With so many business plan competitions to choose from, and an increasing amount of prize money to help launch new companies, it’s worthwhile to think about how to encourage your entrepreneurship students to enter these competitions, and how you can coach them through the process.
Of course, to increase their odds of winning, students must start with the basics: meet the stated criteria; align the business plan with the goals of the competition; polish the written business plan; and practice, practice, practice their pitch.
Here are six strategies for winning business plan competitions:
- Understand the focus. An MIT business plan contest will have a different emphasis than one that helps small businesses launch.
- Put together a cross-functional team. Find team members with complementary backgrounds and skills. Judges often want to know you have the depth of expertise needed.
- Talk to past entrants or winners. If the competition shares examples of previous years’ winning plans, look at them.
- Research judges. What areas of interest and expertise do they have? If they’re investors themselves, what types of businesses do they invest in?
- For university competitions, call on alumni members for advice or information. This could be the perfect opportunity to get a meeting with a potential funder (or employer).
- Be real. Judges are often more impressed by a down-to-earth concept that has a good chance of succeeding in the real world, rather than a groundbreaking one.
Excerpted from Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies by Rhonda Abrams
Beyond the popular business plan competitions run by universities like MIT and Stanford, this short list features some of the top global ones, and their deadlines. Most are open to students and aspiring founders with prizes in the tens of thousands of dollars.
- CodeLaunch – Entry Deadline: 6/1/2016
- Gitex – Entry Deadline: 6/1/2016
- Mentor Capital Network – Entry Deadline: 8/3/2016
- Startup Open – Entry Deadline: 9/14/2016
- Slush – Entry Deadline: 10/15/2016
- U-Pitch Competion & Showcase – Entry Deadline: Fall 2016
Do you or your school have a business plan competition you would like to share with our readers? Send it to us and we’ll feature it on our website. Thank you and good luck to you and your students!