Forbes Hypes Business Plan Competitions

Forbes has a nice online feature looking at 15 business plan competitions across the U.S. It looks like the Kauffman Foundation has some great data on these competitions and hopefully that is a database that is available to entrepreneurship researchers.

Last Thursday, during my introductory lecture in New Venture Creation, I discussed the great opportunities that University and College sponsored business plan contests offer to students interested in or determined to be entrepreneurs. From the article:

There’s more money than ever in these competitions. At last official count in 2006 the Kauffman Foundation identified 353 business plan contests at colleges and universities. The number may have doubled since then, says Fishback, based on early feedback gleaned from Kauffman’s recent purchase of a software company that helps facilitate and track these competitions.

Seth Priebatsch, the 21-year-old founder of SCVNGR, can attest to that. Priebatsch says he never would have launched his company, which organizes city-wide scavenger hunts via mobile phones, without a boost from Princeton’s Tigerlaunch competition. In 2008, as a freshman, he won the $5,000 top prize and grabbed the attention of investors at DreamIt Ventures, a seed-financing firm in Philadelphia, which offered $35,000 in equity capital and three months of space in an incubator. “Having the chance to practice standing up in front of people and saying ‘You should give me lots and lots of money for something that doesn’t exist’ has helped me every time I’ve raised money since then,” says Priebatsch.

Not that losers should despair, says Vivek Wadhwa, a senior research associate at Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, and regular university business-plan judge. While many winners are encouraged to build real businesses from their plans, plenty of losers might actually have a better crack at survival in the real world. “If you think of [these contests] as learning exercises and team building exercises, that’s fine,” coaches Wadhwa.

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