Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible to participate?
Any class of 2021 or 2022 MICA undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni of degree programs are eligible to participate. Please visit the Eligibility and Criteria page for additional information.
I’m an online student. Can I participate?
If you are enrolled in a MICA degree program and are starting a business in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region, you are welcome to participate. You must be able to virtually participate in Round 1's ‘Pop Up and Pitch’ on November 19. Those who advance to the final round of the competition must present on April 12.
How about international students?
Business activities and persons involved in the operation of a business must comply with all immigration, labor and other laws such as tax law. International students are welcome to participate and receive feedback but are ineligible to receive funding until after OPT is valid. It will also be the responsibility of the student to seek legal assistance to discuss visa compliance during and after OPT.
Can non-MICA students participate?
This competition is open to MICA students/alumni only. The team lead must be a 2021/2022 MICA student or alum and meet the competition eligibility, but ventures may include non-MICA team members.
Do I need an established business to compete?
No, you can be in the ideation phase or be operational.
Is the competition only open to certain industries or ideas?
All businesses and ideas are welcome to compete and will be judged on their individual merit.
My idea is a nonprofit. Can I participate?
Only for profit businesses/ideas are eligible to advance and compete for funding. Nonprofits are welcome to participate in Round 1 to receive judges’ feedback.
Can I compete for funding without doing the ‘pop up and pitch?’
No, the 15 participants selected by the judges for the Round 1 (‘Pop Up and Pitch’) on November 19 must participate in order to qualify for Round 2 and compete for up to $100k in funding.
Do I have to attend Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship programs in order to participate in UP/Start?
No, however, events and programs will provide valuable information and advice from guest speakers that may be helpful as you develop your business idea.
Can I participate in this year’s competition if I competed last year and did not win?
Yes. Only previous winners awarded funding are ineligible to compete again.
Is there a minimum or maximum number of team members required?
No, you can compete solo or as a team with as many team members as you’d like. The team lead must meet the competition eligibility and be active and equal in the project.
What is the prize?
We will award $100k total in funding, courtesy of the Ratcliffe Foundation, to divide between winning teams as scored by a panel of judges. Round 1 and 2 also include prizes of $500 and $5000, respectively, to the People's Choice Awards.
How many teams will advance to the final round of the competition?
The top 8 teams selected by a panel of judges will advance from Round 1 and compete for a portion of $100k in funding. Non-qualifying teams will still receive Round 1 feedback from judges so they can refine their business ideas.
Is there an application fee? How long does it take to apply?
No, there is no fee to apply. The application consists of approximately 30 questions to complete and a 2 minute video pitch, which are part of the scoring process by the judges.
Where do I apply?
Why should I participate?
All participants will receive personalized feedback on their business/idea from local successful entrepreneurs and industry experts. This is a free, unique opportunity for MICA students and alumni to launch their ideas with the opportunity to win a portion of $100k in funding.
Where can I find additional resources to help me build my plan?
Do I have to pay taxes on this grant funding?
Awards payments are subject to U.S. and state income tax laws, and the payment of the award may be tax reportable. Grant recipients are responsible for reporting stipend payments to the proper taxing authorities, and are liable for any tax payments that may be due.
Is the competition in person, virtual, or a hybrid?
Due to COVID-19, the 2022 competition will be entirely virtual. This includes both rounds of the competition, weekly cohort meetings, and mentor meetings.
About the UP/Start Venture Competition:
The UP/Start Venture Competition, an initiative of The Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship, focuses on incubating and building creative business ventures within the MICA community. Working with industry partners, the UP/Start Venture Competition provides mentorship and capital to help nurture venture ideas into sustainable businesses. The competition is only open to Classes of 2021 and 2022 students/alumni. This year's competition is VIRTUAL!
Online applications are due by 11:59 PM EST on Monday, November 1, 2021. Competition is open to only Classes of 2021 and 2022 students/alumni.