Overview – Startup Competition

Evaluation Criteria

Our expectations for competing companies

The goal of Alabama Launchpad is to help entrepreneurs create high growth companies in Alabama. But what is a high growth company? Given the diversity of companies in the state, we have defined high growth company flexibly. That said, we evaluate them on the same key dimensions. We define high growth as those that have the potential to achieve the following within 5 years (for seed stage) and 7 years (for concept stage):

  • $5M in revenue or $5M in follow on capital investment
  • 20 jobs
  • Financial sustainability (generally defined as profit or a pathway to an exit)

We use a 5 point scale to evaluate whether a company can achieve these metrics. We define the point values as follows:

  • 1 point – Will miss all expectations
  • 2 points – Will meet some, but not all, expectations
  • 3 points – Will achieve expectations
  • 4 points – Will exceed expectations in one dimension
  • 5 points – Will exceed expectations in multiple dimensions

For example, let’s take three hypothetical companies:

ACME Co sells software as a service and was founded in 2017, it’s product is competitive and it has a good team. It has clarified the customer need is is selling into a large market. It has the potential to achieve $5M in revenue in 5 years and can reasonably be expected to achieve a 20% profit margin. It would receive a 3 (and may achieve a higher score).

Biotech B is developing an innovative cancer diagnostic. It was founded in 2013 and has not raised any follow on capital, but new leadership is focused on taking the company to the next level. Based on an evaluation of the technology, team, and development plan, they can reasonably be expected to raise $5M in follow on funding within a year. This will help them grow their staff to achieve development milestones. They would receive a 3 (or higher).

Dollar D Inc. has launched a financial services company in 2012 that sells into a small market. It has not clarified its customer well and has limited traction. It is run by a team that is focused on this part time. Given these factors, it would receive less than a 3.

A few things are important to highlight here:

First, companies must average a 3 or above to get funding. Alabama Launchpad is not in the business of providing non-dilutive funding to businesses that cannot reasonably achieve the goals of this program. For those entrepreneurs that receive a low score, they will instead receive valuable feedback as to where their business is deficient.

Second, we have built these criteria to be flexible to the variety of businesses that exist in the state. We do take type of company into account. We expect consumer good companies to start making money very quickly and in that case the goal is to grow revenue and get to profit. On the other hand, we do not expect a biotech company to achieve profits (or revenue) quickly. That said, such a company must be capable of raising money to achieve development milestones. Hence, the criteria is to achieve $5M in follow on funding.

Last, the dimensions we use for evaluation are in many ways immune to company stage. We do expect that a seed stage company would have a further refined understanding of these elements compared to a concept stage company.

Dimensions for evaluation

Because an aggregate score is not specific enough, we will provide scores on multiple dimensions. The average will be the roll up of judge evaluation on multiple levels.

  1. Application: Is the application clear? Is the application logical and understandable for a lay person?
  2. Customer segment: Has the team demonstrated a clear understanding of its core customer? Is the customer segment’s need well-defined?
  3. Value proposition: Is the business tackling its customer’s need clearly? Is the value proposition for the customer clear and appealing?
  4. Customer relationships: Is the strategy for building relationships with customers clear? Is the strategy for interacting with customers realistic?
  5. Channels: Is there a clear strategy for reaching customers? Is the team sufficiently focused on the right channels?
  6. Revenue: Is the strategy to achieve revenue clear and logical? Do the revenue streams outlined suggest the company can be profitable?
  7. Key activities: Is there a clear strategy for how to get the business off the ground? Does the team have a clear sense of key details to bring this to market (e.g., capital requirements, risks, customer service requirements)?
  8. Key resources: Is the team involved the right one for the business presented? Does the team have a clear sense of the resources required to succeed (e.g., capital, intellectual property)?
  9. Key partners: Is the business clear on what partnerships are critical? Is the business clear on what type of partnerships would suit its needs?
  10. Cost structure: Is there a clear sense of the costs of the business (e.g., unit cost, customer acquisition costs, etc.)? Does the team have a good sense of the risks in running the business? 
  11. Target Market: Is the team clear on their total addressable market and the portion of the market they can serve and obtain? Is this team’s market share likely to be large?
  12. Competition: Is there a clear sense of the competition? Is the team’s solution superior and defendable to the competitor(s)’s?
  13. Alabama Launchpad goals: Does the business have the potential to create jobs in Alabama? Does this business have the potential to invest capital in Alabama?