Category Design Challenge

What is Category Design?

Category design is a business strategy and discipline that helps companies create, develop, and dominate new categories of products and services. It extends beyond a company’s products, culture and business model and is used by disruptive and innovative companies like Uber and Airbnb. Because category design is such an effective discipline, it’s taught in academia as a business and market strategy, and publishers such as Harvard Business Review and Inc. write about the value category design brings to a startup. Category design has existed for decades but became a staple in the business world after the publication of Play Bigger.

We know that Aggie entrepreneurs are launching revolutionary startups, and we want to help fuel your success. By utilizing category design, you’ll be able to rise above your industry competitors, find new market spaces and opportunities, increase the value of your company, and attract investors.

How does the Category Design Challenge work?

The Category Design Challenge is a self-paced learning opportunity that rewards Aggie entrepreneurs who devote time and effort to designing a new category. To help you apply the principles of category design and participate in the challenge we have created a challenge toolkit, which has been adapted from the Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit; a comprehensive resource developed by and made available through Blackstone Launchpad powered by TechStars. This virtual content has been vetted by titans in the startup and business world and will enable you to complete a holistic and thorough analysis of your venture, while also teaching you how to incorporate category design into your business strategy.

The challenge toolkit includes 8 video modules that will walk you through the process of understanding and using category design. After watching the video modules, you’ll review examples and answer questions that will help you complete your own category design process. You can complete the Category Design Challenge at any time between now and May 31st. After completing the Category Design Challenge you’ll be eligible to receive entrepreneurial rewards for your hard work! Submissions will be evaluated on a rolling basis and rewards eligibility will be determined by the quality of your reflection and information provided in your response. How to complete the Category Design Challenge:

  1. Download the Category Design Challenge Toolkit
  2. Watch the video modules*
  3. Review the additional resources and answer the guided questions*
  4. Submit your online reflection and response form
  5. Receive entrepreneurial rewards
  6. Crush your goals

*It’s strongly recommended that you review the Category Design Challenge toolkit before submitting a reflection and response form. The questions found in the response form incorporate information from various parts of the toolkit and will be difficult to answer without first reviewing this content.

Who is eligible to participate in the Category Design Challenge?

All current and former Texas A&M students are eligible for the Category Design Challenge. Current Texas A&M faculty, staff, and all Texas A&M EBV graduates are also eligible to participate in the Category Design Challenge.

Rewards will be determined based on the quality of your reflection and other information provided in your submission. McFerrin Center staff will review all submissions and determine which rewards may be most appropriate based on the stage of your idea or startup. Rewards include but may not be limited to:


AWS offers a variety of global, cloud-based products that include compute on AWScloud storagedatabasesanalyticsnetworkingmobile application developmentdeveloper toolsmanagement toolsIoTsecurity and enterprise applications. These services help organizations move faster, lower costs, and scale effectively. AWS is trusted by the largest enterprises and the hottest start-ups to power their workloads, including web and mobile applications, game development, data processing and warehousing, storage, archive, and many others. If you’re an eligible entrepreneur developing an app or web-based startup, this reward is a  could be key to helping you get your product or service up and running!

Learn more about AWS

What you get:

  • $5,000 in AWS Credits valid for 2 years
  • 1 year of AWS Business Support(up to $5,000)
    • Includes 24/7 Technical support and contextual architectural guidance
  • 80 credits for Self-Paced Labswhere you can learn on-demand, test products, and gain practice experience working with AWS


LivePlan is an online business planning software that helps you easily create a full business plan, investor pitch deck, and forecast your company financials. LivePlan is user-friendly through its fill-in-the-blank, step-by-step instructions. With over 500 real examples and templates you can easily customize your LivePlan to make sure you meet your needs and accomplish your goals. A yearlong LivePlan license typically costs $240. Learn more about LivePlan.

Additional LivePlan features include:

  • Ability to add team members and mentors and collaborate in real-time vs emailing documents back and forth
  • Dashboard and built-in industry benchmarks allow you to monitor your progress and compare your plans/performance to other similar businesses
  • LivePlan can be linked to Xero or QuickBooks accounting software to import existing data and compare your forecasts to actual
  • Eligible entrepreneurs will receive an initial 3 month license but can receive up to 12 months of free licensing


One of our most sought after and beneficial resources is our McFerrin Center Mentor Network. By completing the Category Design Challenge, you’ll be given an exclusive opportunity to work with one of our esteemed McFerrin Center Mentors. The Mentor Network is comprised of over 200 entrepreneurs, small business owners, and business professionals. You’ll be matched with a mentor based on your industry and specific needs. Your mentor will provide guidance, answer questions, connect you with their network, and help you tackle the biggest challenges you face in launching your own venture!