#UES2016 Urban Infrastructure Challenge


ENTER NOW! #UES2016 Urban Infrastructure Challenge Competition

Entry Deadline: 11:59 p.m., October 4, 2016


You’ve heard it all before.

Potholes in the streets, crumbling bridges, the digital divide, unsafe neighborhoods, food deserts, poor or non-existent public transit. You may have also heard people talking about new “smart city” innovations: ride-sharing services, new road and bridge construction techniques, low-power tamper proof streetlights, citywide wireless internet, driver-less cars. All of these discussions are borne of a need to fix and modernize our cities’ infrastructure. The mother of all infrastructure problems occurred last year in the city of Flint, Michigan, when improper management of the water supply caused the drinking water to be contaminated with lead. That crisis focused the world’s attention on the need to repair, rebuild, and reimagine the infrastructure of cities like Flint.

Where others see despair, innovative entrepreneurs see opportunity – a chance to make our cities (and our world) a better place to live. An opportunity to do well by doing good. That is the spirit in which we are holding a new kind of business model competition – the 2016 Urban Infrastructure Challenge. This competition, managed by the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship in cooperation with the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, is your chance to prove your chops as a 21st century urban innovator. Participants are charged with developing a business model that will address an important infrastructure need experienced by Flint and similarly situated communities. The business model presented must take into account the actual circumstances of the Flint community, and must describe a profitable, sustainable, scalable business. The business model may represent a product or a service, but must represent a novel solution that embodies significant innovation.

Entries must address one of the following infrastructure elements:

  • Transportation: ex. connected cars, public transportation, autonomous vehicles
  • Physical Infrastructure: water mains, roadways, electrical grid
  • Telecommunication: embedded sensors, internet-of-things (IoT), high-speed internet
  • Civic Engagement: enhance the connections between residents and civic institutions

Purpose of the Urban Infrastructure Challenge:

To focus challenge participants and the community at large on the opportunity to elevate Flint’s status to that of a “smart city” by applying for-profit business innovation. To encourage the development of businesses that can lead to a significant improvement in the quality of life in Flint and other cities.

Who can participate?

Participants must be high school graduates, 18 years of age or older.

We are looking for ideas from individuals or new teams, not established companies. Therefore, your team does not have to be a legally formed entity. Proposed ideas cannot have already attracted more than $10,000 in revenue, including third party investment.


The winning entry will receive:

  • Meeting and advisory session with SkyPoint Ventures, Flint.
    • Discussions and advice relating to strategy, funding, facilities, connections
  • Meeting and advisory session with U-M Center for Entrepreneurship.
    • Discussions and advice relating to strategy, marketing, finance, and more
  • $2,500.00 cash award.


Four submissions will be selected as challenge finalists.  Each finalist will present their business model at the Urban Infrastructure Challenge Finals on Wednesday, October 19, 2016, at 6:00 p.m.

Transportation, lodging, and meal expenses will be covered for up to two members per Michigan-based team. Lodging and meal expenses will be covered for up to two members per non-Michigan-based team.

Applicants will be notified by 10/10/2016 of the finalist selections. All finalists will participate in a teleconference mentor session held on or about 10/12/2016, and must submit the PowerPoint they will present at the UEI finals, by 10/17/2016.

Please address any questions to uic-questions@urbanei.org. Include “[last name] – Urban Infrastructure Challenge” in the subject line.


Submission Guidelines

Entries must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on October 4, 2016

Participants are encouraged to present original and innovative proposals, which must be no more than four pages in length (2000 words maximum).  Participants may organize the proposal as they wish, but must clearly and concisely address each of the following questions. Note that we are not asking participants to submit, nor will we accept, a “full-blown” business plan. We are seeking only a detailed description of the business model, which should take much less time to generate than a business plan.

  1. Identify the key customer segment(s) you are seeking to serve. Describe the problem you are solving for each customer segment, and what makes that problem important.
  2. Give a brief description of your solution (product or service) and its key features. What unique benefits or advantages does it provide to customers? How would it improve the infrastructure in Flint or a similar city?
  3. How will your business make money? What are the main revenue streams? What are the main costs?
  4. How will the customer buy your product?
  5. How will you establish, maintain, and enhance the relationship with your customer base?
  6. What key activities are required to make this business a success (e.g. marketing, sales, product development)?
  7. What key resources are required to make this business a success (e.g. key people/roles, facilities, equipment, etc.)? Which of these resources do you currently have? How do you intend to acquire the resources you don’t currently have?
  8. What key partners will your business need to leverage to make this business a success?
  9. Describe the industry and competitive landscape for your solution. How will you deal with the industry and competitive forces that your product or service will face?
  10. What have you done to validate your business model? How have you established that your potential customers experience the problem that you are solving? How have you established that you will be able to sell the product at a price that will yield a sufficient profit?

Entries will be submitted with the email subject line: “[last name] – UEI Urban Infrastructure Challenge” in PDF format to ues2016infrastructure@urbanei.org. File size may not exceed 3 MB. [last name] is the name of your team contact person.


Flint, Michigan background information



How are submissions judged?

Finalists will be selected by a panel of urban-aware entrepreneurs and business experts selected by the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship and the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative.  When evaluating each entry, the judges will consider the following criteria:

  • clarity and conciseness of the business model information
  • completeness of the business model information
  • degree of innovation
  • potential community impact
  • suitability for the Flint community
  • profitability, scalability, and sustainability
  • evidence of business model validation

What are the future requirements if I am selected as a challenge finalist?

Finalists are required to submit a pitch deck that supports a 4-minute PowerPoint pitch presentation. The pitch deck must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. on October 17, 2016. Once submitted, you will not be able to make changes to your pitch deck.

Why is the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship participating in this challenge?

The University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship was an early supporter of the Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium and has a mission to drive the impact of innovation in the State of Michigan. The Center is managing this challenge because it believes in the power of entrepreneurship to positively impact the Flint community.

Will the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative or the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship own the submitted business model information?

No, challenge entrants will retain ownership of their submissions.

Whom should I contact with additional questions?

Questions should be addressed to uic-questions@urbanei.org with the subject “[last name] – Urban Infrastructure Challenge”.

What is the cost to participate?

There is no entry cost associated with the Urban Infrastructure Challenge.

How can I learn more about Flint, Michigan?

For more information about Flint, Michigan, please click here.

What items are required in my application?

See the ‘Submission Guidelines’ section above.  In addition, please provide a cover page with the following information:

  • team or company name (if applicable)
  • full name, e-mail address, contact phone, and mailing address for each team member
  • indicate the primary contact person
  • date of your submission

The cover page is not included in the four-page proposal length limit.


Additional Rules

  • Each team may submit only one Urban Jobs Challenge business model, and each individual participant may be a member of only one team.
  • All business models submitted must be the original work of those making the submission.
  • The decisions of the judges are final, including interpretation of the rules.
  • Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, Inc. and University of Michigan shall be held harmless in any legal action.
  • Participants are responsible for their own intellectual property. Participants must keep confidential information confidential.
  • Entry materials become the property of the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, Inc.
  • Participants may be disqualified if they engage in activity in immoral activities such as lying or cheating, or any activity that may adversely affect the image of the Urban Infrastructure Challenge.
  • Any violation of the competition rules will disqualify the violating team from the competition, and will result in the forfeiture of any awards.


Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Guidelines

  • Before submitting any information relating to your business model in connection with this competition, we urge you to confirm with appropriate advisors or legal counsel that any intellectual property described in your plan is appropriately protected.
  • All public sessions of the competition, including but not limited to oral presentations and question/answer sessions, are open to the public at large. Any and all of these public sessions may be broadcast to interested persons through media which may include radio, television and the Internet. Any data or information discussed or divulged in public sessions by entrants should be considered information that will likely enter the public realm, and entrants should not assume any right of confidentiality in any data or information discussed, divulged or presented in these sessions.
  • The authors will retain all copyrights to the submitted business model information regarding its use at all times prior to and following the competition except as stated below. Due to the nature of the competition, we will not ask judges, reviewers, staff or the audience to agree to or sign non-disclosure statements for any participant.
  • The organizers of the Urban Infrastructure Challenge may make photocopies, photographs, videotapes and/or audiotapes of the presentations including the business model information and other documents, charts or material prepared for use in presentation. By entering the competition, you will have agreed to grant a release to the organizers, sponsors and funding sources of the competition to use such materials without restriction.