Business Plan Competitions: Policy Tool Du Jour

3 years ago I presented at the Mason Entrepreneurship Research Conference (MERC). My topic was Business Plan Competitions as Social Capital Building Tools. In that paper I made mention that policy and ‘economic development’ oriented business plan competitions were beginning to appear more frequently on the landscape.

Now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a local ec dev biz plan competition. See OK Governor’s plan, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation’s annual competition up in VT, and a big new DC Business Plan Competition with $100,000 in prizes (its official name is the BusinessPremier something or other, I may write more on the competition when I find out more about it).

So if you are an entrepreneur, take a look around your city/county/metro/state to see if there are any competitions to enter. You may meet some interesting people, get some good advice/insights and maybe even find some funding. If the federal largess continues and recession deepens in certain places (namely Michigan and some overbuilt areas), look for more business plan competitions to be offered.


One thought on “Business Plan Competitions: Policy Tool Du Jour

  1. While competitions are a way to get money, they also are a way to waste a lot of time. The problem with competitions is that they are lotteries. On one side you have your business, on the other you have a panel with people who come from various places with various agendas. So the chances that you get any money out of it is very small.
    And since time is a critical resource for a startup, you have to really be careful not to run from one competition to the next, because it will take up time and you will build nothing.
    The only time it is worth going for one of these competitions is when you know that you need to do some homework on your business plan, and you use them as a way to force a deadline on yourself and get some feedback from people along the way. So you should pick a competition that comes with some mentorship as part of the submission process.
    Anything else is taking a chance to spend time away from customers pursuing a dream of winning the lottery, which is not really a good business strategy.
    In terms of policy, I would love to see that money spent on some other model. Competitions are good marketing for politicians (big PR return for the buck), but they do not really help entrepreneurs…

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