I decided to limit myself to two axes: "innovation" and "scalability". Was the idea novel, interesting, and attractive? Was the business capable of making money, growing, and expanding beyond the founders? So I didn't try to consider questions like "would the grant actually do them any good" or "does this team seem like they can actually build the product".
Fortunately (unfortunately?) it was pretty easy to exclude most of the MinneSpark proposals on one or the other of these grounds. In my mind the common faults were:
* Being the Nth player in a given space, and trying to compete on something non-core.
* Trying to become an intermediate in an area that already has an adequately-functioning market. EBay and Etsy created new buyer-seller relationships. Inserting into existing ones is much harder unless you really add a lot of value for somebody.
* Coming up with a good idea but not one that has a significant customer base. I was not looking for "successful" ideas so much as "scalable" ones. (A fair number of ideas simply would not permit growing the team beyond the founders.)
There were also a lot which just seemed like horrible ideas to me. I was able to prune about 1/3rd of the applications pretty quickly, and another 1/3rd on a second pass. There were three proposals that I really thought were good (or at least had the potential to be good); I ended up dropping the one that was least technology-oriented and voting for the other two.
(Multiple votes for one proposal were allowed, and the top three vote-getters all receive equal grants. So there is plenty of scope for strategic voting, but I couldn't predict what the threshold value was likely to be, nor how my peers would react to the proposals. So I decided not to pursue it and just voted straightforwardly.)