I had an excellent Friday and Saturday last week at the Rice University 2008 Business Plan Competition, a reminder for me that some scientists and some ideas make great new businesses. I have to say that because I so often state that the idea is an overvalued component of a new business (compared to the implementation), and that wasn’t the case with some of these. More on that some other time.

As part of that competition, in a judges’ meeting before it started, Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship managing director Brad Burke shared the following list of questions to ask about a new venture:

  1. Is there a real need? What problem is being solved?
  2. Is the market big? Will customers pay for this?
  3. Is there sustainable, significant differentiation?
  4. Is there IP (patents)? Exclusive license?
  5. Are members of the team committed to launch this business?
  6. Strong management team? Are gaps understood?
  7. Are the timelines, milestones, capital needs and financials realistic? Is there an exit in five to seven years?

The context Friday morning was judges looking at business plans, but I asked Burke for permission to share this because it’s a good list for anybody to use.

And while I seem to be on the theme of business plan competitions–I posted about one here Friday; there are a lot of them in April, and I’ll be judging at the University of Oregon this week and the University of Texas at the end of the month. I posted about the Forbes $100,000 business plan contest for existing companies over at Business in General. Forbes is accepting applications now through the end of May.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.