Judging at the 2013 Rice Business Plan Competition


I enjoyed judging the RBPC this year and helping to select the Trailblazer Capital special prize winner.

I wrote the experience up in my previous blog post. Check it out.

The post includes these pieces of take-away advice for business plan competitors:

The take-away for VentureSpur followers? A few startup investment pitch tips:

  • Get involved! Take every opportunity to present, present, present! Get all the feedback you can get for your business plan. If you’re not a student, take other opportunities to present. Until you’re doing that regularly, you’re not serious about your business.
  • Be professional. Practice until you’ve got it memorized and then practice some more. Talk to investors and learn how to present to them. There are best practices for making a presentation. Success isn’t random. Learn the stuff.
  • The investors will dig into your plan, deeply. Anticipate the questions and have backup slides to explain your answers. Make it look easy.
  • Answer questions quickly, succinctly and honestly. The CEO of the winning team had worked in the White House. You could tell instantly that he was accustomed to making presentations to people who had zero time to waste and expected instant answers to their questions. He delivered and he won. Making a great presentation isn’t actually rocket science. It just takes focus and practice. (I also got a chance to talk to that team in-depth, one-on-one and that was eye-opening.)
  • Offer a speedy time to market. Get your basic research done using non-dilutive grant money and show up to pitch with a prototype, if possible. Don’t ask investors to fund basic research, ever!
  • Pursue patents! That used to be optional. It isn’t anymore.
  • Always keep in mind where your risks are and work to explain and mitigate them. Every startup has risks. Don’t try to hide them or let them unnerve you. Just disclose and mitigate. (Every business could take that lesson to heart!)
  • Snatch low-hanging fruit in your highest probability markets. Have letters of intent, beta testers and other proof-of-concept and go-to-market groundwork completed. Don’t expect to compete if you haven’t taken these steps.

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This blog is dedicated to providing advice, tools and encouragement from one entrepreneur to another. I want to keep this practical and accessible for the new entrepreneur while also providing enough sophistication and depth to prove useful to the successful serial entrepreneur. My target rests somewhere between the garage and the board room, where the work gets done and the hockey stick emerges.