Skandalaris Center

Olin Cup

Entry Process

Idea Submission
First the founder must submit a description of his or her business idea, including required contact information, on the IdeaBounce® website. When posting an idea, founders may also indicate their needs, including team members, mentors, research partners, etc. and may upload up to three files to the site. 

Team Formation
Anyone is eligible to enter the Olin Cup Competition. Teams may be formed or changed as the competition progresses. The team formation process is aided by a series of workshops and networking events. Additionally, all visitors to the IdeaBounce® website may view current competitors' idea descriptions and contact information. Ultimately teams must meet the following requirements:

  1. Teams must include at least one Washington University in St. Louis student or alumnus to be eligible for investment awards.
  2. Individuals may compete on more than one team.
  3. All submitted materials must be the original work of the contestants.
  4. Teams must submit all materials required by the Olin Cup Competition schedule.
  5. Teams which have previously secured funding must disclose the amounts and sources clearly in their business plan submission.

The Skandalaris Center reserves the right to disqualify any entry that violates the letter or spirit of the Olin Cup Competition. 

Judging Criteria

Judges analyze submissions and rank according to likelihood an idea will succeed. The competition does not provide a specific format for contestant submissions, although reviewing the criteria in the Welcome Kit can be helpful in that regard.  

Judging Events

  • Executive summaries are due on October 13, and we will announce the semi-finalist teams on October 20 via email and website updates.
  • Semi-finalists will participate in the Elevator Pitch Competition (not open to the public) on November 6. This event determines Olin Cup Finalists. Winners will be announced at a later public speaker and networking event.
  • Final presentations to judges are also not open to the public. Olin Cup winners will be announced at a public speaker and networking event on January 29, 2015. 

Investment Awards
Investments will be awarded in the following amounts:

  • $50,000 to the first place finishing team
  • $20,000 to the second place finishing team

The investment specified (type of security and valuation) will vary with winners. In addition, winners may receive in-kind services from one or more of the competition sponsors, in addition to any cash investment. These in-kind services will be limited to one provider in each of the service areas and the provider and winners will agree to specific details. All investments will be made upon incorporation of the business.

Since 2005, the Olin Cup has also awarded a $5,000 student prize.


The goal of the Olin Cup Competition is to support the growth of the entrepreneurial community at Washington University and the St. Louis region by promoting education, collaboration and team formation leading to the creation of successful early stage ventures.

All participants involved in reviewing the executive summaries, business plans and presentations understand that information should be treated as confidential and not disclosed outside of the competition. However, maintaining a collaborative learning environment where ideas can be discussed openly is crucial to the Olin Cup process. It is the Team Founder's responsibility to decide what information should or should not be included.

Idea summaries posted to the IdeaBounce® website may be printed and distributed at events and to the media. 

2013 Competition Calendar

Deliverables, Events, and Due Dates include the following. Visit our events page for a list of workshops for commercial and social ventures. All are welcome at any workshop; posting on IdeaBounce® or participation in either the Olin Cup or Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition is not required.

Deliverable Delivery Method Due Date
Idea Submission Electronic through When founder posts idea
Executive Summary Electronic submission by email to Monday, October 13, by noon
SemiFinalists announced Press release from Skandalaris Center Monday, October 20
Elevator Pitches Oral presentation to judges (not open to public) Thursday, November 6, 3:00pm
Finalists announced Public Elevator Pitch Competition and press release Thursday, November 6, 6:00pm
Business Plans Electronic submission by email attachment to Friday, January 2, by noon
Business Plans Deliver approximately 30 printed copies Skandalaris Center in Simon 100, Washington University Danforth Campus Friday, January 2, by noon
Final Presentations to Judges Email PowerPoint presentation as attachment to and oral presentation to judges (not open to public) Wednesday, January 14, afternoon, time TBD


Awards Ceremony
Thursday, January 29, 2015, 5:30 p.m., with Keynote Speaker

Times subject to change, please contact the Skandalaris Center with any questions.


Isn't the Olin Cup Competition the concluding event of the Hatchery course?
This was the case in the past, but after the completion of the Spring 2003 semester, the Olin Cup became a stand-alone event, independent of The Hatchery. Teams who have completed The Hatchery or are enrolled in the course may enter, but there are no prerequisite courses for competing in the Olin Cup. Formerly, when the Olin Cup was awarded at the conclusion of The Hatchery, no seed funding was awarded. Since December 2003 seed funding has been awarded to winning teams in the new Olin Cup Competition.

Do I have to take Olin academic courses to qualify?
Team members are not required to complete or be enrolled in any prerequisite courses to be eligible. Many of the courses offered through the Olin Business School and other schools at Washington University in St. Louis are, however, designed to teach the skills necessary to develop an effective business plan.

Am I eligible to compete? 
Everyone is eligible to compete. However, Olin Cup awards are investments in the new venture which are only available to teams with a Washington University student, alumnus, faculty or staff member. Teams without a WUSTL affiliate will still gain exposure to the Investment Committee and the Skandalaris Student Venture Fund.  Team members must be actively involved in the operations or management of the venture, or may serve on its advisory board or as a mentor. Teams without a WUSTL affiliate are welcome for the experience of writing the business plan, making an investor presentation, and receiving extensive feedback.

As a founder, how do I submit a new venture business idea?
The first step is submitting your business idea on the IdeaBounce® website.  This idea description is then published on the website for all to view.

As an individual, how can I join a team if I do not have my own new-venture idea?
Anyone may view the idea descriptions of current competitors on the the IdeaBounce® website, which includes contact information. Visitors to the site may also sort ideas by needs, such as team members, research partners, etc., and may contact team founders directly to pursue methods of collaboration. In addition, attending Olin Cup events offers opportunities to meet founders or other prospective team members.

How do I find team members for my venture?
The IdeaBounce® website can facilitate team formation, but attending Skandalaris events, including IdeaBounce® events, Coffee with the Experts, and Skandalaris Seminars will give founders the opportunity to meet people, talk about their ventures, make connections, and recruit team members, including WUSTL affiliates. The Washington University community includes more than 13,000 students, a like number of employees, and 32,000 alumni who live in the St. Louis area.

What's the deadline for including a WUSTL team member?
The last day to add team members is Thursday, November 6, when the finalists are announced after the Elevator Pitch Competition.  Between the elevator pitch and final presentations, finalists submit a term sheet and founders meet with Skandalaris Managing Director Emre Toker and students from the Skandalaris Student Venture Fund to negotiate the investment offer. WUSTL team members are required to attend that meeting unless the founder is a WUSTL affiliate.

How much work is it?
The amount of work varies according to the nature of the idea and each team member's responsibilities. In our experience, as many as 600 total team hours have been invested in developing a complete plan.

How much does it cost to apply?
Entry is free.

Do we get academic credit for participating?
No academic credit is given for participation in the Olin Cup Competition. 

How do judges evaluate the deliverables?
The judges represent both local and national service providers, incubators, venture capital firms and other community partners, as well as all schools at Washington University. Using their experience and general criteria set forth by the Skandalaris Center, they will analyze submissions and rank according to the likelihood an idea will succeed. This is not an academic exercise; it is designed to mimic the real-world funding process. As such, the Skandalaris Center will not provide a specific format for contestant submissions. Rather, the best plans will be tailored to the industry and idea they represent.  

How are the winners selected?
The judges' evaluations are submitted to an Investment Committee which includes donors to the program and advisory board members. They do a further valuation of the deal offered by the team and the investment opportunity for the university, and select the teams to be awarded funding.

What do the winners receive?
Seed funding will be awarded to two teams for $50,000 and $20,000.  The award may be in equity, debt, or other investment vehicles. In addition, winners may receive in-kind services from one or more of the competition sponsors. Since 2005, the Olin Cup has awarded a $5,000 student cash prize.   

Who is eligible for the student award?
Any full- or part-time Washington University student (enrolled in the 2014-15 academic year) on an Olin Cup team, as founder or team member, is eligible to receive the $5,000 student cash prize. The award goes to all students on the highest performing team, and may be paid individually to the students or to the venture. The prize is reportable and all students on the team must mutually agree to the method of payment.

What are the benefits if we don't win?
The Olin Cup Competition provides an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop and refine their business ideas. At a minimum, teams who complete the Competition will have assessed the opportunity, had several opportunities to deliver an elevator pitch, formed a team and produced a business plan. All finalists will have the opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of judges representing leaders in the community. Therefore the opportunity exists for a team which doesn't win the competition to secure funding from another source.

Who provides the financial support for the Olin Cup Competition?
The Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (SC) sponsors the Competition in collaboration with the Olin Business School and several corporate sponsors from the community.

What about confidentiality?
All participants involved in reviewing the executive summaries, business plans and presentations understand that information should be treated as confidential and not disclosed outside of the Competition. However, maintaining a collaborative learning environment where ideas can be discussed openly is crucial to the Olin Cup process. It is the Team Founder's responsibility to decide what information should or should not be included.



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