Eligibility Requirements

Please read the eligibility requirements below in full before registering for the competition.

Student Enrollment & Team Composition

For all categories, teams may include both Johns Hopkins University students (undergraduate, graduate and/or post-docs) and non-JHU affiliates; however, at least one team member must meet BOTH of the following requirements:

  • Be a current part-time, full-time, or Postdoctoral student of any of the nine divisions of Johns Hopkins University at any point during the current academic year.
  • Be a member of the venture’s startup management team.

All categories are open to entries from any division of Johns Hopkins and members of teams can span more than one division of the university.

Team Size

Teams may be any size, but must include at least one student that meets the requirements outlined for Student Enrollment and Team Composition. Only eight members of a team may register for the event, though additional team members can assist with preparing the business plan in Stage 1 of the competition. Read more about how to add additional team members to your team’s LivePlan account here: https://hopstart.jhu.edu/registration-guidelines/.


Non-students may be members of the venture‚Äôs management team and may participate in planning the venture. Non-student team members are welcome to participate in all rounds of HopStart. Faculty advisers or other team mentors are encouraged to attend, but cannot participate in pitching their team’s venture.

Multiple Entries

Teams may submit an unlimited number of entries within one or more categories. If teams submit entries in more than one category, they must ensure that at least one eligible student team member will be available to participate in the Final Presentation Round in each category. The Final Presentations may occur simultaneously.

Outside Funding

All ventures must be seeking outside equity capital (typically early stage venture investment or early stage angel investment).

Student Involvement

The competition is for student-created and student-managed ventures, including new ventures launched through the licensing of university technology. Students are expected to:

  1. Be the driving force behind the new venture,
  2. Have played the primary role in developing the business plan,
  3. Have key management roles in the venture, and
  4. Own significant equity in the venture.

Nature of Ventures

The competition is for new, independent ventures in the seed, start-up, or early growth stages. Generally excluded are the following: buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, 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 they have not been commercialized previously.

Prior Activity

Teams that have placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in past Johns Hopkins University Business Plan or HopStart Competitions are not eligible to compete again with the same concept.

Venture Status

Ventures must be pre-profit and have less than $25,000 in outside investment funding as of August 2022. Ventures that have raised equity capital from sources other than the members of the student team or their friends and families before the current academic year, i.e., before August 2022 that exceeds $25,000, are excluded. However, both student and other team members may have worked on an idea or new technology in previous academic years or in the case of the student team members even prior to entering Johns Hopkins University, provided that their venture had no revenues and raised no outside equity capital prior to the current academic year.


HopStart Final Presentations will take place on Friday, April 28, 2023 on the Homewood Campus. Competitors must attend in person to pitch their ventures to judges. Winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony directly following the Final Presentation Round.

Required Forms

Finalists are required to complete the Team Prize Distribution Form. All team members are required to submit a Vendor Setup Form. If the venture has been incorporated and has received an EIN, one form may be filled out if the team wishes for the prize monies to be directed to the business rather than the individual team members. Members who are not Johns Hopkins University students must also submit an individual Form W-9 or W-8 EC and Photo Release Waiver. No prizes will be awarded without the necessary forms on file with the Center for Leadership Education.

Teams have full control over the distribution of prize money. Prizes are awarded through Hopkins’ vendor payment process and prize recipients receive 1099s in January for tax purposes. This is important to keep in mind when deciding on how your team’s prize money will be distributed.