Guidelines for the AIC application will be clearly defined in the instructions at the top of the first page of the application and are related to timing, format and submission logistics. They must be adhered to, otherwise submitted applications will not be allowed to continue in the competition. The instructions for the first round and semifinalist round applications are very similar. The primary differences, other than submission window timing, is that the first round applications will generally have a limit of 3 pages in length, while the semifinalist applications will generally have a limit of 11 total pages – covering similar information, but in much greater detail.
For the semifinalist applications only, selected companies will be able to optionally submit up to 3 letters of reference/recommendation from advisors or industry experts. Other information may also be allowed but will be communicated to the semifinalists and is at the discretion of the ACA.
Companies selected to advance to the finalist round will be asked to produce a slide-show presentation for in-person “pitches” to the finalist judge panel. A suggested presentation framework will be provided to finalists to demonstrate key and consistent information for the final judge panel to evaluate and will follow along with critical information already addressed in the Semi-Final application. Following the presentation phase of the pitch, there will be a feedback/question and answer phase – whereby the judges are given the opportunity to provide feedback and/or ask questions to further clarify or dive deeper into the company’s opportunity and proposal for funding. Additional supporting slides may be presented by the company during this phase in anticipation of issues and/or to present more information if/as needed. The pitch format is regimented and defined, and the ground rules for it are given to the finalists prior to their pitch dates as well as reiterated at the beginning of their actual pitch.
The AIC is highly competitive and includes a vetting process that typically lasts four months from the opening of the first round applicant window to the announcement of the winners. Many companies that have won the AIC have applied multiple times. While there are many criteria that drive successful applications, companies demonstrating higher levels of market, investor, or regulatory validation and customer or financial traction tend to be more competitive. Additionally, each season of the contest is a new, independent competition. Companies applying to a new season of the AIC should not necessarily expect they will score better than they did in a prior season because of a number of factors, such as new applicants putting forth more competitive applications.