• The Effectual De-Risking Competition is based on the principles of effectuation, and requires students to demonstrate that they have taken steps to de-risk their idea. De-risking is a process expert entrepreneurs undergo after they have conceived of their idea, but before they invest significant time and money into the venture. The Effectual De-Risking Competition focuses students on this critical junction in the business formation process. 

    Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati

    • Any team with an undergraduate or graduate student currently enrolled in a degree program at UVA may enter the competition. Faculty, staff, and alumni are encouraged to participate by providing advice or mentoring and can be listed as team members.
    • Note that "new business ventures" excludes business ventures that have placed in this competition in a previous academic year or have participated in the Darden Business Incubator.
    • Teams may not compete if their concept has generated more than $75K in revenue, is/was part of another venture, or raised funding other than from the team members.
    • Concepts based entirely on externally funded research may not compete but new applications of UVA funded research may compete. In order to compete, participants must have legal access to, ownership of, or written permission from the owners of the technology they are presenting.
    • Only current UVA students may participate in the team's presentation including Q&A.


    • Submission Deadline: Monday, 9 February 2015 at the competition's You Noodle site.
    • Finals: Thursday, 19 February, 2015 with reception and announcement of competition winners to follow.


    Your submission should include the following:

    3-5 page paper (see Judging Criteria for information on what to cover in your submission)Submissions may follow this suggested template.

    Contact Information: 

    • Name of team captain and team members      
    • Address 
    • Telephone Number 
    •  Email Address 

      Note: Finalists will present their findings with a 10-15 slide Powerpoint presentation to be visual and story-oriented.


    Judging Criteria

    Competition submissions should address the questions below.  Submissions will be judged on these criteria using this Scoring Sheet.    

    1. What do you know about this business? Who do you know? Bird-in-Hand Principle of Effectuation

    Examples: Do you have experience in these markets, do you understand the production and sales/distribution of the product? Have you been able to get experts in the field who know the markets intimately to commit to supporting you as advisors (specifically what time, resources have they committed), thereby confirming your vision for the business and avoiding the problems only people intimately familiar with the sector can anticipate.  Have you built a board of advisors?

    2.  What evidence do you have that a customer wants your product? Crazy Quilt Principle of Effectuation

    Examples: Specifically what have customers committed to you indicating that they truly want your product? Commitment to use the prototype or beta? Money in the form of a pre purchase or purchase order? Following or "Likes, Connections, or Friends" on social media platforms?

    3.  Have you been able to get people who have a vested interest in your success to commit something to helping you succeed "Skin-in-the-game"? Crazy Quilt Principle of Effectuation

    Examples: Customers help you create/simulate your prototype or product, vendors agree to hold inventory for you, agree to give you advantageous payment terms, commit resources to design/manufacture your product in exchange for equity, etc.

    4.  Have you shown your ability to "pivot," incorporating information into the concept? Describe the original idea and how/why it has evolved.  What did you learn that you didn't know? Lemonade Principle of Effectuation

    5. "Managing risk like a seasoned entrepreneur means making decisions based on acceptable downside rather than guesses about upside potential." How well have you determined how much you really need to start your business? What are you really able and willing to lose? Have you made the cost of initial failure and iteration affordable? Affordable Loss Principle of Effectuation

    6.  Have you demonstrated your ability to take an unexpected and possibly negative event (i.e. an employee who fails to deliver or a technical shortcoming) and turn it into an asset? Explain how that happened. Lemonade Principle of Effectuation

    You may uncover new de-risking strategies as you go through the effectual de-risking process. If you do, articulate them in your submission.

    First Prize:                

    • $3,000
    • $5,000 in-kind legal services*

    Second Prize:         

    • $1,500
    • $3,000 in-kind legal services*

    Third Prize:              

    • $   500
    • $2,000 in-kind legal services*

    *In-kind legal services are provided by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a premier provider of legal services to technology, life sciences and growth enterprises worldwide. Legal services around starting up and formation are eligible (whereas patent forming is not). Competition winners will work directly with an assigned Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati representative to redeem the award and determine which services are eligible. 

    Payments: Unless otherwise specified, the entire payment will be made directly to the team captain.  To split payments between team members or send to a business entity, please contact the competition organizer for more information.


    Advice for Students Who Receive Financial Aid from the University of Virginia

    Please note that if you are a Darden or UVA student who receives financial aid, any award you win could impact your loan package (unless you are incorporated and plan to receive the award through that entity). If you plan to compete in one or more of these competitions at Darden or at other schools, and you receive financial aid, please speak with Susan Loduha, Director of Financial Aid at Darden ( or +1-434-924-4784), or your school's financial aid advisor, prior to the competition. 


    How to Create a Great Slide Deck: