FAQ

FAQ
Application Questions

To qualify as a student team, the team must have a full-time student as the Team Leader and at least half the team must be students.

Yes - as long as you fall within the funding limits at the time of your application, your startup is still eligible.

No - we accept startups at all stages of development. We have had winning teams who started the program with only a concept and no prototype, and we had winning teams who were already selling a product to customers!

That being said, it is much easier to pitch a product that has already reached the proof-of-concept phase, and even easier to pitch something that has already been built and tested.

No - we accept startups at all stages of development. We have had winning teams who started the program with only a concept and no prototype, and we had winning teams who were already selling a product to customers!

That being said, it is much easier to pitch a product that has already reached the proof-of-concept phase, and even easier to pitch something that has already been built and tested.

You may form a brand new team in order to apply, but we recommend applying with an existing team (you will get more out of the accelerator with a team that is already established and has a clear definition of roles).

No. However, a US legal entity (corporation, LLC, or similar) must be created prior to receiving any prizes (we can't write checks to individuals). Any such legal entity must have an ownership structure typical of an independent startup.

Yes. We have a special arrangement with several partner programs of ours. Please contact us at ne_apply@cleantechopen.org for more information.

One of our basic requirements is that there needs to be a minimum of two people per team. However, sometimes the second team member doesn't participate in the program full-time. Most often, only one team member attends most events.

If you are really pressed for a second team member, check out CoFoundersLab to find other entrepreneurs, or try to enlist an advisor/mentor to join your team.

As with most activities, you will get out of Cleantech Open what you put into it. We've tried to design the program so that it integrates into your schedule rather than takes time out of it.

Alumni have said they spend 2-8 hours per week on Cleantech Open-related activities at any given point during the accelerator.

We hear frequent concerns on both sides of this issue (see below). Yes, it's true, at its heart this program supports early stage startups, but we actually work with a wide range of companies in different developmental stages. We frequently work with teams that have slugged it out for several years and are in need of a few key connections, that one big seed opportunity, and some great visibility to get their idea to market.

A big part of our program is actually focused on finding and speaking with customers. The Cleantech Open is about finding the best of the next crop of companies that have put in blood, sweat and tears and are primed to take advantage of the massive opportunity that our program provides.

We love early stage ideas - many of us take a great personal interest in finding out about these and doing what we can to make them real ventures. Often people are too modest or not sure they're ready to get their idea out there and act on what they have to offer. But if you are just starting up, there is no better way than the Cleantech Open to focus on business strategy, with guidance from some of the best professionals in the field! Some of our most successful companies came through the Cleantech Open at a very early stage in their process and are now off and running.

Great - then Cleantech Open is perfect for you because it is all about growing your business! Trust us, no one can understand being busy better than us. In many ways, Cleantech Open is like a startup ourselves, with only TWO full-time staff people year-round! Our volunteers give up a huge chunk of their free time because they care about companies like yours.

Our alumni will tell you that the exercises that they went through in the Cleantech Open were what they would have had to do anyway, just on a structured time frame with guidance from mentors. This is not an academic exercise or passive program of lessons.

Cleantech Open is a structured, in-depth and COMMUNITY-DRIVEN process where we expect you to come out a stronger and more primed company on the other end. The core of the program can take as little as a few hours each week, but you'll find that the accelerator's ongoing intangible benefits reach far beyond that. If you don't put your company out there, you'll miss out on the serendipitous, unexpected connections that can occur as a program participant.

Some of our favorite alumni are repeat applicants! Often, companies apply before they're completely ready, and sometimes companies just don't across well in their first application attempt. That's why we encourage people to re-apply even if they've been passed over before - please let us know how things have changed and what milestones you've hit.

Cleantech Open is a steal. We aren't just saying that. We've heard of one-day pitch events charging more than what we charge for a 5-6 month program. If we were to charge you full price for everything we were offering, the cost would be >$10,000 per company. If you come to every event, you will get paid back in food alone, not to mention the free package of Autodesk software that you will receive (worth more than $10K by itself).

Our large community of professionals are all pitching in pro-bono to create value for your startup. By paying a participation fee, you're covering the bare minimum of hard costs that this non-profit organization incurs to run smoothly. The value that's added, the jobs that are created, the millions in funding that are raised by our startups all come because of the massive investment in time and expertise of our community. That being said, there will be some scholarships available for student teams and companies who incur larger travel costs.

About 30-50% of applicants are accepted as participants.

This is not a hard number as it is important to understand that it depends on the quality of applications we receive each year. About 1/5 of the companies that are accepted into the program will become finalists and receive a prize (4 teams total per accelerator class). Pretty good odds!

If you have done grants or other accelerator applications in the past, the Cleantech Open application should be a breeze. Most of your time will be spent editing down to our character limits.

If you are starting from scratch, it will take about 2-5 hours total to complete.

Five to six months.

Applicants will hear back from Cleantech Open by approximately May 20th whether or not they have been selected to participate in the accelerator. This is the official starting point of the accelerator.

The ending point of the  accelerator is in mid-October at Regional Final Judging and the Innovation Expo and Awards Gala. Nationally, the accelerator ends at the Global Forum (National Final Judging) in November.

Specific dates for event programming haven't yet been determined, but below is the basic yearly schedule.

  • Late May - Regional Mentor mixers
  • Mid June - Academy (East Coast and West Coast - choose one) - MANDATORY.
  • July- September: - Workshops & National webinars
  • Mid-September - Mock Judging
  • Mid-October - Regional Final Judging + Innovation Expo and Awards Gala - MANDATORY
  • November - Global Forum, National Final Judging (California)