Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup

Since 2001, the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation (AEAF), a 501(c)(3) affiliate of Arkansas Capital, has challenged students with ideas for new or better products or services to see if they could be profitable by putting it through a rigorous and real-world entrepreneurial process — while at the same time having the chance to win big cash awards! Thanks to the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the cash prize pool is once again $154,000, one of the largest collegiate business plan prize pools in the United States.

There is nothing to lose and much to gain by competing in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup. In addition to the real-world entrepreneurial experience, competitors also get a unique advantage in future job interviews because they can use their Governor’s Cup experience as a talking point during interviews with potential employers. Competitors also became much more appreciative of the entrepreneurial process and have applied what they learned in their professional careers in businesses throughout the state and the country.

There is no cost to enter the Governor’s Cup. It is open to degree-seeking students in any program of study enrolled at any Arkansas college or university during the summer and/or fall 2016 or spring 2017 semesters.

Join the ranks of more than 2,100 competitors and their advisors, who have been part of the proud history of the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup! Follow the links at the bottom of this page for more information.



  1. Not every circumstance can be anticipated. The competition is managed by Arkansas Capital’s 501(c)(3) affiliate, the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation (AEAF). AEAF reserves the right to disqualify any team that violates the rules, the regulations, or the spirit of the competition. Should questions arise that do not appear to be addressed in these rules, please contact Marie Bruno, AEAF executive director; 501-374-9247,
  2. The Governor’s Cup is open to all faculty- or mentor-sponsored, full- or part-time, degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduate or graduate students enrolled at any of Arkansas’s two- or four-year public, private, or independent colleges and universities. Eligible students from any program of study on campus — agriculture, business, education, engineering, health, science, tourism, etc. — are encouraged to compete. Teams can be composed of students from a mix of disciplines. Teams can also include students from more than one college and/or university.
  3. Enrollment is defined as classes taken during the 2016 summer session(s), 2016 fall semester, or the 2017 spring semester. Students who have graduated prior to the competition, but were enrolled in a degree- or certificate-seeking program during any of these semesters, are eligible to compete.
  4. Teams are encouraged to have graduate and undergraduate students working together for the purpose of cross-pollination of experience and mentoring opportunities. Teams with any one member enrolled in graduate school during the academic year must compete in the graduate competition.
  5. Students may compete individually or as a team. The maximum team size is six members.
  6. Each team is required to have at least one faculty member as its advisor. Teams are allowed to have non-faculty members as advisors/mentors with prior approval from AEAF before Friday, February 3, 2017. Please notify Marie Bruno of AEAF at the contact information listed above.
  7. AEAF relies on students and advisors/mentors to verify enrollment criteria. AEAF reserves the exclusive right to determine the validity of enrollment.
  8. The business plan may be prepared under faculty supervision for credit in a regularly scheduled course or as an independent study. The plan may also be prepared under faculty supervision with no official credit.
  9. AEAF manages the Governor’s Cup competition online through Startup Compete. A team must set up an account in Startup Compete to enter the competition. See “Team Registration on Startup Compete” for more information and instructions.
  10. Each team must submit an “Intent to Compete” via Startup Compete by 11:59 p.m. Friday, February 3, 2017, whether it intends to enter a business plan or is still undecided. See “Submitting Intents to Compete” for more information and instructions.
  11. In addition to the Undergraduate and Graduate competition tracks, teams also have the opportunity to compete in the Agriculture and Innovation tracks. Teams planning to enter one or both of these divisions should indicate these intents accordingly while completing the Intent to Compete in Startup Compete. If only one teams enters a track, there will be no competition in that track.
  12. Teams cannot submit more than one business plan into the competition.
  13. The management team outlined in the plan must include the names of individuals (if any) who are not associated with the college or university. Presenting group members must be eligible students and have a key role on the company’s management team (i.e., CEO, COO, VP, etc.). Non-student members of the venture’s management team may not participate in any competition presentations.
  14. Previous efforts to establish the business or participating in business-like activities which include, but are not limited to the following: attempts to raise capital, developing and presenting the business plan to potential investors, and conducting substantial market research outside of the 2016-2017 academic year will be disqualified. This includes business plans that were submitted to AEAF in previous Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup competitions.
  15. The business plan must be for a new and independent venture in the seed, start-up, or early-growth stages. Plans that include proposals for buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, roll-ups, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, spin-outs from existing corporations, and other consulting projects or analyses are not eligible. Non-profit proposals are also not eligible. Licensing technologies from universities or research labs is encouraged, assuming they have not been commercialized previously.
  16. Teams may submit plans based on a technology, product, or service that has been licensed from another company, private inventor, or university with their written approval. In these cases, teams will be required to verify they have written approval upon upload/submission of their business plans on StartupCompete.
  17. Revenue streams from the business should not be based solely on deriving revenues from the licensing of its own technologies.
  18. The business should not have received more than $200,000 in equity-related capital (such as seed capital or institutional funding), or generated more than $100,000 in gross revenue prior to the current academic year. Revenue generated during a test-marketing project may be excluded from this provision.
  19. The business plan must represent the original work of team members. For example: If a team builds a business plan upon an idea from an outside person or entity, the team cannot take material or information (such as market and competitive analysis, financials, operating strategies, etc.) from that person or entity for use in their Governor’s Cup business plan. By submitting a plan into the competition, the team automatically affirms this requirement. Any team submitting a plagiarized business plan will be disqualified.
  20. The author(s) will retain all rights to the plan regarding its use at all times prior to and following the competition, except as stated elsewhere in these rules.
  21. The plans may not contain fabricated information about (but not limited to) the following: backgrounds, experience and educational levels of members of the management team, stage of product development, product performance claims, or market survey results.
  22. Due to the nature of the competition, AEAF will not ask judges, reviewers, sponsors, staff or the audience to agree to or sign non-disclosure statements for any competitor. By participating in the competition, competitors agree that neither AEAF, Arkansas Capital Corporation; nor members of the judging panels; sponsors, nor their designate organizations; assume any liability for any disclosures of business plan information which may be made (whether inadvertently or otherwise) by any judge, reviewer, staff member, audience member, or other individual connected with, participating in, viewing, hearing, or receiving information from the competition.
  23. Plans are limited to a maximum of 30 pages, including the Executive Summary and excluding the Cover Page, Table of Contents, and Appendices. Pages beyond this limit will be omitted from judging.
  24. Appendices should be included only when they support the findings, statements, and observations in the plan.
  25. Summary of financial data should include a five-year pro-forma cash flow statement, income statement, and balance sheet. Include an explanation to investors of how much capital will be required in the first and future rounds of investment, how funds from the first round will be used, and what milestones will be met using first round of funding. Delineate possible exit strategies and identify companies or categories of companies for which this company might be an attractive acquisition candidate in future years. Business plans may include the expected ROI for investors and the proposed structure of the deal, i.e., loan, preferred A stock, convertible note, etc.
  26. Plans must be typed in Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman with a 10- or 12-point font size. Page margins must be one inch. Paragraphs must be double-spaced. Pages must be numbered.
  27. Business plans must be submitted via upload to Startup Compete (formerly iStart) by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, February 26, 2017.
  28. By participating in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup, competitors agree to allow AEAF and Arkansas Capital, and/or their designated organizations, the unlimited right to videotape, photograph, audiotape, transcribe, or otherwise record all public sessions of the competition; including, but not limited to, oral presentations and question-and-answer sessions.
  29. Competitors also agree that AEAF and Arkansas Capital, and/or their designated organizations, may use any such transcriptions and/or recording(s) (in whole or part) for such publicity and marketing purposes as their organizations may see fit, including those which may result in remuneration.


The Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup is managed online by Arkansas Capital staff through the

The team leader or other team-designated individual is responsible for setting up the team’s Startup Compete account to enter the competition. This individual is also responsible for submitting the team’s intent to compete and uploading the business plan to Startup Compete. (Note: As you begin working in Startup Compete, the words “Profile” and “Account” are used interchangeably.)

To register for the 2017 competition, go to

At the left side of the page is an orange button with the words “Log In / Register.” Click on this button. A box with a orange-gold strip across the top will pop up on the screen.
New Startup Compete Users

Click the “Create User Account” blue button. A page, “Register for a new StartupCompete User Profile” will appear.

Please fill out only the information marked with an asterisk:

  • Email address
  • Password (and confirm password)
  • First and Last Names
  • Gender
  • Phone Number
  • Country, Address, City, State, Zip Code

Remember your email address and password. This will be the login information for your account from this point forward.

In the “Roles and Communications” box, the first statement is the onlystatement you need to answer for the purpose of the competition. It asks, “Select one or more role/s to describe your relationship with Startup Compete.” Check any box — the competition has no preference as to which box should be checked.

At the bottom of this box, uncheck the box for “Notify me via email on … New Competitions,” unless you want to receive email from Startup Compete and the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

Click “I agree” in the Terms and Conditions.

Type the letters shown in the image, and click “Save.”

Returning Startup Compete Users

Go to and click the orange “Log In / Register” button on the left side of the page.

A box with an orange-gold strip across the top will appear. Under “Returning to Startup Compete,” enter your email address and your password.

If you need to use a new email address — or if you’ve forgotten the email address used previously, you will need to create a new account. See above, “New to Startup Compete.”

If you’ve forgotten your password, click on “Forgot Password?” and follow the prompts.

Next Step — Submitting Intents to Compete

The next step for the team is to submit an “Intent to Compete” at this link. Intents are due by 11:59 p.m. Friday, February 3, 2017. Teams that are still undecided about competing by February 3 should still submit an intent to compete. If a team does not submit a business plan in the competition by the February 26 deadline, the intent to compete is dropped from its Startup Compete account.


Teams who are either certain they will be submitting business plans for the competition — or teams who are still undecided — need to submit an Intent to Compete via Startup Compete by 11:59 p.m. Friday, February 3, 2017.

If business plans are not submitted by the February 26 deadline, the intent is dropped from the team’s Startup Compete account.


  1. Go to and log in.
  2. Once logged in, go to the top right hand corner of the page and click on “Profile.”
  3. Click on the “Business Ideas” tab, then click on “Register New Business / Concept.”
  4. You will be taken to a page with a box asking you to “Complete your Listing for Startup Compete’s Public Directory.” Fill out only the information marked with an asterisk:
    • Title of Business / Concept (This is the name of the team’s business plan. If a name has not been decided, a generic name can be entered.)
    • Business Concept / Summary (This is the summary of your business idea. A few sentences are fine.)
    • For the purposes of the competition, you are not required to fill out any other information on the page.
  5. Click “Save” at the bottom of the page. You will then be taken to the “Startup Compete Competition Participant Agreement.” Feel free to read the agreement if you’d like, but you’re safe to go ahead and click “I Agree.”
  6. You will then be taken to the application page. First, you are prompted to “Add a Team Member or Advisor and Send an Invitation.”  This step allows team members and advisors to see the information posted in the team’s account. Because teams are required to have advisors, you must send an invite to them.
  7. The second prompt is to fill out the “Application for ______ (this is the “Title of Business / Concept” from #4 above.) Please fill out all of the information marked, “Required.” All team and advisor information does not need to be finalized until the business plan is submitted.
  8. You will then be taken back to your profile page. You should see the business title / concept you entered for #4 above in the “Business Ideas” tab. Nothing further needs to be done at this time.

The next step in the competition is to prepare your business plan for uploading to Startup Compete by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, February 26.


Business plans are due at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, February 26. Plans are to be uploaded to the teams’ Startup Compete accounts at

  1. Business plans must be uploaded as PDFs and cannot exceed 10 MB in size.
  2. Please ensure the name of the plan document is the same as the team name.
  3. If plans include graphs, charts, and other elements, please ensure they fit properly into the plan document. Once uploaded, a team member or the advisor should download and review the file to ensure all contents downloaded properly and no pages are missing.
  4. Plans are limited to a maximum of 30 pages, including the Executive Summary. The Cover Page and Table of Contents are not counted in this 30-page limit.
  5. Appendices are not counted as part of the 30-page limit and should be included only when they support the findings, statements, and observations in the plan.
  6. Plans must be typed in Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman with a 10- or 12-point font size. Page margins must be 1 inch. Paragraphs must be double-spaced. Please ensure pages are numbered.
  7. Plans should be reviewed carefully for spelling and grammar errors before they are uploaded.
  8. Business plans must be uploaded as PDFs. Please ensure the name of the plan document is the same as the name of the team.


  • Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary (10 Points): Clear, exciting, and effective as a stand-alone overview of the plan; includes brief description of each succeeding section of the plan; can be read in less than five minutes.
  • Company Overview (5 Points): Presents a vision, history, current status, strategy, goals, mission, and objectives for the business.
  • Products or Services (10 Points): Describes the key features and benefits, current stage of development, proprietary position, and competitive advantages of the product or service.
  • Market and Competitive Analysis (10 Points): Presents the growth trends and key driving forces of the industry; identifies the key characteristics and needs of the target market(s); assesses the competitive environment; demonstrates market acceptance for the product or service.
  • Management Team (5 Points): Backgrounds and roles of key individuals; history and ability to work as an effective team; personnel needs; organizational structure.
  • Operating Strategies (10 Points): Addresses the marketing, production, research and development, personnel, administrative, and financial strategies for the proposed firm.
  • Critical Risks (10 Points): Realistically identifies the major internal and external critical risks that could threaten the business and presents viable contingency plans to address these issues.
  • Cash Flow Statement (10 Points): Presents a realistic assessment of cash requirements – inflows and outflows; cash flow statement is consistent with operating and marketing strategies outlined in the body of the plan; cash flow statement information is projected annually for years 1-5.
  • Income Statement (10 Points): Demonstrates realistic and attractive income potential of the business; the income statement is consistent with the operating and marketing strategies outlined in the body of the plan; income statement information is projected annually for years 1-5.
  • Balance Sheet (10 Points): Presents a realistic assessment of the working capital and fixed asset requirements of the business; appropriately reflects the projected capital structure of the business (long-term debt and equity positions); balance sheet information is projected annually for years 1-5.
  • Funds Required/Used (5 Points): Clear and concise presentation of amount, timing, type, and use of funds required for venture.
  • Offering (5 Points): Clearly articulates the proposal/terms to investors; identifies what is being sought from investors; states how much equity will be given up in return for investment capital; presents a realistic assessment of ROI potential; presents an appropriate deal structure and possible exit scenarios.

Semi-Finalist and Finalist Teams advancing to Oral Presentations will be announced at Monday, March 11, at 1:30 p.m.

Good luck!


  1. The Oral Presentation Rounds of the competition will be March 30 and 31 at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Little Rock. The Overall Undergraduate Division semi-finalists, Agriculture Division finalists, and Innovation Division finalists will present on Thursday, March 30. Six Undergraduate Division finalists will be announced Thursday evening. The Overall Undergraduate Division and Graduate Division finalists will present Friday, March 31. All winners will be announced at the Awards Luncheon, Tuesday, April 11.
  2. Teams have the opportunity to modify and submit their business plans based on feedback received from judges in the preliminary round in advance of oral presentations. The deadline to re-submit business plans is 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 17, via upload on their team profiles in Startup Compete. Oral presentation backup PowerPoint presentations, completed and signed W9 (or WBEN) tax forms, and completed and signed media releases are due from teams by 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 27.
  3. All oral presentations are open to the public. Any data or information discussed or divulged in public sessions by competitors should be considered information that will likely enter the public realm (including print or broadcast through media, including the Internet), and competitors should not assume any right of confidentiality in any data or information discussed, divulged or presented in these sessions. Neither Arkansas Capital, AEAF, (or their designated organizations), or judges and sponsors assume any duty to screen or otherwise control the identity of those attending, viewing or hearing all or part of these public sessions. Competitors agree that, by entering the competition, they have been made aware that such attendees, viewers and recipients may include members of the media and potential competitors in addition to members of the business, education, and financial communities; students; and faculty.
  4. Once a team begins its oral presentation, no one is allowed to enter or leave the presentation room until the end of the presentation.
  5. Team members are not allowed to bring food or beverages into the rooms during their presentation.
  6. Teams may bring product samples for their presentations. Promotional items or giveaways for judges are prohibited. Paper materials for the judges are allowed, but not required.
  7. Team members cannot observe other teams’ oral presentations until after they have finished their presentation.
  8. Students, advisors, or any other guests in the room who engage in communication with a team during its oral presentation, such as (but not limited to) head movements, hand gestures, or signaling, will be asked to leave the room and the team will be disqualified from the competition.



A highlight of the annual Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Awards Luncheon is the Elevator Pitch Competition, where one representative from each of the undergraduate and graduate finalist teams has 90 seconds to pitch his or her team’s business plan to the audience.

The Elevator Pitch Competition is a challenging opportunity for students to shape a statement about their business plan into one that is concise, attention-getting, and can be shared when an unexpected opportunity arises to, literally, “make a pitch.” They could find themselves on the same elevator with a well-known investor and have a 90-second ride together. What do they say?

During the luncheon, competitors will meet AEAF staff in a pre-designated area to be fitted with wireless microphones, allowing them to move freely during their pitches. When the competition begins, the emcee will call the first competitor to the stage. A time clock is provided and a cue will be given to start the pitch. At 90 seconds, a buzzer will sound, and the competitor leaves the stage. The audience is then prompted to rate the pitch by text vote. Votes are tallied and an undergraduate and graduate winner is announced before the end of the luncheon. Each winner receives a $2,000 cash prize.

See the finalists in action – Click here and fast forward to 14:10 to watch the 2016 Elevator Pitches from each of the six undergraduate and graduate finalists!

As pitches are being prepared, teams should consider the following for content:

  1. Who are you? Introduce yourself, giving your name, your title/role in the company, and the company’s name.
  2. What need is your company’s product or service addressing?
  3. Who is your market? Who are the potential customers? How large is the potential market?
  4. Business model — how do you expect to make money? Do you sell the product to wholesalers for a flat fee? Do you charge a subscription? Do you split profits with a partner?
  5. Management team — who is behind the company? “Bet on the jockey, not the horse” is a familiar saying among Investors. Share a little about you and your team’s background and achievements. If you have a strong advisory board, say who they are and what they have accomplished.
  6. Who are your competitors? Briefly discuss who they are and what they have accomplished. Successful competition is an advantage — it is proof your business model and/or concept work.
  7. What gives your company the edge? Simply being in an industry with successful competitors is not enough. You need to effectively communicate how your company is different and why you have an advantage over the competition. Do you have a better distribution channel? Key partners? Proprietary technology?
  8. What are you seeking? What are you looking for from the investor? How much money do you need and what it will let you do?

Practice is key. Competitors need to get the pitches down in 90 seconds or less — and make sense while doing so. They should practice extensively with other team members and also try their pitches on others,

Want more information? See “Presenting the Business” in AEAF’s Entrepreneur’s Toolkit.

Good luck!


Learn more about how the Governor’s Cup came to be and the amazing impact it has had on entrepreneurship.


Learn the story behind this prestigious educator’s award, and how you nominate someone who deserves it.


Discover how one of the largest cash prize pools in the United States is distributed by category and winner.


View the names and business ideas of teams that have previously left the Governor’s Cup victorious.

Thank You, 2016 Sponsors!

Learn more about how you can invest in out future entrepreneurs through by becoming a sponsor here.




Arkansas Economic Development Commission

Harriet and Warren Stephens, Stephens Inc.

Winrock International





Arkansas Rice Council


Rose Law Firm