Replacing Business Plan Competitions – Written by Doug Neal

Imagine that there were no Olympic training camps for aspiring athletes.  In fact, let’s imagine that there were no regional qualifiers; state finals or even high school sports programs.

Now let’s assume that every four years we gather together and let anyone who aspires to compete for a gold medal sign-up, get in front of some world-class judges and instead of running, jumping, swimming or skiing they simply present why they believe they are the best athlete in the world (using power point of course).

No judging by skill?  No training program to perfect their craft?  How absurd!

As crazy as this seems this is exactly what is happening all over the world when we launch yet another business plan competition.

Most entrepreneurs that participate in business plan competitions do not participate in any training activities to perfect their art.  They don’t spend time building the skills that are necessary to help them go from an idea to a scalable business model.  They simply focus on creating the best presentation that will convince someone that they are the world’s best.

No skills were learned and no forward movement of their business has occurred.

During this five-part blog I’m going to outline a proposed replacement to the traditional business plan competition that I believe will fix these shortcomings.  I’m calling it the “Acceleration Project”.  For those of you familiar with the University of Michigan startup accelerator TechArb you will see a lot of similarities.  That is by design.  The Acceleration Project is a modified version of what we do in TechArb with proven success.

This project is a four-phased event that spans several months and will drive a larger cohort of startup teams through a series of steps that help them move closer to their entrepreneurial goals.  Below is an overview of the phases, which I’ll detail more in the following blog posts:

Application Phase: during this phase, applying teams are interviewed by experienced entrepreneurs, their peers and potential investors to see if they have the “right stuff” to make significant progress.

Skill Building Phase: this is where each team is taught the skills necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur.  This includes Customer Discovery, Business Model Canvas tracking, Business Basics and Pitch Creation.

Acceleration Phase: this is the phase where the rubber meets the road.  During this phase each team is assigned multiple mentors and actively engages in customer discovery, pivots, research, prototyping, etc.

Presentation of Results: this final phase is the equivalent of the “Awards Ceremony” for a business plan competition.  However in an Acceleration Project all the participating teams show their results and awards are given to those who have made the most progress in moving their venture forward.

Check back for the next installments of this blog where I will provide more detail on each of these phases.

Its time we start focusing on creating the entrepreneurial training events that will send our best e-athletes to compete for the gold!

(click here for the next installment of this blog)

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3 thoughts on “Replacing Business Plan Competitions – Written by Doug Neal

  1. Pingback: Acceleration Phase – Written by Doug Neal « CFE Director's Blog

  2. Pingback: Celebrating Success – Written by Doug Neal « CFE Director's Blog

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