semifinal events, one in Los Angeles and one at UC Berkeley. FLoW teams will be assigned based on their location and own preference.
At the semifinals, teams will present their ten slide deck before a panel of judges including VCs, Angel investors, representatives of energy corporation venture funds, Directors of incubators, the utilities and accelerator programs such as the Cleantech Open. The presentation should summarize the strategic and tactical thinking about how to create a business, based on the draft business plan and close work with mentors.
The top 15 of the Ready to Commercialize and the top 10 of the Transformational Idea Award contenders, identified by these two events, will proceed to the Round 3 Finals in Los Angeles. By this round teams should be well along in preparing their business plans and presentations, which should be well reasoned, energetic and professional. Rehearsals before friendly investors and your mentors are strongly encouraged.
All contestants from Round 2 will receive the judging feedback to help you focus and refine your business thinking. Teams are expected to take the initiative in seeking out and working with their mentors (See Mentoring Guidelines) throughout the Round 2 process. As additional mentors are needed, the team can fill out the mentor application form or contact the FLoW office.
Round 3: The Regional Finals
Teams will be required to submit a 10 page business plan plus the final version of the ten-slide, investor presentation deck online in advance of the FLoW 2.0 Finals Judging Event on May 6, 2015.The format will be identical to Round 2 but there will be new panels of judges assessing contestants.