Rules for 2021 Inc.U Competition

Rules Summary

There are only three steps to participate in the competition (subject to the details presented here):

  • Determine your eligibility by assuring that your business is based on an original idea and that the team is at least 50% owned by Penn State full-time undergraduate students.
  • Develop a 2.5-minute video and submit that link on the Entry Form.
  • If selected as a top-six competitor, prepare and present your presentation.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or for help.


Team size is not limited, but all team members must fulfill a critical role in the company, and the top six winning “live” pitch competition companies will be limited to two presenters maximum (due in part to the short pitch time).

Full-time Student Status

Inc.U is open to all full-time Penn State students, who are defined for purposes of this competition as undergraduate students enrolled and in good standing in faculty-approved courses with a minimum of 12 credits per semester during the fall 2020 and/or spring 2021 semester (2020/2021 academic year) and attend one of the Penn State campuses within the state of Pennsylvania or otherwise have their business located in Pennsylvania.

Minimum 50% Undergraduate Student Ownership

At all times during the competition, 50% of any team must be owned by full-time undergraduate students as defined for purposes of this competition.

Original Work Representation

Each student, and collectively each student business team participating in the Inc.U competitions, through participation warrants that the idea they are presenting is original work. Further, each student and student business team attests that they are not in violation of any contract or third-party rights, including patent, copyright, trade secret, proprietary or confidential information, trademark, publicity, or privacy right.

Pitch Contest Rules

Entry Form and Deadline

Teams are required to submit an online Entry Form. The Entry Form, in addition to team contact information and agreement with the competition’s rules and procedures, also includes a release allowing Inc.U and its organizers to use photographs, videos, and materials presented during the pitch as promotional materials.

The deadline to submit an Entry Form is Monday, February 8, 2021, at midnight (ET). Entry is deemed to be made by submitting a completed Entry Form together with a working link to an accessible pitch video.

All declarations made on the application are subject to review.

Initial Round

A maximum of 10 student companies may be selected, based solely on a video that presents the company’s business, to advance to the final video review round. The video must be initially submitted with the Entry Form by way of a valid, accessible, and working link to a downloadable or streaming video that does not exceed 2.5 minutes. The video may be updated at any time through the initial application deadline. All submissions should be confirmed with Inc.U coordinators to assure receipt, as Inc.U is not responsible for transmission errors.

No monetary awards will be made for the Initial Round.

Final Selection Round

The Final Selection Round of the competition will be made based on the attributes described in the Judging Criteria below. Up to 10 finalists may be interviewed via video conference by Inc.U judges to determine the six television show round companies that will be given the opportunity to compete in the taping of the WPSU-TV show called “The Investment.”  These student companies will then compete for a pool of investment dollars.  No equity in the student business will be required to receive an award.

Television Show Round

The Television Show Round is a live, Shark Tank–like pitch competition where a maximum of two team members from each student team will have 2.5 minutes to deliver their pitch. Teams will not be allowed to use notes or continue after the allotted time has expired.  A limited amount of slides, props, and prototypes will be allowed. Judges will have five minutes following the pitch to question team members. The judges have complete discretion to award the total investment pool to any, all, or none of the competitors. The total award pool is yet to be determined, but it is anticipated to be $30,000 or greater. In the event of limitations due to COVID-19, we will pivot to virtual taping. “The Investment” 2020 was done via Zoom and can be watched here.

Judging Criteria for All Rounds

Judges will initially and generally evaluate student presentations based on the overall goal of the Inc.U program, which is to promote the establishment of operating businesses and job opportunities.

Specific judging criteria to assess achieving these goals include:

  • problem definition, market attributes, scalability, revenue model, and the uniqueness, viability, and product-customer fit of the solution
  • the team progress, pace, milestones plan, and credibility based on accessible assets
  • explanation and justification for use of funds
  • presentation quality, clarity, and inspiration
  • Judges will independently score each team, then collaborate on all decisions. All decisions of the judges are final.

Investment Payment Procedures

  • Company Status: All teams requesting their awarded investment payment, at the time of the request, must be a registered company authorized to do business in the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Procedure: All investment awards must be requested by Friday, April 30, 2021, on a form provided for such purpose that requires a general summary of the ordinary and necessary expenses the award investment will be used to finance. In addition, a company W-9 form will be required.  All award requests and payments shall be:
    • initially submitted to the Penn State Inc.U coordinator
    • made out in the business’s name and forwarded using the business’s contact details

In the case of any dispute, the decision of the Inc.U coordinator shall be deemed final.


There is no entry fee to participate.

No equity position in the student company is required for any Inc.U cash award.

Students retain all rights to the materials created and the materials and ideas presented at all Inc.U competitions. Student teams should, however, carefully assess the applicability of all intellectual property rights and laws to any and all presentations and disclosures made regarding their business as a result of participation in any activity related to any Inc.U competition.