500 Teams Expected to Pitch at 2016 New York Business Plan Competition
If the 2016 New York Business Plan Competition is anything like last year’s, we can expect more than 500 student teams to make pitches this April. Representing 70 colleges and universities, they’ll compete for $100,000 in cash prizes, including a $50,000 Grand Prize that will go to the overall winner in the final round on April 29 along with $50,000 in business services.
Last year’s winner of the New York Business Plan Competition, Uma Bioseed out of Cornell, entered the 43North incubator competition in Buffalo last October and came away with an additional $500,000. Launched by two Cornell students who were awarded their MBAs last spring, Uma Bioseed will produce a cost-effective seed coating solution with stabilized organic enzymes to battle viral, fungal and bacterial seed-borne pathogens. The solution can disinfect seeds as they germinate, so that more crops thrive from sown seeds, increasing yield and farm income.
Coordinating ten regional competitions and the April 29 final on its Albany campus, SUNY Polytechnic will enlist more than 200 investors to judge the competition over four weeks in April. One of them, Les Neumann, was the keynote speaker at a recent “Student Entrepreneurship Summit” hosted by SUNY Polytechnic. An entrepreneur and CEO of iCANny, an incubator focused on developing new businesses in clean tech, energy, and information technology, Neumann gave students an investor’s perspective on what makes a great pitch in the New York Business Plan Competition. The deadline to enter is March 25.
“Investors care only about three things,” he declared. “How much do you need? When do I get my money back? And how much of a return will there be when I get my money back?”
On the way to answering those questions, Neumann continued, “we want to know everything about your intellectual property, and especially what you’re doing that’s novel and is going to differentiate your enterprise from your competitors. At the end of the day, how are you going to make money? And what’s your exit strategy?”
“If you don’t have an exit strategy, that’s OK,” he added. “But if you don’t have one, you have to say so, and you have say clearly what you plan to do. Do you plan to license your technology to someone else? Do you plan to manufacture and distribute your product yourself? Be very clear and concise as to what your business is and how you’re going to make money in the end. Investors are looking for an out in two to three years.”
“When we look at a company, the people are the first thing we look at. You might have the greatest product on earth, but if the team isn’t there – or if you don’t have a marketing or distribution plan – you’re not going to get the money.”
“If you can demonstrate that you’re collaborating with an academic advisor or you’re bringing in a mentor or others who can be instrumental in helping you launch your business, that’s a big deal. It shows that you’re expanding your horizons. It could be very important.”
Among Neumann’s other suggestions:
Start off strong. “Go with your best presenter. Don’t worry about giving all team members an equal voice in the pitch.”
State the problem that your innovation solves. Show the benefits to the end user.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. “Be critical of each other. Work hard to get it right.”
Perfect your financials. ”The financial piece is the most important part of your presentation. If you don’t do it well, everything else will be out of balance.”
Use the ‘ten-slide’ format. “Condense your pitch so that you can deliver it in a positive, short-and-sweet, and enthusiastic manner. Don’t include video; it takes too much time.”
Keep it simple. “Don’t over-complicate your technology. If you do, your presentation will drift. Be specific.”
Emphasize the ‘wow’ factor. “Show me how I’m going to get my money back quickly. Grab me. Shake me around. Show me you’re for real.”
Dan Forbush has spent 40 years in academic PR assisting dozens of colleges and universities across Upstate NY. In his current role as the Principal and Editor of C&R Interactive, Dan focuses on two initiatives: Smartacus, a podcast on the story of Tech Valley and The New York Brainway, a web-based platform on student-led businesses in NYS.
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