How to Ace your Start-up Competition

Entrepreneurs can accomplish a lot by competing in startup competitions even if they fall short of victory. These competitions are designed to bring investors and inventors together under one roof, even if it is the virtual roof of an online competition. There is no shortage of venture capitalists putting up funds willing to take risks in what they hope to be the next big thing. The challenge is finding them and getting 90 seconds to pitch your idea.

Start up business competitions are great platforms for new entrepreneurs. Find a competition that caters to your type of business and properly preparing for it.

For example, eMerge Americas opened registration on March 6 for its first TechWeek Launch competition for both early and later-stage companies. The competition will take place during the eMerge Americas expo from May 2-6 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Companies will not only compete for prizes totaling $200,000, but will also gain exposure to hundreds of potential investors and fellow entrepreneurs for networking purposes.

Finding Start Up Competitions

RudeBaguette.com, a French-based blog covering startups, posited that every 2.5 hours, an entrepreneur is spilling his or her guts to judges and potential investors on some stage in the world. Granted, that level of frequency is exaggerated, but competitions are out there if you’re willing to look for them.

The Grasshopper Blog keeps a list of startup competitions, listed in descending order by entry date. It’s a good idea to search keywords like “venture capitalists” and “startup competitions” on Twitter and follow individuals and companies connected to the industry. Keep in mind many competitions have eligibility requirements and are restricted to companies located in a specific geographic region.

Venture Madness, for instance, is a competition held in Scottsdale, Ariz., that accepts companies located only in the Southwest. It also excludes restaurants, fashion companies and real-estate firms from competing. The MassChallenge Startup Accelerator competition, on the other hand, accepts entrants from anywhere in the world as long as the company hasn’t raised more than $500,000 in capital by the time the competition starts in April.

Preparing Your Pitch

Startup competitions are basically venues during which entrepreneurs give direct sales pitches either to investors or judges who ultimately reward them a specified amount of capital. The judges are likely to be successful entrepreneurs themselves who, at one point, also needed funding from someone else to get their businesses off the ground.

Find out as much information as you can about the individuals with whom your fate lies before the competition begins. Cater your pitch specifically to the judges’ experiences, while simultaneously demonstrating your knowledge and business savvy.

Be ready for anything, including tough questions.

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, served as a judge at the TechCruch Disrupt startup competition in San Francisco in 2012. She asked startup YourMechanic, which provides on-the-spot auto repairs, how will they scale? Judges will also ask about your exit strategy, conversion rates and other potentially sensitive information.

Don’t be afraid to give politician-like answers if you don’t want to disclose business secrets. You can also invite potential investors to speak to you when the competition concludes if they want further information.

Startup competitions give entrepreneurs a trial by fire that will help them grow as business people. They also provide opportunities to network with investors and  others in your respective industry. There is only one winner at the end of every competition, but never a loser.


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