Innovation Challenge

We are looking for the next great innovative ideas for our $10,000 prize and opportunity to present at our Ascend National Convention, and we’re bringing in a panel of accomplished venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders to help us do it. Individuals or teams of up to five (5) will compete through multiple rounds of judging to showcase their product/service, culminating in an on-stage round during the 2018 Ascend National Convention August 20-22, 2018 in San Francisco.

In today’s world, Innovation is a hot topic and we are excited to hear your ideas. At Ascend Foundation we are largest Pan Asian American Business organization with over 60,000 members and published numerous papers which can be found here. These publications may serve as an inspiration.

Contestants will participate up to three rounds of judging:

  1. Qualifier Written Pitch: written application and can attach optional pitch deck
  2. Semi-final Video Pitch: live 15-minute oral presentation via video conferencing
  3. Final Pitch: live 15-minute oral presentation at Ascend National Convention August 21-22, 2018

Application is now closed. Thank you for your interest and good luck!


To be eligible for the Innovation Challenge, teams must meet the following eligibility criteria:

    1. Team Composition
    Teams may be comprised of a minimum of one (1) and no more than five (5) team members. Team member(s) may be college students or working professionals from any industry or background, and can be located anywhere in the United States. Team members must stay consistent throughout the Innovation Challenge – no alternates or substitutions are allowed

    2. Ascend Membership
    At time of final submission, at least one (1) team member must be a registered and paid member of Ascend.

    3. Availability for Final Round
    Teams that advance to the final round must have at least one (1) team member attend the mandatory pre-competition virtual prep session hosted 1-2 weeks prior to the final round. Team member(s) who attend are responsible for disseminating information from this session to fellow team members. In addition, teams that advance to the final round must be available to attend the final round competition in-person at the 2018 Ascend National Convention on August 20-22, 2018 in San Francisco.

Judging Criteria

The Innovation Challenge is intended to showcase and spread innovative ideas for benefit of Ascend Members. Judges are venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and Ascend leaders who will function as early-stage investors deciding on which innovation idea they would most likely fund.

Criteria such as value, opportunity, competitive advantage, viability, management team, and financial requirements, along with the clarity and persuasiveness of the presentation, all influence the judges’ decisions. Additional detail around criteria considerations include:

    Value Created by the Product or Service
  • What is the new and unique value of product/service?
  • Is there a clear customer need satisfied?
  • How important is this product/service to customers and other stakeholders?
  • Is there a prototype or working description of the product/service?
  • Does the product/service clearly address the topic of inclusion?
    Differentiators & Attractiveness of the Opportunity
  • How large is the market and how fast is it growing?
  • What is the positioning of the product/service in relation to competitors?
    Competitive Advantage
  • What is the positioning of the product/service in relation to competitors?
  • Can this product/service be a leader in its market?
  • Are barriers to entry identified?
  • How long will it take you to get to market?
  • How will the product or service be produced and delivered to customers?
  • Is any intellectual property essential to success? How will rights to the intellectual property be secured?
  • Are there regulatory hurdles?
  • What type and amount of capital investment is required? All at once or stages?


  1. Ascend will use your Team Leader’s email address for all follow-up correspondence. Please add to your contacts to avoid messages going to spam.
  2. Please save a draft of your written application until you are ready to submit for final consideration. Use your login credentials to return to your draft. Only submit one application per team.
  3. As part of the application, a pitch deck detailing your idea is required. The pitch deck should be in PDF format and should provide all of the information needed for the first round of judging. Please refer to the judging criteria to understand how the pitch deck will be evaluated. Any additional materials, such as a demo video, are encouraged but optional.
  4. Please do not submit your application until it is 100% completed. Once you submit your application, you will not be able to make changes and/or updates to your application.
  5. Due to the high volume of applications, we are unable to provide feedback on individual submissions that do not make it to the second round.
  6. All application materials will be kept private and confidential by the Innovation Challenge selection committee.
  7. You will receive a confirmation email once you submit your application.

Application is now closed. Thank you for your interest and good luck!