Review Criteria

Blackline Review identifies, analyzes, and rates Chicago’s most promising high-growth startups.  We analyze startups in 10 key areas and rate them on a proprietary scale ranging from 1 to 10.  Companies must score a minimum of 7.0 (VentureRating) to qualify for a published review.  To begin the review process entrepreneurs must complete the Blackline Review Questionnaire which asks the following questions in the 10 key areas:    

  1. Product/Service–What is it?  How does it work?
  2. Value Proposition–What problem does your product/service solve?  What are the benefits to the user?  Why is your product/service superior to the dominant products/services in the marketplace?
  3. Size of Market–What is the TAM (Total Addressable Market)?    Potentially, how many prospective customers could purchase your product/service?
  4. Revenue Model–How does your company make money?  Are there multiple streams of revenue?  Is there recurring revenue?  What’s the gross profit margin?  What’s the price of your product/service?  What’s the average cost per unit?
  5. Management Team–Do they have prior startup experience, domain expertise, and/or valuable connections in the industry?  Are they passionate and totally committed to growing the company?  Have they invested their own money?  Are they coachable? 
  6. Competitive Advantage–Are there barriers to entry?  Is your product/service protected by patents or intellectual property?  Are you first to market?  Who are your major competitors?  Why are you superior to them?
  7. Proof-of-Concept–Is the prototype or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) complete?  Does it work properly?  Is is reliable?  Have you received favorable feedback from prospective customers?
  8. Customers/Users–How much revenue?  How many customers/users?  What is your customer retention rate?  Have you signed contracts with major customers? 
  9. Strategic Partners–Do you have agreements with key strategic partners?  What value do they bring to the table?  Do you have access to major distribution channels?
  10. Funding–How much capital have you raised to date and from which sources–friends & family, angel investors, VC’s, grants, business plan competitions, incubators/accelerators, crowdfunding platforms, e.g.  How much capital are you currently seeking?  How will you spend the capital?  What results do you intend to create with the capital?  Will there be future rounds of capital-raising?