Business Contests With A Bonus


Management: Business Contests

Management: Business Contests

WE DID IT. SO CAN YOU – IF YOU WANT

We won the only business contest we ever entered in 2003-04 when we were ready to take MutualGravity to market. One of my partners, Art Leopold, MutualGravity’s VP, Sales, convinced me to take the time to prepare for the competition. As a result, the Pennsylvania Ben Franklin program, through the Gannon University Small Business Development Center, provided us with a $25,000 check.

The cash was helpful since we funded 97% of MutualGravity internally. But when I did the cost accounting, it was a fairly expensive $25K – depending on how you value it.

If your small to medium business wants to expand marketing beyond immediate customers, consider promoting through one of the growing number of business contests popping up. But your greatest asset is your time, so tread carefully.

Alternatively, if your corporation is actively searching acquisitions and license agreements for products already in the market, identify and track existing contests or government awards such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program, or consider sponsoring your own.

Want some resources and a few caveats?

The New York Times introduces the field with its article Entrepreneurs Get Out the Vote, for Themselves.

But contests are not just for tiny start-ups. Large corporations such as Cisco use the contest mechanism to identify prospective product licensing or acquisitions, as Fast Company’s article The Power of the Prize discusses.

Bonnie Albo’s article for Suite101 lists a number of general business contests, and 10e20 blog adds a few more. There is a short list of university-sponsored contests in a Smart Money article.

If you are located in Pennsylvania, the Ben Franklin contests are definitely worth exploring. Their main 2008 contest now awards $100,000 to the winner.

HOW MUCH IS YOUR TIME WORTH?

But the key question is: Is it worth your time and energy to participate in any business contest? Read MSNBC’s article, Are Entrepreneurial Contests Worth It?

We didn’t really gain any money from winning the contest, as it took me 250 hours to complete the two presentations for the contest we entered. The award bought my preparation time, which from a short-sighted perspective, I would rather have used to focus taking our products to market.

However, the value of the award was four-fold:

  1. * Our presentations helped us define our initial strategic business plan.
  2. They were valuable to have for later presentations.
  3. The publicity brought us some regional attention and awareness, limited bragging rights, and numerous approaches from investors.
  4. * Winning the contest was the first in a series of third-party vetting that proved we were a reputable firm.

HAVE YOU ENTERED OR SPONSORED A BUSINESS CONTEST? WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE?

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