If you have any questions, please check out our application FAQs here.

CTO Resiliency Challenge

Interview Phase

May 26, 2020
Application Open!
June - July
Maximizing Resiliency
 Webinar Series
June 21, 2020
Application Closes
Judging Begins
July 15, 2020
October 26, 2020
Global Forum

Cleantech Open wants to help entrepreneurs RIGHT NOW, not just to survive, but to grow stronger during this 2020 pandemic period. As we get through the immediate health crisis, and the country begins to open up, entrepreneurs face new conditions and unprecedented challenges. Cleantech companies are hard to run in the best of times – and now we’re in a very, very tough economic situation. But there are paths forward!

The CTO Resiliency Challenge has two goals, to provide: 

1. Webinars, tools, and online workshops available free to all entrepreneurs to help them assess and improve their business situations.
2. Grants totaling at least $35,000 plus in-kind service prizes available exclusively to CTO Alumni companies that demonstrate a need and strategy which can lead to positive impacts before the end of 2020.

All entrepreneurs of any company can join the free webinar series. Registration for each one is required on Zoom. Recordings are available:

  • Tues, May 26th at 11:00 AM PDT.
    "Maximizing Resiliency During This Crisis (Part 1):  The 8 actions your cleantech company can take to succeed during these tough times.
    • Watch the webinar replay here.
    • Download the slide deck here.

Discussing the economic outlook as seen by VC's, and how VC's work with their portfolio companies to pivot and adjust their strategies in the face of tough economic conditions.
  • Watch the webinar replay here.

  • Wed, June 17th at 11:00 AM PDT.  
    "Maximizing Resiliency During This Crisis (Part 2): Executing a Realistic Winning Strategy for the COVID and Post-COVID World." Michael Eckhardt of Chasm Institute ("Crossing the Chasm") and Andrew Green of Broad Reach Growth focus on what it takes for cleantech companies to successfully implement their strategic shift or business pivot in this crisis, building on the tools from Part 1. 
    • Watch the webinar replay here.
    • Download the slide deck here.

CTO Alumni companies APPLY HERE to be eligible for the $35,000 in total grants. The deadline to apply is June 21st!

The CTO Resiliency Challenge is made possible by a grant from the IN2 Innovation Incubator, funded by Wells Fargo and run by NREL. We are grateful for the support of in-kind sponsors and speakers, including Michael Eckhardt of Chasm Institute and Andrew Green of Broad Reach Growth.

Why Apply

If you are a CTO Alum, then in addition to the free online workshops and webinars, you can win a cash prize, giving you some cold, hard cash to help you implement strategies, pivot your company, launch a new product - whatever you feel will lead to a positive impact.

CTO Alumni companies should APPLY HERE.

  • Prizes are defined as follows:
    • First Prize: $20,000 cash
    • Second Prize: $15,000 cash
    • Awards: In-kind service prizes, for example credits for business consulting, legal assistance, etc.
  • Visibility: CTO will provide visibility to the winning companies via press releases, exposure in online social media, newsletters and in the showcase and panel discussion at the CTO Global Forum in October 2020.

What is a CTO Alumni company? A company and leadership team that participated in the CTO Accelerator between 2006 to 2019, and is headquartered in the United States. See the FAQs for more details.

How to Apply

Step One: Create or Update your Startup Profile

Since this challenge is targeted to existing CTO Alumni, those who completed CTO since 2015 should already have a Startup Profile, although it may be outdated.

1. If you participated as a Startup in CTO in 2015 or later, please use LOGIN and sign in to your existing profile and update it. If you cannot remember your password, use your email and last name to recover your password.
2. If you participated in CTO before 2015, please REGISTER on the platform as an Alumni startup to create a new startup profile.
3. If you never participated in the CTO Accelerator, then you are NOT eligible to register for the Resiliency Challenge, but you may participate in all of the webinars.

Step Two: Start your Application.

After creating your startup profile, click on the "Apply" button above, or visit your Startup Dashboard and click "Submit." You will answer a series of questions about the status of your company and questions related to how you would use the prize money. You can save your work and resume at a later time. Do not submit any confidential data, trade secrets, or "secret sauce" information.

Step Three: Submit your completed application before the final deadline.

You can continue to work on your application UNTIL you submit it. Once it is submitted, it moves directly into the judging queue and cannot be modified. The final deadline to submit is June 21st at 11:59 PM PDT.

Step Four: Zoom interview and acceptance decision.

After the final deadline of June 21st, you can expect to hear back from us by July 1st if you are a finalist and will be expected to do a Zoom interview. Final decisions will be announced on July 15th, 2020

Dates and Fees

Application Fee: $0

There is NO Application Fee, nor are there any fees to participate in the webinars and online workshops. For the Awardee, travel to CTO Global Forum or other in-person events are at the company’s own expense.

Application Deadline

The application period is open until 11:59 PM PDT on Sunday, June 21st, at which point the application must be finally submitted.

Other Dates

  • Webinars and online workshops will be scheduled throughout Summer 2020.
  • July 1, 2020: Notification of Challenge Finalists (at least 10 companies).
  • July 15, 2020: Public Announcement of the Winning CTO Alumni companies.
  • October 26-29, 2020: CTO Global Forum, where the winning companies will participate in a panel discussion describing the impacts of the initiatives they implemented.


1) CTO Alumni Company

Only CTO Alumni companies may apply to the Challenge. A company and leadership team should have participated in the CTO Accelerator between 2006 to 2019 and be headquartered in the United States. An alumni company has to be in good standing (e.g. was not removed from the accelerator program or had prizes withdrawn) and participated in the Regional Showcase.  Your company should be directly related to the company that went through the Accelerator.

2) Project Proposal

You must provide a brief proposal as to how you will use the prize money if awarded.

3) Availability

If selected as a Finalist, you must be available for a Zoom meeting with the judging team in early July.  If selected as a winner, you must participate in the CTO Global Forum panel. You do NOT need to participate in the free webinars and online workshops.

4) Conflict of Interest

You MAY NOT apply if you are a current Challenge Judge, National/Regional staff, or if you are in any other way involved with the leadership or operation of Cleantech Open or the Accelerator. Immediate family members of the aforementioned people are also ineligible. Companies and entrepreneurs in the current 2020 Accelerator cohort are not eligible.

Judging Criteria

This may seem like a difficult time to be creative; we get it. We hope you will think “outside the box” and propose projects that you otherwise might not have considered.

The following criteria will be scored:

  • Innovation: Is the proposal creative, for example entering a new market or product area or technology application that may be new for the company? This could also include a new organization of your company regarding manufacturing processes or supply chains.
  • Company Impact: How will the proposal positively impact the company and its employees / stakeholders? Does it improve the long-term economic success of the company?
  • Environmental/Societal Impact: How will the proposal improve the environment, a specific target group, or society at large??
  • Additional Funding Required: Can the project be accomplished, or at least initiated, with the cash prizes available? Although the CTO Resiliency Challenge is limited in the cash funds it can award, if the project requires additional funds, let us know, and we may be able to assist in promoting your project and funding needs.

Judging will be conducted by CTO leadership, which will have the sole authority to determine winners. There will be an initial round of scoring and evaluation, resulting in approximately 10 Finalists. Finalists will be interviewed by Zoom to determine the winners.

The CTO Resiliency Challenge should not be considered a replacement for current government pandemic support (e.g. PPP), and receiving such support is completely acceptable.


Does participating in the Challenge cost me any money?

No. The workshops and webinars are free to any and all entrepreneurs, and there is no fee for CTO Alumni companies to apply for the cash prizes.

We are a foreign company; are we eligible for the prize?

No. Only US entities are eligible to win cash prizes.

If I do not attend the webinars/workshops, am I eligible for the prize?

Yes! Although we do hope you will participate. If you win one of the cash prizes, then you must participate in a panel discussion during the CTO Global Forum in October 2020 (either in person or via web conference).

How do you define a CTO Alumni Company?

The company and at least one member of the current leadership team should have participated in the CTO Accelerator between 2006 to 2019 and be headquartered in the United States and participated in the Regional Showcase. An alumni company has to be in good standing (e.g. was not removed from the accelerator program or had prizes withdrawn). The company should be directly descended from the company that went through the Accelerator. For example, it's okay if the company has changed name and even pivoted from its original idea, as long as it's the same entity. If the original company has merged with another company, then the new company is eligible, as long as at least one member of the current leadership team went through CTO. CTO national leadership will make the sole determination on eligibility.

How is the Challenge funded?

The CTO Resiliency Challenge is made financially possible by a generous grant from the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator. Many of the speakers and contributors are volunteering their time and skills. CTO collects no fees from applicants.

Can business plans, ideas, or concepts win prizes?

No, only a US legal entity (corporation, LLC, or similar) with a project proposal to be executed by that entity can win prizes. You must be able to provide a valid W9 form.

If my company received PPP, or other government/foundation support, can we still apply?

Yes! If you've received funds from any of the well-publicized government programs, congratulations. If you've received funding from other grant sources, that is also good.

If my company receives a grant from another IN2 Channel Partner, can we still win?

You can still apply, but you cannot win a cash prize from the CTO Resiliency Challenge. We will ask this question during the Finalist interviews. The intention is to support as many different companies as possible in the cleantech sector.

How will my application data be used?

There are three elements of the application: User Profile, PGI (Predictive Growth Index) questions, Challenge questions. These are all entered on CTO’s contracted accelerator platform, Skipso, with limited access to the CTO staff and volunteers who will participate in the judging process. User Profile data will be used to update CTO’s alumni database with current information. Your data will not be sold outside of the organization. Aggregated, non-identifiable data will be used for statistical analysis, for example to understand the overall economic situation of CTO alumni companies and progress over time. Your email address and contact info will only be used by CTO, unless you give permission otherwise.