CSUF Startup Competition – Determining the Problem you will Solve

Open to all current CSUF students, the CSUF Startup Competition is all about nudging students towards embracing the call of entrepreneurship that we are sure they have felt over the years. Entrepreneurship is a calling and the CSUF Startup Competition is a straightforward way to heed that calling.

Applications are due by end of day tomorrow, Friday, March 9. The application is a simple one that asks five questions with the first being “What is the problem that you are solving?”

One of the first things to keep in mind when answering this question is that it is completely find, preferable even, to have identified a problem that seems to be narrow in scope. This is called a “niche” and the most powerful thing about a niche is that the people who are interested in that niche are probably passionate about it as well. The second thing: there’s probably less competition.

Another thing that is helpful when identifying a problem that you can build a startup around is that you know, through conversations or interviews with people who have this problem, that this problem is deeply felt. Failing having done interviews with people who have this problem in common is to identify a problem that you personally have. It could be something as simple as not having a good solution for finding clothing that fits your unique body type or as ubiquitous as not having a good way of keeping in touch with your less tech-savvy relatives and friends.

Since you are already an entrepreneurial type, chances are you have identified many different problems that you can build a successful business around. If that is the case, good for you! For the purposes of the CSUF Startup Competition my suggestion would be to focus your efforts on the problem you have thought about (and hopefully researched) the most. I say this because when our judges review submissions, and in later rounds of the competition review presentations, one of the first things judges note is how prepared the students are (or are not). There is no surer way of losing out on the more than $10,000 worth of scholarships and prizes that can be won in this competition than seeming like you are unprepared and haven’t given much thought to your concept.

We’re not looking for people who have fully built out business plans or have already started a business (although, this competition is open to students who are in the earliest stages of starting a business; see full rules here) but we are looking for students who have good ideas that have some heft behind them.

My parting thought on this is that you should trust your instincts when answering this and subsequent questions in your application. And my parting recommendation is that you should submit an application even if you don’t feel 100% confidence in your concept. Look at the application as a free option; if you advance the rewards can be substantial (you might even end up launching your startup, which would be awesome!) and if you do not end up winning then it has cost you nothing more than the time it took you to submit the application.

We will be following this post up over the next day with posts about the other questions asked in the application. Those questions are below and as those posts go live we will add links to those posts below. The deadline for submitting your application is end of day tomorrow, Friday, March 9; make sure to get your application in on time or it will not be considered.

CSUF Startup Competition Application Questions

What is the problem that you are solving?

What is your solution?

Who are your customers?

How will you make money from this idea? (If you are a nonprofit then answer the question “What kind of impact do you hope to have?”)

What resources do you need to launch your startup?


Good luck!


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