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Competition Rules

2017 Liftoff Houston Competition Rules & Eligibility 
Effective as of June 7, 2017

1.    SPONSOR: 
The City of Houston 2017 Liftoff Houston Business Plan Competition (the “Contest”) is sponsored by Capital One Bank (hereafter “Sponsor” or “Capital One Bank”).

The City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity (OBO) and the Houston Public Library (HPL) are the administrators for the competition.

Startup businesses only - defined as (A) an individual or team (up to 3 individuals) with a business idea/ plan and no provable operational business, or (B) an original, established business entity less than one year old (as demonstrated by name filing with the county, state, and/or federal government after June 7, 2016) that has received gross revenue of less than or equal to $10,000 in the tax year as of June 7, 2017.    
Contestant is defined as a startup business with an individual or team of no more than four individuals. Each contestant must:
  • Have a valid resident and mailing address within the City of Houston city limits.
  • Have individuals that are 17 years of age or older as of June 7, 2017. 
  • Have individuals with a valid resident and mailing address with in the eight county areas (Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery, & Waller).  
  • Have individuals that are legal U.S. residents or citizens. Documentation may be required for any and all finalists. Birth certificates, passports or green cards are acceptable forms of documentation, and must be supplied to Administrator upon request. 
  • Have individuals with a valid “My Link” Houston Public Library Card* that is in good standing before submitting their Liftoff Houston application.
  • Have individuals that attend an orientation.
  • Be an original new business with no prior existence under another name.
  • Have a designated Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
  • *Individuals applying for a library card online will receive a temporary 7 digit library card number. A permanent library card number must be updated prior to submission of the business plan for continued eligibility in the competition.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is defined as the primary managing owner for the startup business. The CEO must:
  • Be the owner of the startup business with a valid resident and mailing address within the City of Houston city limits.
  • Be primary managing owner with majority equity share ownership of the business idea, plan, or existing business.
  • Be the main point of contact for the business startup.
  • The person in whose name the startup business is legally registered to and/or will be registered to.
If the CEO is no longer a part of the competition, the startup business will need to select an existing individual already within the startup that can meet the requirements to be the new CEO. If the startup business does not have an existing individual that meets the requirements of CEO the startup business is no longer eligible to compete.

Existing business locations must have their principle place of business located and operated within the City of Houston city limits. Existing businesses without a separate, non-home based physical location must list the resident address of the CEO as its principle place of business.

All contestants will be screened for ineligibility throughout the competition and will be notified of their ineligibility upon discovery of ineligibility. Ineligible classifications of contestants include:
  • Current employees or their immediate family members of the City of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity, Houston Public Library, and Capital One Bank.
  • Previous Liftoff Houston winners.
  • Contestants with a CEO that has residency outside the City of Houston city limits.
  • Establishing prior to June 7, 2016 (as determined by age of name registration from the county, state, and/or federal government).
  • Having greater than $10,000 in gross revenue as of June 7, 2017.
  • Sexually oriented, illegal, franchised, or nonprofit businesses.
  • Possession of a felony or related convictions on their record.
  • No valid “My Link” Houston Public Library Card* and a card that is not in good standing.
  • Not being able to fulfill requirements of the competition including activities, tasks and event dates.
  • *Individuals applying for a library card online will receive a temporary 7 digit library card number. A permanent library card number must be updated prior to submission of the business plan for continued eligibility in the competition.
For questions on ineligibility contact Liftoff Houston Administrators for more information.

Contestants must notify Liftoff Houston of any felony or related conviction on the contestant’s record. Each situation will be looked at on a case by case bases. Some felony and/or convictions are not eligible for this competition. 

An individual cannot enter more than once, nor can a startup business, enter more than once. 

All communication will be conducted with the CEO primarily through the designated email provided by the contestant startup business. Contestants must have a verifiable, working email address. Liftoff Houston is not responsible for contestant email accounts that aren’t compatible with the Liftoff Houston email system. If a contestant’s email account is not compatible with the Liftoff Houston email system then it is the contestant’s responsibility to report it immediately or before the application submission deadline (July 5, 2017 at 2:00PM) of the competition. Contestants can contact Liftoff Houston Administrators for any questions or concerns through the Liftoff Houston email at It is the contestant’s responsibility to alert Administrators of any changes in email addresses or technical issues. 
Contestants are required to complete the Liftoff Houston application. All questions on the Liftoff Houston application must be filled out and completed with accurate, truthful and current information. The application will be due July 5, 2017, at 2:00PM. The application is located online at The application should be completed and submitted by the Contestant’s team leader and should list all other team members, including their information, in the appropriate fields.

Orientations will cover the competition summary, requirements, and judging process and are mandatory for all applicants. Contestants are required to have attended an orientation. Attendance will be recorded.

10.    WORKSHOPS: 
A series of workshops will be offered at designated Liftoff Houston locations. Contestants must attend all six (6) of the workshops categories offered.   Each workshop will be offered three times throughout the competition. Attendance will be taken. Contestants are required to complete the evaluation form on the Liftoff Houston website after attending a workshop to receive credit for attending the workshops.

11.    RSVP:
Contestants are required to RSVP for workshops prior to attending. Seating is limited therefore RSVP is important to insure appropriate seating is available. Contestants that fail to RSVP prior to attending workshops will not be given credit for attendance. RSVP’s are submitted through the Liftoff Houston website,

Attendance will be required for all stages of the competition which include - Orientation, Workshops, Mentoring and Pitch.   Attendance will be recorded. Attendance is defined as arriving to the designated Liftoff Houston event no later than fifteen (15) minutes. Contestants that arrive later than fifteen (15) minutes to the event will not receive credit for attendance and will lose their reserved seating.  Contestants that have missed an event due to extreme emergencies will need to contact the Liftoff Houston staff and the attendance will be decided on a case by case determination.  

13.    MENTOR: 
Contestants are required to attend three mentor sessions with a Liftoff Houston business mentor and one session with a Liftoff Houston financial mentor. Contestants are required to have a completed “Liftoff Houston Mentor Form” (available on the Liftoff Houston website, signed by the mentor they visited within their session as proof of their attendance for the mentor session. Procedure: make an appointment, download and print the form, attend the mentor session, then have it signed by the Mentor. 

Contestant business plans must be submitted electronically in PDF or word format to the Liftoff Houston website, no later than October 6, 2017 at 2:00 PM. Business plans submitted after the deadline will not be accepted. Paper copies will not be accepted. Submissions received will be confirmed with an email notification. Contestants that are selected as finalists must pitch this submitted business plan in order to compete for prize awards.

15.    DISPUTES:
Contestants, ineligible contestants, and disqualified contestants must first submit a dispute request through the Liftoff Houston email, to dispute a claim. Liftoff Houston administrators will respond to the dispute request in a timely manner. It is strongly suggested that the Contestant wishing to dispute a claim email a dispute request immediately upon recognition of the claim. Dispute requests not made in a reasonable timeframe may not be able to be resolved due to the timeline of the competition.

16.    FINALISTS: 
Finalists will be selected from the contestants that submitted business plans. Finalists must present at the Pitch Day event on Friday, November 3, 2017, otherwise they are ineligible to continue. Finalists pitch teams must include individuals included in the application. Finalists will be asked to provide additional information to accredit their application and startup business information. The information can range from a driver’s license to federal tax return. A background check will be conducted on all finalists.

Prize money will be awarded to the winning finalists (contestants) to fund their business. The winning contestants must have a legally established business entity (i.e. registered as an LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, LLC Partnership, etc., have a Federal Employer Identification Number), and have an active bank business account tied to the business with an acceptable financial institution prior to receiving the prize money and are required to provide documentation. Establishment as a legal business entity or having an active bank business account are not required to compete in the competition, but will be required if a Contestant is determined a winner.   Prize money will be directly written to the legal name of the business entity. Please note that these awards are taxable.
Winners are required to 
  • Submit social security number and/or comparable form of legal documentation before prize money is issued.
  • Accept and sign the Award Prize Agreement.
  • Document how the prize money will be used in their business plans and fulfill the utilization of prize money as set forth within their business plan and budget.
  • Spend all their prize money within the year of issuance. 
  • Submit a quarterly financial report showing the allocation and use of the prize money. Liftoff Houston staff may ask for additional documentation such as receipts, invoices, or information about purchases. 
  • Continuously meet with Liftoff Houston's advisor/ mentor at least once a month to keep the business plan moving forward and to be able to provide guidance for the business.

The cash prize awarded represents the total financial amount authorized under terms of the agreement, and will be used for purposed related to the successful implementation of the winning business plan.

Award Prize Agreement is an agreement between Liftoff Houston and the winners in the disbursement of the cash prize award. This agreement goes over the requirements and responsibility of receiving the money and continuing the relationship with Liftoff Houston.

This document, Contest Rules and Eligibility, is a legal and binding document. Your submission of a Liftoff Houston application indicates you have read, understand and accept the rules and eligibility set forth. Violation of any one or multiple rules for eligibility may result in disqualification from the competition at any point of the discovery of the violation. Organizers of Liftoff Houston reserve the right to disqualify applicants from the competition for other reasons as deemed necessary by the organizers.

Recognizing that entrants may be concerned about the confidentiality of their business plans, the plans will not be copied for any purpose other than the competition. The short description of your business will be considered a "public summary" of your plan and may be used in public documentation related to the competition. While all reasonable measures will be taken to ensure the protection of intellectual property and preserve the confidentiality of each submission, the City of Houston cannot take further responsibility to protect the intellectual property or other rights of each contestant. Protection of such rights is ultimately the responsibility of each contestant.

After the competition, all contestants will be asked to volunteer to continue utilizing the Liftoff Houston website to keep in contact with the City of Houston for continued access and awareness of to business resources and to provide updates and progress of their business plan and business. Winners are required to provide updates and progress of their startup business to the City of Houston after the completion of the competition. The information collected by the City of Houston will be used for economic research towards small business development.

Throughout the course of the competition adjustments and updates may be necessary. Liftoff Houston Administrators reserve the right to make these changes.  Notifications shall be emailed to the Contestant. Changes could include new locations, dates and times, extension of deadlines, or program procedures.

All individuals in attendance at Liftoff Houston activities may be videotaped and/or photographed.

This competition is generously brought to you by Capital One Bank, Houston Public Library Foundation, Houston Public Library and Office of Business Opportunity