“Can we build transformative and sustainable business models for Asian and other small businesses to succeed in post-pandemic recovery?”

Small businesses have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. This competition will gather participants from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and challenge them to conceptualize innovative solutions to help these businesses bounce back.

For example, in 2020, up to 50% of Asian restaurants across the United States have permanently closed, compared to 30% of all restaurants. With some states reopening, many are only allowing up to 25% occupancy – not nearly enough to financially sustain these restaurants through the business recovery phase of reopening. Other Asian-owned retail and small businesses have had similar experiences. To responsively care for our communities, we need to create new models for these businesses.

We are looking for transformative solutions that introduce new business models. We ask that participants identify public and private interventions that will most effectively encourage the recovery and reinvention of these businesses by the end of 2021. We are also asking you to amplify the voices of small business leaders by diving deeply into their issues.



  • Teams shall be composed of a minimum of two (2) and no more than five (5) members

  • Winning teams must have at least one Ascend member (student or professional). Membership can be addressed upon winning an award

  • Teams formed without an Ascend member can request to be paired with an interested Ascend student member

  • Team members must stay consistent throughout the Challenge - no alternates or substitutions are allowed


Submissions must include:
– 6-8 page business plan (omit appendix in total page count)
– 8-10 slide presentation
– 2 minute video pitch

Submissions are due by Sunday, August 23, 2020 at 11:59 PM ET for preliminary evaluation and will be showcased at the Semi-Final Round on August 26, 2020 during which four or five finalists will be selected. Finalists will receive further training and time to hone their business models and develop a prototype for demonstration.

Download Submission Guidelines PDF

Download Submissions Guidelines MS Word Document

Finalist teams will compete for the Grand Prize by presenting their demos at the Final Round on September 29, 2020. Teams are encouraged to consult their Ascend-paired mentor and Feed Your Hospital restaurant partners (or other small business contacts) along the way. Teams will also receive guidance through webinars and workshops offered in upcoming weeks.

Post-convention, Ascend plans to host a follow-on Hackathon focused on bringing prototypes from this Impact Challenge to life. Participants will be allowed to use open source as well as commercial tools, in addition to their own proprietary solutions, to develop creative and efficient technology to implement their business model ideas. Details on this event are forthcoming, however, teams are encouraged to involve UI/UX and coding/developer specialists in their teams from the beginning!

Hackathon Sponsors


$2,000 in prizes

Grand Prize Finalists (4)

Finalists will compete for the Grand Prize: $8,000

Crowdsource Prize

Crowdsource Prize: $1,000

Multigenerational Inclusion Prize

Multigenerational Inclusion Prize : $1,000

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:


Agnel Kagoo

Agnel Kagoo
Principal, Advisory - KPMG

Joseph Cruz

Joseph Cruz
Principal - EY

Xiaodong Chen

Xiaodong Chen
Drug Product Development Team Lead, Senior Research Investigator - Bristol Myers Squibb

Michael Shum

Michael Shum
Chief of Staff, Bureau of Business Information Technology (BIT) - New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Lena Wu

Lena Wu
Co-Founder - Feed Your Hospital

Mahesh Sudhakaran

Mahesh Sudhakaran
Chief Digital Officer - IBM Energy, Environment and Utilities

Judging Criteria

  • Application, Relevance, Potential for Impact
    How realistic is the application of this solution? How relevant is the solution to current small businesses? How impactful could this solution be?
  • Creativity
    How original is this solution? Does it set itself apart from other solutions through innovative or non-traditional methods? Does it demonstrate outside-the-box thinking?
  • Scalability
    What is the potential for scalability? How costly would this solution be to bring to scale?
  • Multigenerational inclusion
    To what degree does the solution consider people of various generations as both business owners and customers? What degree of effort went into building a solution that could be used by, and benefit people of, various generations?

Questions? Email the hackathon manager

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