Great story of how entrepreneur Kris Appel used business plan contests to get her firm (Encore Path) off the ground. From Entrepreneur Magazine:
In 2006, I got into ACTiVATE, a women’s entrepreneurship training program offered through the University of Maryland. They told us about a business plan competition in the state of Maryland for women-owned companies. It consisted of submitting a written business plan and then being called back to make a presentation to a panel of judges. In March 2007, I won first prize: a check for $10,000. That unrestricted “free” money was crucial in getting my company going. A few months later, I entered another local business plan competition through the MIT Enterprise Forum and won first place as well. It dawned on me that I should keep doing this.
Entrepreneurship structures at universities (classes, competitions, entrepreneur-in-residence, entrepreneurship meetups, etc.) need to be open to the broader community and provide various levels of engagement (evident if you read the entire story of Appell and her startup.) BTW, there is a TTO play here as it appears Appell got the ‘Tailwind’ technology from the University of Maryland – Baltimore.