How to get accepted to a business plan competition

I recently received the good news that my business idea was accepted for the University of Saskatchewan’s 2014 Tech Venture Challenge. The Tech Venture Challenge is a business plan competition for students and alumni where participants are judged by their finished business plan and pitch after a four month workshop program. I’m going to blog about the experience as a way to absorb the material and hopefully help someone else who may be applying in the future. This post will provide some admittedly biased advice on submitting your application to the Tech Venture Challenge.

Be concise

The first criteria for the applications was describing your business idea in 100 words or less. 100 words is not a lot so you need to make sure every word counts. This ideal holds true for all writing (”Not a wasted word”). Every word must have purpose and every sentence must lead to your goal – helping the reader understand exactly what it is you are trying to do.

Be specific

For the technical portion of your application be sure to include concrete and actionable items that can help you achieve your goal. It’s okay here to talk about more specific domain knowledge and use technical terms. You need to show that you have thought deeply about the problem and about how you can best solve it.

Be realistic

This advice may not apply to all applications and it would vary depending on your idea. In my case I chose a business idea that had a reasonable chance of making forward progress in the next year. At the very least you must provide some evidence that you are at the stage of your business where you are ready to start formalizing your plans and start working towards your goals.

Have someone proofread your work

You absolutely need someone outside your immediate circle to proofread your work. Ideally this person would not know anything about your business or even about your problem domain. You must assume that the judges have never heard of your problem and know nothing about your area of expertise. This means you must educate them about what the problem is and how you are going to solve it using plain English. I was lucky enough to have my wife Manon, who has outstanding talent in grant and proposal writing, go over the application with a fine toothed comb. I cannot stress enough how much this helped me convey my idea in an understandable way.

We’ve already had our first workshop session and I’ve learned a ton already. If you want to keep up to date with the competition subscribe to this blog. You’ll get new posts delivered right to your inbox!

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