A big idea brings new or significant value to some group of people. New can mean a new organization, product, process or service. It could be a large change for an existing organization, product, or service. It can result in a for-profit or non-profit venture. Past big ideas have come from engineering, nursing, computer science and many other fields.

Rule Book

Eligibility for General & Ag/Food/Beverage Divisions:

  • Participants must be current, full or part-time, Minnesota State Mankato undergraduate or graduate students or recent alumni within two years of graduating. Open to any major.  
  • Teams may include 1-5 people and may include non-Minnesota State Mankato students as long as the team consists of at least 2/3 current students or recent alumni.
  • Teams are no longer eligible to compete in the Big Ideas Challenge once they have won a cash prize. Teams may re-apply as many times as desired if they have not won a cash prize. 
  • Participants must follow rules and abide by all deadlines to remain eligible. At least one member of each team must attend both rehearsals.
  • Participants agree that if they win first place, they will continue as a semifinalist in the Minnesota Cup.

Eligibility for High Tech Division:

  • Participants must be businesses or start-ups in the southwestern Minnesota region. Could be students or non-students. 
  • Southwestern region counties are: Big Stone, Blue Earth, Brown, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Lac qui Parle, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock, Sibley, Swift, Waseca, Watonwan, Yellow Medicine (
  • Teams must not have received $50,000 or more in angel investment or venture capital.
  • Teams must have been in business for less than three years.
Teams must have made less than $50,000 in sales.

The first round consists of the business idea you put together and share using the Slyngshot webapp.

For a demo on how to use Slyngshot, watch the following video:

The CIE team will not have access to your ideas until your final website link is shared with us. You are welcome to create/build multiple ideas until your final idea is submitted. Once your business idea is complete, email your personal website link to Shane or Ashley by the deadline.

Shane Bowyer

Ashley Niss

If you are experiencing issues with email verification when creating your account, please follow these steps: 

  1. Follow the link and login to your outlook email where it will bring you to your junk email preferences:  Safe Senders settings
  2. Click the +Add button and enter the following email:
  3. Have the verification code sent to your email again. If this doesn't work, please contact Ashley Niss.

If you have questions or are experiencing an issue related to Slyngshot, please contact Ashley Niss.


Business Plan

The four teams with the highest judging scores will become general finalists and advance to round two. 

The two teams with the highest round one scores in the ag/food/beverage division will advance to round two.

The two teams with the highest round one score in the high-tech division will advance to round two.

Finalists will submit a business plan to our judging panel.

Help available for finalists:

  • Individual mentors assigned to each team to help with plan and pitch
  • Free LivePlan business plan software
  • Free coaching sessions, for business plans, with the Small Business Development Center
  • Detailed feedback on your presentation
  • Prototyping tools, coaching, and support at the CIE

Pitch Presentation

On the event day, teams will pitch their ideas in front of the judges and a live audience. The audience will vote for the People's Choice award, and the winners will be announced. 

Our team of final judges includes experienced business people from a variety of backgrounds. 

Award Money Distribution

1st Place: $5,000- Minnesota Cup automatic semi-finalist

2nd Place: $3,000

3rd Place: $2,000

People’s Choice (live audience voting during the live pitch event): $2,000

Agriculture/Food/Beverage Division: $3,000

High-Tech: $3,000

  • If an ag/food/beverage team is also in the top five scores, they will compete for the main and people’s choice prize as well. If they are not in those top five, they compete for the ag prize only.
  • If a high-tech team is also in the top five scores, they will compete for the main and people’s choice prize as well.  If they are not in those top five, they compete for the high-tech prize only.
  • Winners pledge if they are students, to remain in college until graduation or for one year after receipt of the prize funds. All winners agree to participate in the Big Ideas Kick-off, judging, or Challenge event the following year.