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What are the benefits of a college business plan competition?

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College business plan competitions have been held for decades where teams of students (and often staff and alumni) can enter their business ideas for funding and other support.

What is a university business plan competition?

The idea for a college business plan contest is believed to have originated in 1984 by a group of MBA students at the University of Texas, and over the years, MBA students with engineering backgrounds have often been winners of these types of contests. did. However, they are now an integral part of the university support system for student entrepreneurs around the world, an incubator and accelerator program that can help diverse student teams advance their ideas in a supportive environment. They do not dilute their ownership of the company because they do not take any stake in the business that is created. This is important if you later apply for additional funding from equity investors.

What kind of funding is provided?

For example, the winner of the MIT 100k Entrepreneurship Competition, which has been held since 1989, has $100,000 in prize money, but about $1 million is paid out in the three phases of the competition: Pitch, Accelerate, and Launch. increase. ”. A list compiled by The Times of Entrepreneurship in 2020 shows the big prizes offered to potential student entrepreneurs in the US, but competitions are common all over the world and most UK Universities hold competitions as part of the entrepreneurial spirit they offer to their students. .

Like instant funding itself, winning a business plan contest can encourage other investors. See what’s been done and maybe get involved. reach milestones and de-risk projects for further investment. For example, an IP application. , conduct more extensive marketing research or possibly create a prototype. This is especially useful if you use lean start-up methods, use as little capital as possible, and validate your ideas after each iteration of improvement.

What in-kind support is available?

While there are some substantial prizes in terms of funding, in-kind support is equally valuable. In-kind support includes incubator space with access to shared facilities and lab space, access to accelerator programs, and IP attorneys services, access to experienced mentors, and much more. The publicity that a win generates can also make headlines and can attract potential collaborators, funders, or customers.

There are opportunities for graduates to succeed. While recent graduates are often allowed to enter competitions themselves, many of the graduates who are already successful in business want to help the next generation and are willing to mentor students. It is also a potential opportunity for alumni to donate financially by sponsoring a competition.

Universities have the advantage of making graduates more employable and enjoying the good publicity they get from success stories, which can attract more students. Depending on the business idea, there may be opportunities for students and staff to leverage IP developed at the university. It could contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially in terms of supporting ideas that can impact environmental and social outcomes, and help universities improve their rankings accordingly.

What is Legacy?

These competitions have certainly created a legacy of success. At my institution, the University of Manchester, the Venture Fathers competition, established in 2003, is divided into social, environmental, technology, services and healthcare categories. Original winner Wai Lau still runs his company, his Cloud Enterprises. In 2018 he won Specscart optician and optician Siddharth Sethi now has 3 shops and a turnover of his £2 million. Beenish Siddique’s company AEH Hydrogel has raised £3.5m to reduce the need for fresh water in agriculture. Mohammad El Hajj, one of his 2021 winners, has already raised £2.3m in his investment in his company Bright Biotech, which uses plants to produce valuable proteins. Social enterprises have also found success, with Christina Taylor winning her dance company Aim Sky High in 2013, making her one of the Top 10 Female Founders of Color to Watch. I was.

What else do you need to know?

As with the usual advice when writing a business plan, if your project is science-based, it’s best to keep your IP details private. Focus on what the product does, not how it works. It is important to explain the benefits of your product or service and why it is better than your existing competitors. Also, what are you going to do with that money? You need to explain how you will proceed with the project and what the difference will be if you win.

Students should be reminded that the number of entries may be low, especially in niche fields. As such, any inferiority complex students may have about their entries due to the perceived volume of other entries should be dispelled. Also, students should not be disappointed if they do not win. Dragon’s Den, and other competitions, failure to win a particular competition will not preclude future success. With this in mind, it is very important to provide all participants with both positive and negative feedback from the judging process so that they can address their issues objectively. Success is difficult to predict, both for judges and investors.

But it’s not all about moving your business idea forward. For those who ultimately failed to move their business forward, a variety of employer-friendly skills need to be acquired. Networking, especially with people outside your area of ​​expertise, is a valuable skill, as is putting together a business case for a project, and employers say they value sales skills (especially to a non-professional audience). These are great for resumes. And while some academic research has shown that contests are not as practical as starting a venture outside academia, they also offer other benefits, such as the ability to communicate ideas and increased self-confidence from participating. Researchers agree that the development of entrepreneurial competence is key to producing entrepreneurial graduates, and among others, as recommended by the UK Quality Assurance Agency, Learning by doing is usually the best approach.

Once your application is complete, you can use it to enter other contests. Some competitions are open to students around the world, such as the competition at Rice University. There are also national UK competitions for students to enter, such as the Santander X competition, which was established in 2011, with the winner being offered a share of the prize pool of 150,000 and advancing to the international finals for further funding. can do. King’s College London’s Sojo has won him 2021. This is a business that facilitates alterations and repairs to clothing items to extend their useful life. Outside of academia, many large banks host startup competitions, and Shell Livewire also offers various awards and supports startups. The Entrepreneur Handbook has a handy list of contests you can enter.

Competition is evolving to encourage environmental and social ventures, reflecting students’ growing interest in the field. Competitions are diversified to encourage ideas on different issues, such as the London Healthcare Challenge ( run by the London Business School to improve healthcare outcomes . Creative, tech, health and social impact (

Due to the financial and non-monetary benefits aspiring student entrepreneurs should keep in their diaries, data on business competition. Universities should also encourage as many people as possible to enter.

Dr. Robert A. Phillips is Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.

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