Business Plan Competition FAQs

What is the purpose of the Business Plan Competition?

To encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation within the District of Columbia and to make entrepreneurs aware of the District’s Certified Capital Company (“CAPCO”) Program.

What is the CAPCO Program?

The District’s Certified Capital Company (“CAPCO”) Program is a successful effort by the District of Columbia to increase private capital investment for new or expanding small businesses.  The CAPCO model, which has been enacted in the District and a number of states, combines private-sector expertise in identifying, evaluating and financing businesses with the public sector’s interest in a stronger local economy.  The District’s CAPCO investment funds – which are called “CAPCOs” – are managed by professional venture capitalists, stimulate the creation of high-wage jobs, and provide an incentive to retain, expand, and attract a wide range of businesses. Since the start of the District’s program in 2004, CAPCOs have exceeded expectations for deployment of CAPCO funds.  It is important to distinguish the District’s CAPCO Program from a grant program; CAPCOs make investments – not grants – into qualifying businesses.  As such, only the most competitive businesses that meet the program’s qualifications are able to receive investment via the DC CAPCO Program.

Is the District the only place with a CAPCO Program?

No.  Eight other states have CAPCO Programs, including states where the program has been renewed multiple several times.

How can terms and agreements of a CAPCO investment be structured? (i.e. structure of equity or debt)?

Under the rules of the CAPCO program, CAPCOs are allowed to utilize a wide variety of deal structures and will propose the one that best fits the risk/reward profile of a particular investment. The specific terms are negotiated between the CAPCO and the potential investment on a case-by-case basis.

Who can participate in the Business Plan Competition?

Anyone 18 or older, including students, may participate.

Do I have to be a District resident to participate in the Business Plan Competition?

No, but the business submitted must be based in the District of Columbia.

Why must a business demonstrate that it has been operational for at least one year?

The requirement that a business be operational for at least one year is designed to reward entrepreneurs who have already done the hard work of formally organizing a business and to measure entrepreneurial results from at least a year of operations.

Why must a business must certify that it has attempted and failed to obtain conventional financing, as evidenced by a letter from a financial institution asserting that it considered and declined the business’ request for conventional financing?

The District’s CAPCO Program was enacted to fulfill the City Council’s intent of growing local businesses and generating significant economic development for the District.  The program was specifically designed to not compete with other existing sources of capital, especially commercial banks, and to address the needs of entrepreneurs who have trouble obtaining traditional financing for promising businesses.  The District’s CAPCO Program rules require that in order for a business to receive funding via the CAPCO Program, that business must first demonstrate that it has attempted and failed to receive funding from a traditional source.  A letter from a bank stating that, after a review of the business’ financials and business plan, it has declined to provide the requested funding is satisfactory.

What will the judges focus on?

Judges will review all information submitted in connection with each application, but those businesses that demonstrate growth potential – as demonstrated by potential to hire employees and expand operations within the District – will be viewed more favorably.

Is there a limit on team size?

No.  Teams of any size may submit a business plan.

May a business plan be submitted that has been submitted to another business plan competition?


May a business plan be submitted that has received institutional, angel, or other financing already?


Can I submit an application without being on a team?


Can a business plan enhance an existing, revenue generating business?


Can an existing business offer a plan for an entirely new business strategy?


Do proposals have to focus on certain industries?

No. Business plans may be submitted for any type of business, except – per the District’s rules for the CAPCO Program – those that can be performed by attorneys, accountants, and physicians.

What if I have never written a business plan?

Now is good time to start.  A business plan demonstrates that you have thought through the critical issues related to launching a business.  The following three Business Plan Competition workshops are designed to help entrepreneurs strengthen their business plans:

Business Plan Competition Orientation/How to Write Your Business Plan

April 5, 2011 | 9:30 – 11:00 am
Venable LLP, 575 7th Street, NW, Eighth Floor, Washington, DC

Developing Your Financial Plan
April 15, 2011 | 9:30 – 11:00 am
Venable LLP, 575 7th Street, NW, Eighth Floor, Washington, DC
Register Here

Presenting Your Business Plan to Investors
April 20, 2011| 9:30 – 11:00 am
Venable LLP, 575 7th Street, NW, Eighth Floor, Washington, DC
Register Here

What else can I do to strengthen my business plan?

In addition to the aforementioned workshops, the WDCEP encourages all applicants to attend on-going training and business plan development sessions held by our partner organizations listed below:

Can I look at other business plans submitted for this competition?

No.  All business plans submitted to the competition are considered confidential.

Can I learn about previous competition winners?

Yes.  Click to see last year’s winner

Who is judging the oral presentations of the finalists?

Judges for the Business Plan Competition include individuals from the government, venture capital, business and university communities.

Can I submit a business plan if I have had contact with an organization with which a judge is affiliated?

Yes.  However, you will risk disqualification if you attempt to approach a judge, or have someone do that on your behalf, specifically in connection with the Business Plan Competition.

Will the judges sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)?

Business Plan Competition judges will sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in connection with performing their duties for this competition.  It is also the applicants’ responsibility to protect their intellectual property. Judges agree not to initiate a professional relationship with individuals who have an active application in the competition.  If a personal or professional relationship exists, judges will be responsible for notifying competition management and shall refrain from discussion and voting on active applications. An application is considered active until the judges have made a decision about it or until it has been withdrawn by the applicant.

What if my/our situation changes after submitting an application but before judging is completed?

Inform the WDCEP of any significant changes by email  as soon as you learn of them.  These include receiving financing from another outside source, a change in business focus or plans, and/or other material events.

What if I/we have to withdraw from the competition after filing an application?

Inform the WDCEP by email as soon as possible. This is especially important so that the Business Plan Competition’s volunteer judges do not spend time evaluating a proposal that is no longer active. Only the principal applicant listed on the application may withdraw an application from the competition.

Will I get feedback on my plan?

No.  Unfortunately, judges will not have time to provide individual comment on each proposal.

Will the WDCEP return my plan after the competition is over?

No.  For record keeping, the WDCEP has the option to retain a single copy of each plan submitted.  The WDCEP will endeavor to collect and destroy all other copies after judging has been completed.

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