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ILE Competitions: GSVC

Frequently Asked Questions

Understand the Competition

Please note, the FAQs below apply to the 2016 GSVC competition and may not be entirely up-to-date. Please monitor this page for updated information and use the Eligibility Rules and Guidelines page for the most recent information in the meantime.

Q: What defines a “social venture”?

A: There are many definitions of “social venture.” For the Competition, a social venture is defined as a business that:

  • Plans to be financially sustainable or profitable; whether tax-exempt or not, it must be self-sufficient on its earned revenue
  • Has a quantifiable social and/or environmental bottom line incorporated into its mission and practices

Q: What evaluation criteria will be used?

A: Plans will be judged according to the feasibility of the business concept, as well as feasibility and scope of the venture’s stated social and/or environmental purpose. For more information, please see Judging Criteria.

Q: Can one be eliminated from the Competition in the executive summary round?

A: Yes. The executive summary is an elimination round if you submit your Executive Summary to the GSVC web site. The Indian School of Business held an optional executive summary round for ventures from Asia.

Q: How many plans will make it to the final round?

A: Each Regional Partner competition will send two finalists to the Global Finals.

Q: How many teams from one program or university may enter?

A: There are no limits to the number of applicants from a particular program or university.

Q: Can a team enter other business plan competitions?

A: Yes. We encourage every team to enter as many competitions as possible.  This helps you continue to refine your business plan and your determination is a great indicator of future business success.

Q. How do I know where to send my executive summary or business plan?

A. Each Regional and Outreach Partner School manages their own round.  Please visit “The Competition” section for details on regions and deadlines.  Please submit your entry based on the region you are from, not where your company is located (i.e., if you are graduate student from Northwestern University, but are working on a business idea in India, you will submit your entry to the US round).

Submit an Executive Summary and/or Request a Mentor.

Q: Can I submit my full plan if I don’t enter an executive summary?

A: No, you must submit and executive summary. The strongest executive summaries will be invited to submit a full business plan. These ventures will also be matched with a mentor.

Q: How do I submit an executive summary?

A: We will be using a new platform to submitt executive summaries this year. Details will be announced shortly.

Q: Will I receive feedback?

A: Teams will receive comments and feedback by mail, fax or e-mail.

Q: Can you connect me with a mentor?

A: We are happy to facilitate working relationship between entrants and venture capitalists, academics, or other professionals with relevant business or social venture expertise. In the past, mentors have assisted teams with writing the business plan, calculating social return on investment, and presenting ideas to potential investors. If you would like us to connect you with a mentor, please reach out to us and we will do our best to match your team with a mentor whose industry experience and skills compliment those of the team and its business plan.

Enter the Competition.

Q: Do you have any information about how to write a business plan?

A: Yes. Take a look at our resources.

Q: How do I submit my business plan?

A: Please refer to the submission requirements for your managing school.

Q: Does the business plan page restriction (25 pages) include the appendix?

A: The Business Plan must be limited to 25 pages (typed and double-spaced, #12 font, and 1-inch margins) of text, charts, and diagrams. This includes financials or other appendices which are limited to 5 pages

Q: Are resumes mandatory for Advisory Board members?

A: No. However, resumes are useful in showing how the advisor’s skills relate to the industry, market, strategy, operations, etc. of the product/service you are pitching. The same might be accomplished with a summary about who the advisors are and how their knowledge is relevant or how it fills gaps on the management team.

Q: Can resumes exceed one page?

A: Resumes should be limited to ONE page per team member.

Q: Should there be a link between the discount rates for FROI and SROI?

A: There is no inherent link between SROI and FROI rates, although the business’s fortunes impact both measurements. The SROI discount rate should represent the risk or uncertainty inherent in the assumptions about returns. Please see Social Impact Assessment Guide III for more information on calculating SROI.

Submit your business plan for final rounds of judging.

Q: Do I submit both electronic and paper copies of my business plan for the semi-final and final rounds?

A: Your managing school will communicate submission guidelines before the semi-final and final rounds.

Q: Do I make edits to my plan between the semi-final and final rounds?

A: Entrants are expected to modify their plans between rounds, although they may not be able to do everything the feedback suggests.

Q: Do I need to present my business plan if I make it to the final round?

A: Yes, you must present your business plan in person to a panel of judges. The dates for the Global Finals event at UC Berkeley are available on the website.



“Metrics must be understandable, inexpensive, and most importantly, useful.” – Acumen Fund


Q: What is considered social impact?

A: Social impact is any non-financial benefits that a venture will create for society that would otherwise not be created. Social impact can encompass a broad spectrum of focus areas, from human rights to environment to health and wellness to gender equality.

“It is important to note that companies can create social impact both internally and externally. Internal impact includes the impact on the employees’ health and economic security, the environmental effects of the company’s supply chain and operations, and impact on issues of access, fairness and trust in company policy and management practices. External impact includes the health, economic, environmental, and other effects on parties outside the company such as customers and communities. While it is easy to overlook internal impact in early stage ventures, this is the time to bake practices into the company’s DNA that will shape the larger internal impacts as the company matures.” (From Impact Investor Perspectives, Rockefeller Foundation)

Q: Why do we need SIA ?

A: By including social impact assessment, the GSVC seeks to help early-stage social ventures define and quantify their desired social benefits in order to fully illustrate their value proposition to investors and manage their performance relative to their social mission.
Traditional businesses track their performance based on certain economic and accounting metrics. Similarly, in order for social ventures to chart their progress and continually improve their desired impact, they must define and collect data that allows them to quantify their outputs and outcomes – consider this a form of “social accounting.” Measuring social impact using discrete metrics allows for rich knowledge sharing in the social venture community.
Furthermore, in the past decade, a new breed of investors has emerged – a group that is concerned not only about the bottom-line, but also the social impact of their investments. Investors are beginning to realize the social and environmental consequences of the “business as usual” mindset, and this is clearing the way for a new social capital market.

Q:  What is IRIS?

A:  The Impact Reporting & Investment Standards, or IRIS, was initiated in 2008 by The Rockefeller Foundation, Acumen Fund and B Lab to create a common framework for describing the social and environmental performance of an organization.  Since 2008, the IRIS founders have been joined by other stakeholders in the impact investing industry in developing a library of indicators with standard definitions that enable comparison and communication across the breadth of organizations that have social or environmental impact as a primary driver.  IRIS indicators span an array of performance objectives and include specialized metrics for a range of sectors including financial services, agriculture, and energy. To learn more about IRIS please go to

Q: Why is GSVC recommending the use of IRIS indicators in the social impact assessment

A:  Although current measures of impact vary from funder to funder, investor to investor, and organization to organization, the impact industry is coalescing around a common set of metrics (IRIS). GSVC believes that IRIS has enough support in the industry to become the common set of standards moving forward. GSVC also believes that adoption of the IRIS indicators provides the following benefits to entrants and judges:

  • IRIS provides entrants with a library of performance metrics that have been accepted by the impact investing industry.
  • IRIS clarifies how to measure performance indicators.
  • IRIS helps entrants create ventures that are attractive to investors who are using the IRIS framework to evaluate impact.
  • IRIS enables judges to compare the same indicators across sectors.

Q:  Is the use of IRIS indicators in the social impact assessment required?

A:  For the 2011-2012 GSVC, we are suggesting that entrants select three IRIS indicators as their social indicators.  Entrants will continue to have the option of selecting their own (non-IRIS) social indicators.  However, we are encouraging adaption of the IRIS metrics because entrants will be asked to use IRIS indicators next year.

Q: What is the industry standard for measuring impact?

A: The social impact movement is underway. In nearly every conversation regarding social ventures and investments, stakeholders emphasize the urgency of evaluating social impact. The principles of social impact assessment are currently developing but there are not yet standard practices among social ventures and social investors. The field has yet to establish a common understanding of “social impact” – what it is or how to measure it. Current measures of impact vary from funder to funder, investor to investor, organization to organization. However, GSVC seeks to form a community that will further define what it means for social ventures to have an impact.

Q: My venture only affects a local community. Does that still count?

A: Yes! While GSVC is a global competition with entrants from around the world, social impact can happen at any scale – the level of the employee, the community, the region, or the world.

Q: How is SIA being judged?

A:  See the 2012 SIA Guidelines.

Q: How long should the SIA section be in my Business Plan?

A: The entire Business Plan, including SIA section, must be limited to 20 pages (typed and double-spaced, #12 font, and 1-inch margins) of text, charts, and diagrams. This includes financials or other appendices which are limited to 5 pages.  Previous examples of SIA winners show a full range of SIA section lengths, all of which have won specifically for their SIA.

Still have questions?

Send an e-mail to the competition organizers at .