Pointers in Launching a Business Contest to Find the Next Bright Idea

In today’s well-saturated market, people will welcome a refreshing and innovative business idea with welcome arms. However, new ideas don’t come along often—or they don’t get a chance to be heard. Fortunately, there are companies who are determined to give those with bright business ideas a chance. U.S. Small Business Administration guest blogger Tim Berry writes about the recent growth of the business contest industry that aims to help the winners to start their own company.

If you’re an entrepreneur, they’re an excellent opportunity to present your business and compete for cash and in-kind prizes or, worst case, really good feedback from serious business people. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to judge, it’s a chance to spend a few days reviewing real-world startups.

Some of the organizations that launch business plan competitions on a regular basis include the University of Texas and University of Oregon. However, running a similar competition shouldn’t be limited to academic institutions. Venture capitalists and investors can also hold their business competitions when they are in search of projects in need of funding or mentorship. Here are some pointers to keep in mind when running a contest on the most ideal business plan:

growing importance of business plan competitions

Plan the big prize carefully.

Venture capitalists and investors should be clear on what they want to offer the winner. Will they offer partial or full funding, with or without mentorship? The popular reality TV competition show, “Project Runway,” for instance, is upfront on the exact amount of money for winners so they can start their own line. Giving specifics on the rewards avoids ambiguity.

Choose judges meticulously.

Should the judges be entrepreneurs themselves or can they be consultants who’ve helped businesses establish their brand and reputation over the years? Should the judges be business professors or will they include a layperson’s view onto the mix?

Set quantifiable standards.

How will the business plan be judged? Will creativity and innovation be as equally important as feasibility, so it’s 50-50? Will the participants be judged on how well they pitch their business idea, too, or will this be an afterthought? In this regard, it will help to have contest management software, like the ones that Skild, Inc. provides to its clients, to securely measure the entries’ score, rank them accordingly, and make it accessible for monitoring.

Business financiers may have money to spare for investments, but they will want to back up a business idea that has potential for success. Running a business plan contest can help, and all they need to do is consult with contest specialists on how to draw up rules, appoint judges, and measure criteria.

(Source: Growing Importance of Business Plan Competitions, sba.gov, March 26, 2014)

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