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 travel with 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 (4th ) page.
- Under “Business Plan Review” (below)- For Cardinal Challenge the first round judges will read the entire business plan.
- Under “Presentation Rules” (below)- As an early season competition, Cardinal Challenge presentation format is 15-minutes uninterrupted presentation followed by 15-minutes Q&A.
- Cardinal Challenge will pay awards directly to the team’s legally formed entity or the team’s home University. To receive payment the proper Vendor Survey and W9 forms must be completely and accurately filled out.
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 is 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 other 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 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; teams with a minority of undergraduates can compete. 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.
Any team participating in an undergraduate competition, regardless of team re-configuration, is disqualified from the competition.
The competition is for students currently enrolled in graduate school. Executive or evening program formats are eligible in the next competition season following their graduation if they did not graduate on a traditional (month of May) graduation schedule.
Exceptions will be made for students who both formed their business venture for academic credit and graduated during the preceding summer and for students from universities south of the equator not having a traditional (month of May) graduation time frame.
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 2020-2021 academic year, you are not eligible to compete in the 2021 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 and its affiliated competitions are 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. All bids to participate in a competition are accepted by the sponsoring university. 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 must be seeking outside equity capital thus it is expected that their business plan and presentation will be investor ready.
Ventures and their base concepts may compete for only one season in the Cardinal Challenge and affiliated competitions. If your venture competed in any competition prior to the 2020-2021 academic year, you are not eligible to compete in the 2021 Cardinal Challenge. Ventures that have generated revenue or raised working/equity capital from sources other than the members of the student team or their immediate friends and family before the current academic year are excluded. Cardinal Challenge reserves the right to request copies of any funding agreements.
University Sponsorship and Faculty Adviser 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. All universities with participating teams are strongly encouraged to send faculty or other university advisers to the competition.
Bids to Cardinal Challenge must be accepted by a team’s faculty adviser. The faculty adviser must, on behalf of the sponsoring university, attest to the eligibility of the team, their adherence to the rules and guidelines and acknowledge potential penalties for violations and infractions.
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 e.g. Trade Shows, Elevator Pitches and will not be allowed to attend any closed sessions.
Any team participating in an undergraduate competition, regardless of team re-configuration, is automatically disqualified from Cardinal Challenge.
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 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 advisers.
- 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. Students in Certificate Programs or Post-docs are specifically excluded from Cardinal Challenge. We encourage executive education or evening school students to participate in the competition. Students in an executive or evening school program who graduate between September and May of the current academic year are eligible to compete in that academic year’s competitions. Students in these programs that graduate from June to August may opt to compete in competitions in the following academic year. Such students are not allowed however to compete at competitions in multiple academic years using the same plan.
Exceptions will be made for students who both formed their business venture for academic credit and graduated during the preceding summer and for students from universities not having a traditional graduation time frame.
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 applies 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 applies 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 20 minute Q&A.
Teams may not observe other teams present in their division until after they have presented their own plan.
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 may videotape or record their own presentations but cannot do the same for other competition teams without the express written release of all team members and the attending faculty adviser.
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 is 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.
Dropping Out of a Competition
If at any time a team withdraws or does not compete in a competition after accepting a participation bid, the team and university will be subject to disqualification from competing in Cardinal Challenge and any other affiliated competitions for that year and the following year – a two-year ban. All violations will be reported to the Competition Directors Committee by the subject Competition Director with documentation of the violation.
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 advisers 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 advisers 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 and its sponsoring university.
The 2021 Cardinal Challenge will be held virtually on February 17-19, 2021. Twelve teams will be selected to compete in the 2021 Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge.
Deadline to apply:
January 22, 2021, at Noon (EST)
Failure to complete any of the steps outlined in the online application may disqualify your team from consideration.
Any questions regarding 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).