The Un-Business-Plan Innovation Contest

Business planA colleague and I agreed to chair the committee to run an innovation competition open to all students in our university. We want to encourage and celebrate the innovation among our students!

So how does one design a lean/agile/design-thinking innovation competition???? Our current proposed approach is to have students submit:

  1. A 3-10 minute video of the new service or product in use: showing prototyping and ideally a pivot in response to use.
  2. A one-year budget and
  3. Possibly – A completed summary Business Canvas.

What do YOU think???? Does it sound good? Is the canvas overkill for an 8-week student contest? What would you change?

[ The current full proposed summary outline of the contest is posted here. ]

For the past several years innovators I admire have been posting tweets and FB posts urging VCs, angels and academics NOT to participate in student business plan competitions. One of the earliest I were three blog posts by Steve Blank:

The consistent arguments against the traditional business plan competition include:

  1. A formal business plan really only fits large companies.
  2. A business plan does not survive the first encounter with customers.
  3. It does NOT recognize the lean or iterative approach to innovation. An agile or lean startup should have a new business model after user testing and probably again in 6-9 months.
  4. Financial projections 3 or 5 years out for a truly innovative new service or product are exercises in “creative accounting” and we don’t need to teach our students how to lie using spreadsheets.

Brief confession here – I helped with a couple startup business plans. I learned the following technique:

  1. Find out what revenue the VC or Angel needed to see.  Increase it by 2% and make it the year 5 projection.
  2. Assume “hockey stick” growth with takeoff in year 4.
  3. The result was reaching the target number without undue pressure in years 1-3.

Not something I want to teach my students!

Again here is a more complete description: Innovation Contest Draft

I appreciate your thoughts and ideas!!!!

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