Business Plan Competitions: 3 Tips To Get You Started

By: Shanza Anwaar

Business plan competitions provide a number of benefits … the most valuable were the confidence that came with competing, the publicity that the win generated, and most important, the pressure-testing that came from the judging panels.” – Geoff Gloeckler, Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Besides offering an opportunity for your startup to showcase its products and a chance to win cash prizes, business plan competitions can mean the difference between “launching your company and not”.  There are a number of things you must consider before submitting your entry, such as cruising the competitive landscape and honing your pitch.  Here are the top three things you should know before entering your local business plan competition:

FOCUS ON YOUR BUSINESS SECTOR

It’s very important to “be selective about the contests you enter.”  By focusing on your particular market or sector, you not only eliminate unnecessary competition but you also get a chance to be in front of a judging panel that knows your particular industry and will give you the targeted feedback your startup needs.

Altitude Accelerator’s Innovator Idol finalist, CEO of SenoSENSE Joel Ironstone, recently won first prize in the Sanofi Pasteur Healthcare and Biotechnology competition, a contest that particularly caters to healthcare tech ventures.

“Winning the Sanofi Healthcare competition provided significant validation for the SenoSENSE business plan. The broad and diverse audience was representative of SenoSENSE’s customers and enables us to initiate a dialogue with them over social media. The connections we made as a result of the competition have opened doors to new markets including an exciting opportunity in India for which we are applying for a Grand Challenges Grant”.

WINNING MONEY IS NOT THE ONLY GOAL

Seed funding isn’t the end-all objective of entering a business contest.  Professional services, free advice and building awareness are also key advantages of winning the competition. “Young companies that have nailed down their business models and begun reaching out to customers can gain by building authentic relationships with potential investors and advisors”.

PERFECT YOUR PERFORMANCE

Perhaps the most obvious yet critical key to your success in a business plan competition is practicing your business pitch beforehand.  Mike Grandinetti, an entrepreneurship professor at Hult International Business School, who has judged dozens of business-plan competitions, believes the Q&A portion of the presentation is “the most important part of the whole experience.” You must articulate how your company intends to fix a problem or address a need, as well as  much customers are willing to pay for your solution.

By honing your pitch, focusing on your niche and building awareness rather than winning cash prizes, business competitions can be an effective marketing tool as well as a key platform to help you launch your startup.  Altitude Accelerator’s Innovator Idol is one such platform for startups in the Peel Region to enter, compete and potentially win $30, 000 in prizes.  To learn more about  the 2013 winner, click here. If you are interested in competing in 2014, please email us for more information.  To read the rest of the article by Entrepreneur’s Michelle Goodman, click here.

Shanza joins the RIC team as a Social Media Intern. Pursuing two undergraduate majors in anthropology and professional writing at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Shanza is also a co-editor and content writer at the Digital Enterprise Management Society. She hopes to make her mark as a Social Media Consultant.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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