Cardinal Challenge Competition Rules
The Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge (BFCC) is designed to mimic the real world process of raising venture capital. The competition is for graduate students to gain real experience in this process while developing and growing new ventures based either on their own ideas and technologies or those developed by others.
We adhere to the eligibility and rules & guidelines of the former Global Venture Labs Investment Competition with exceptions as outlined on this page.
- Under “Team Composition” (below)- For Cardinal Challenge, each team is required to have at least two (2) and no more than five (5) presenting members.
- Under “Preparing an Executive Summary” (below)- For Cardinal Challenge, the executive summary is no more than three (3) pages and may include a cover page as an additional fourth page.
- Under “Business Plan Review” (below)- For Cardinal Challenge, the first round judges will read the entire business plan.
- Under “Presentation Rules” (below)- Cardinal Challenge presentation format is a 15-minute uninterrupted presentation followed by a 15 minute Q&A.
The University of Louisville Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship, and their agents may make photocopies, photographs, video recordings, and/or audio recordings of the presentations including the business plan and other documents, charts, media, or other material prepared for use in presentation at the BFCC. The above entities may use the materials in any book or other printed materials and any videotape or other medium that they may produce provided that any profits earned from the sale of such items are used by these entities solely to defray the costs of future competitions. These entities have non-exclusive world rights in all languages, and in all media, to use or to publish the materials in any book, other printed materials, videotapes, or another medium, and to use the materials in future editions thereof and derivative products.
The competition is for student-created, managed, and owned ventures. The guidelines are:
- Students play a major role in conceiving the venture by having key management roles and potentially owning significant equity in the venture.
- Significant equity is 50 percent or more of the equity allocated to the management team and key advisors.
- The objective of this rule is to exclude ventures formed and managed by non-students who have token student representation to compete in the investment circuit.
This is a competition for graduate students. Students from any graduate program (not just MBAs) are eligible to participate, including executive and evening format programs. Non-students may be members of the venture’s management team, and may participate in planning the venture. However, only students may participate in the competition.
Ventures and their base concepts may compete for only one season in the Cardinal Challenge competition. If your venture competed in any affiliated competition prior to the 2021-2022 academic year, you are not eligible to compete in the 2022 Cardinal Challenge. Ventures that have generated revenue or raised equity capital from sources other than the members of the student team before the current academic year are excluded.
The Cardinal Challenge is designed to mimic the real-world process of raising venture capital. The competition allows graduate students to gain real experience while developing and growing new ventures based on their own ideas and technologies or those developed by others.
The spirit of the competition is to allow ventures conceived and developed during the graduate school experience to participate. This means excluding ventures that were started prior to graduate school admission or are an expansion of an established business.
This document sets out guidelines to capture these goals. Not every circumstance can be anticipated. We reserve the right to disqualify any team and university that violates the rules, regulations, or the spirit of the competition.
Competition directors and faculty advisors are responsible for ensuring and attesting that their teams meet these requirements. The teams are also responsible for ensuring their own eligibility. Violations by any team will result in the school’s disqualification in this year’s and the following year’s competition(s), as well as forfeiture of awards and prize monies by the participating team.
Rules & Guidelines
Nature of Ventures
Ventures must intend to be operating companies with corporate structures and financial statements that reflect real operating revenues and expenses. This is intended to exclude investment vehicles, partnerships, licensing, and other pass-through entities where returns are measured for investment value versus operating earnings.
The competition focuses on new, independent ventures in the seed, start-up, or early growth stages. In addition to what is outlined in the above paragraph, generally excluded are the following: buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, roll-ups, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchise-based outlets, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, and spin-outs from existing corporations. Licensing technologies from universities or research labs is encouraged assuming there has been no previous commercialization. Key in these types of ventures is demonstrating significant added value to the technology through the efforts of the management team.
All ventures should be seeking outside equity capital, thus it is expected that their business plan and presentation will be investor ready.
University Sponsorship and Faculty Advisor Involvement
The business venture must be developed under direct faculty supervision. Ideally, the venture will be prepared for credit in a regularly scheduled course or as an independent study. The executive summary and business plan must represent the original work of members of the team.
Cardinal Challenge is designed for graduate students; however, teams with a minority of undergraduates can still compete but must conform to the graduate student majority rule during actual competitions. Students from any graduate program—not just MBAs—are eligible to participate, including executive and evening format programs. Non-students may be members of the venture’s management team and may participate in planning the venture, however, only students may participate in the competition and its related competition events.
Each team is limited to five presenting members and one faculty advisor. Each of these members must take an active role, i.e., they must deliver part of the presentation and participate fully in the question and answer section. Additional student assistants or helpers plus other team representatives may attend the competition as observers but cannot directly participate in any competition-related events and will not be allowed to attend any closed sessions.
The competition is for student-created, managed, and owned ventures. This is the most common area for requested rules clarification. The guidelines are:
- Students played a major role in conceiving the venture, have key management roles and should own significant equity in the venture.
- Significant equity is defined as having 50 percent or more of the equity allocated to the management team and key advisors.
- The objective of this rule is to exclude ventures formed and managed by non-students who have token student representation to compete on the investment circuit.
Student Enrollment and Eligibility
This competition is for students currently enrolled in graduate school, not just MBAs. We encourage executive education or evening school students to participate in the competition.
Preparing an Executive Summary
Summaries should be submitted as a single, printable PDF file. Documents are limited to no more than two pages with the following parameters: format is 1.5 line spacing with 1 inch top, bottom, left, and right margins and 12-point font. This line spacing and font requirement apply to the textual content of the document and not to titles and descriptions accompanying pictures, graphs, tables, or worksheets.
Executive summaries should include an explanation of the offering to investors indicating how much money is required, how it will be used, and the proposed structure of the deal.
Business Plan Guidelines
The business plan is required for each team at submission and will be reviewed by the judges. However, based upon that review the full plan may or may not be further evaluated by the judges. In the case of a particularly engaging executive summary, the judges are encouraged to include the business plan in their decision.
Plans should be submitted as a single, printable PDF file. The business plan is limited to no more than 20 pages. This would include a single cover page, single table of contents page, two-page executive summary, 10 pages of a business plan (note cover page and Table of Contents are required), and can include up to six additional pages of appendices. Page format is 1.5 line spacing with 1 inch top, bottom, left, and right margins, and 12-point font. This line spacing and font requirement apply to the textual content of the document and not to titles and descriptions accompanying pictures, graphs, tables, or worksheets. All pages must be numbered excluding the cover page. The cover page must include venture name and university affiliation. Judges are instructed NOT to read plans that do not adhere to this structure.
To review, here are the required elements and their page limits:
- Cover Page— one page
- Table of Contents— one page
- Executive Summary— two pages
- Body of Plan— 10 pages
- Appendices and Exhibits— six pages
Some additional guidelines regarding content include:
- Financial data should include pertinent cash flow, income statement, and balance sheet details.
- If equity is part of the offering, delineate the exit strategies.
- Appendices should be included only when they support the findings, statements, and observations in the plan.
The tracks are a 15-minute presentation and a 15-minute Q&A. The finals are a 15-minute presentation and a 20-minute Q&A.
Each team needs to supply its own PC-compatible laptop computer and is responsible for assuring it works with the provided audio-visual equipment in advance of their presentation.
Teams requiring non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) should not participate.
All sessions of the competition are open to the public and may be broadcast to interested persons through media which may include radio, television, and the Internet.
Any data or information discussed or divulged throughout the competition should be considered information that will enter the public domain.
The University of Louisville and the organizer of Cardinal Challenge may make photocopies, photographs, video recordings, and/or audio recordings of the presentations including the business plan and other documents, charts, media, or other material prepared for use in presentation at Cardinal Challenge.
The above entities may use the materials in any book or other printed materials and any videotape or other medium that they may produce provided that any profits earned from the sale of such items are used by these entities solely to defray the costs of future Cardinal Challenge competitions. These entities have non-exclusive world rights in all languages and in all media to use or to publish the materials in any book, other printed materials, videotapes, or other medium and to use the materials in future editions thereof and derivative products.
Rule and Guideline Violation Reporting Process
Adherence to the rules and guidelines set forth in this document is critical to the success and credibility of Cardinal Challenge and all affiliated competitions. To that end, Cardinal Challenge has set up a due diligence process:
- All teams (along with individual members and faculty advisors) must attest to conforming to all rules and guidelines.
- Competition directors, as hosts of affiliated competitions, are charged as the first line of screening participating teams and completing a thorough review of any potential issues. Suspected violations and infractions will be reported directly to the Rules and Guidelines Committee through the submission of the Post Competition Report.
- Individual faculty advisors may bring to the attention of competition directors questions regarding potential rules and guideline violations. It is the responsibility of the competition director to complete a timely review of the issue and report any suspected violations.
- All reported issues will be reviewed and if deemed necessary penalties will be imposed upon the identified team.
Thank you for your interest in the Cardinal Challenge. The 2023 Cardinal Challenge will be held July 27-28. For the first time, the Cardinal Challenge will feature all UofL teams from our Innovation MBA and Global MBA programs. The Cardinal Challenge is accepting external applications.
Teams interested in competing must notify the below contacts or submit by June 1, 2023. Any questions regarding the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge may be directed to the BFCC Director, Bobby Garrett (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator, Paula Sacher (email@example.com).