This section wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the plethora of contests and competitions out there for entrepreneurs. Most of these are business plan writing competitions that target upstart entrepreneurs to enter in hopes they are going to get in front of a panel of investors who will then choose their venture and write them a big fat check.
For young entrepreneurs, it seems that every college with an MBA program is promoting one of these. But again, if you happen to enter one, don’t just fall under the spell of dollar signs. Most of the competitions offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to: 1) help crystallize their thinking (and making them more investor ready); 2) receive feedback and advice from forward-thinking entrepreneurs and investors; 3) network with fellow entrepreneurs and distinguished investors; and 4) sharpen their skills in analyzing, writing, and presenting their business plan. Again, the more value one of these contests provides back, the better it makes the entire process for starting and funding a company.
The Rice University Competition has become one of the premier collegiate competitions in the world; with over 35% of its entered teams (since 2001) going on to successfully launch their business. These impressive numbers can be directly attributed to the counseling and feedback all of these teams received at the competition. Now that’s entrepreneurial education done right.
“The support of business leaders and successful entrepreneurs ensures that tomorrow’s leaders can pursue their dreams by utilizing such an investment to refine their business plan and presentation, potentially develop a prototype or begin the patent process, and build the foundations of a viable business – ultimately attracting additional capital and fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship in the US,” explains Steven C. Currall, PhD, and Founding Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.
Alternatively, many VCs and Angel Groups are now holding “segment specific” competitions to generate quality deal flow in hopes of surfacing the next big thing. Entrepreneurs submit their innovative ideas on everything from gaming to green energy to senior products & services to social media. The winner can usually drive home with as much as $100,000K of start-up capital in their front seat.
One interesting newbie on the competition front is Ideablob.com. Run by Advanta, one of the largest credit card companies in the States, Ideablob is a place for entrepreneurs to post their ideas and get real-time feedback from their peers. The site was developed around the premise that there are tens of millions of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the United States, but no real way for them to network and bounce ideas off of each other. Eligible individuals can submit their business ideas to ideablob.com, and based on votes from the ideablob.com online community; which includes other innovators as well as friends, family, colleagues, associates, teachers and mentors – one idea every month will win $10,000. Here’s to growing the blob and mentoring entrepreneurs in the process!
Looking for something a little more unconventional? As of this writing there were already 16 announced teams registered for the Google Lunar X Prize competition. The Google Lunar X Prize will reward the first privately-funded team to land a rover on the moon (and travel at least 500 meters across its surface) with the $20 million purse. If no one is able to complete the mission and send video, data, and images back to Earth by December 31, 2012, the first prize drops to $15 million. The big challenge for these braniacs will be to do it affordably. Many are already raising money and even turning to corporate sponsorship to help get their idea on the launch pad. Let the countdown to liftoff begin.
The following excerpt is taken from Breaking Through The Broken: The Transparent Guide To Overcoming The Inefficiencies In Early Stage Venture Capital.