You can attend a free, virtual information session to learn more about these question areas or email [email protected] to set up a meeting with program staff to discuss your questions further.
Your company needs to be a legal entity in a structure that can issue equity securities such as membership interests in an LLC or shares of stock. We will verify your business registration and type of structure at the time you apply.
Your business must address, operate in, or benefit the food and agriculture field. A full definition of the scope of the food and agriculture field can be found here (link). Note that companies working in the hemp industry will need to meet federal and New York State laws to be eligible.
At the time that they apply, applicants must be registered, formative-stage business entities that can enter into the Investment Agreement, such as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), because award recipients will enter into an agreement to grant equity to Cornell University as a condition of receiving the award. Sole proprietorships, non-profits, and general partnerships are not eligible. Grow-NY is designed for early-stage companies.
The following businesses are not eligible for the competition: sole proprietorships, non-profits, partnerships, and other business structures that cannot legally enter into investment agreements. Also, investment vehicles that invest in the securities of other entities, residential real property and retail businesses, sports venues, gaming and gambling businesses, places of overnight accommodation, or entertainment-related establishments.
For this purpose, “retail business” means a business primarily engaged in making retail sales of goods or services to customers who personally visit such facilities to obtain goods or services. In addition, generally excluded are buy-outs, roll-ups, real estate syndications, tax shelters, and franchise-based outlets.
Grow-NY will award $3 million in prize money to seven finalists as follows: one grand prize of $1 million, two $500,000 prizes, and four $250,000 awards, as staged payments based on personalized milestones.
Finalists (up to 20 companies) will receive dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected mentor familiar with the competition regions, additional pitch training to hone your live pitch for the judges, and a complimentary, 3-day business development trip to the Grow-NY region. Mentors have expertise in early-stage business development, pitching, and presenting your plan for growth in a compelling way to the judges. After the competition, all prize winners will receive ongoing marketing and mentoring support for the duration of the award agreement while maintaining a business presence in the Grow-NY region.
Judges score the application and the final pitch by these five criteria:
The Grow-NY competition is for startups with scalable potential addressing, operating in, or benefitting the regional food and agriculture ecosystem. See “Is my company too early” and “Is my company too mature” above for more details.
No. International companies are welcome to apply. To advance in the competition, teams need to have plans for economic impact within the Grow-NY region. Non-US companies will need to be a legal entity in the country where they are based.
No. There are no application fees or costs to take part in the business development phase or final events. Travel and lodging expenses for up to two members are covered to attend the three-day business development trip and 3-4 days around the pitch competition.
Yes. Awardees must locate or conduct business in the Grow-NY region for at least 12 months. The Grow-NY region is comprised of a 22-county area in the western part of New York State and includes:
This requirement can be met by agreeing to one of following:
Yes. As long as you can engage weekly with your mentor, fulfill mandatory business development activities, and participate fully in the Summit, you can compete from anywhere in the world, regardless of other competition commitments.
If the prize money could advance your sales, team, or reach the next significant milestone, then you could be at an early enough stage to apply. There is no cap on revenue either from sales or investment. Email [email protected] to set up a meeting to discuss this further.
Yes. You can make edits and re-submit up until July 15, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. EST.
Instructions to make edits through Skild:
You will receive an email regarding your status in September with an offer for feedback. We encourage applicants to request feedback at that time.
Grow-NY will cover travel expenses that include driving or flying costs, lodging, and meals for up to two members from each finalist company for the business development trip and the Summit.
Two. A rigorous panel of judges scores qualified applications that meet all eligibility requirements. This intensive scoring round pares the pool down to our top 20 finalists. Finalists then enter the business development phase and prepare to pitch at the Summit on November 16-17 to a panel of final judges, who choose seven winners.
Yes. Winners will be required to enter into an investment agreement as a Warrant or a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) with Cornell University. The Warrant agreement assigns 3% for the $1 million dollar prize and 2% for the $500k and $250k prizes. Future proceeds derived from the investment will be reinvested into future rounds of the competition.
Finalists work remotely with their mentor for eight weeks over mid-September-mid-November. The finalist determines the timing and frequency of work with their mentor. The weekly workload varies but includes setting up meetings with regional business contacts, updating your application and financials, and developing your plan for the award funds to include in your pitch. With COVID-related restrictions stipulated, we highly encourage finalists to visit the Grow-NY region over this period to deepen and expand their connections by conducting an expense-paid three-day business trip. Lastly, finalists are required to attend the Summit, including a day of orientation and the two-day pitch competition on November 16-17, 2021.
The final pitch will be a ten-minute pitch with ten-minutes for Q&A from the judges.
Our current plan is to hold the pitch competition in Syracuse, NY.
Yes. We encourage applicants to include a video to show your team or your product or service in more detail. Videos can be up to two minutes in length and do not have to be professionally produced.
No, neither Grow-NY nor Cornell University will own any current or future IP as a result of winning the Grow-NY competition. Winners do enter into an equity agreement held by Cornell.
Winners have met the requirement to operate in the region through a multitude of ways, including regional production, manufacturing, suppliers and partnerships, and substantial R&D.
If you have a registered business (LLC or corporation) and a product or service close to commercial readiness (prototype, small-scale model, pilot, or beta version) or are currently available in the market, and you meet other eligibility requirements, you should apply. You do not need to have sales or revenue to apply. Email [email protected] if you wish to set up a meeting to discuss this further.