Are Startup Pitching Competitions Worth your Time as a Founder?
I’ve been a part of more than a couple of startup pitching competitions over the last couple of years. Some have been great, others not so much.
When I say competitions, I mean events that give founders the opportunity to pitch their startup to a panel of judges for a potential cash prize or investment.
Competitions can be organized by accelerators, incubators, universities, foundations and even by the startup itself.
The ones that I have participated are the ones hosted by e27, SMU P.A.K and EOGSEA. There have been times that I question the ROI on my time spent preparing and participating in these pitching competitions.
They can be held anywhere from one-day events to multi-weeklong competitions with multiple rounds. And sometimes aren’t always about pitching for the prize at all.
Some competitions are designed as educational workshops where founders learn how to present their ideas in front of potential investors and get feedback on what areas they need to focus on when presenting their company.
I’ve seen a wide range of startup pitching competitions over the last few years. The ones that I found to be most valuable as a founder were the ones where you pitched your startup to investors for real.
While some competitions are just for fun and don’t really result in any follow-up, others can result in follow-up due to the quality of the competition itself.
These competitions can be great ways to get your startup in front of investors who may normally not be interested in investing in your area or industry. They can also be great ways to meet other founders and other investors who have similar ideas about how their industries should evolve.
On the other hand, startup pitching competitions can also be a waste of time if they are poorly organized, lack a panel of potential investors or are simply not selective enough about who is selected to pitch for the prize money.
As a founder, I think it’s always worth your time (and energy) to at least try out one competition before deciding whether or not they are really worth your time as a founder.
Some competitions have very high standards for acceptance and others are open to just about anyone with an idea (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Some competitions are very selective and have good judges ready to listen while others accept just about anyone who gets through their online application process only after they fill out an application form and upload their business pitch deck.
As long as you make sure you know what you’re getting into before spending any money on travel or hotel accommodations, I think it’s always worth trying out one competition before deciding whether or not it’s really worth your time as a Founder.
You may find one that fits perfectly with what you have invested so much time, energy and resources into building up over the last few years!
Pitching helps you practice your sales pitch
While you should be prepared to sell your startup at any time, you don’t get to practice your sales pitch as much as you might think. After all, the startup is your baby.
You’ve spent countless hours writing it up in a deck and then practicing it in front of the mirror or in front of friends and family. You know the pitch better than anyone else does and that makes it hard to really take feedback on how to improve.
Most founders I’ve talked to don’t get as much practice with their sales pitch for their startup as they would like.
Sure, they can go out and meet new people at networking events, but most of those events are more about sharing ideas than finding an investor or business partner.
Pitching competitions are a great way for founders to practice their sales pitch in front of a live audience who can give feedback on how well they did and what areas they need to improve on.
Startup pitching competitions can help startups grow faster by exposing them to new markets
One of the biggest reasons I believe in startup pitching competitions is because they expose startups to new markets or industries where they may not have been before.
If you have an innovative idea that is great for one industry but not so great for another, competitive pitches can give your company exposure to people who may be interested in your product or service if only you made it available outside of your industry.
Startup pitching competitions are a good way for founders who already have a track record, customer base or investor base in one market to expand into a completely different market where there may be less competition but more potential revenue!
In fact, some platforms like AngelList only allow startups that are “AngelList Approved” (such as winning a competition) access into AngelList’s marketplace!
Startup pitching competitions can help bridge the gap between your existing customer base and potential clients/customers from entirely different industries!
Startup pitching competitions can help founders learn from others about starting their own company!
There is nothing more valuable than learning from someone else’s mistakes along the way while starting up your own company.
As valuable as books are (and I recommend reading books by other entrepreneurs), nothing beats someone who has already been through the same trials and tribulations that you’re experiencing right now while building up your own business.
Startup pitching competitions allow you (as long as you win!) access into an entire community of entrepreneurs and industry experts who can give you advice, feedback and even mentor you as your startup gets off the ground.
Startup pitching competitions can help founders get the word out about their startup
As a founder, I know there is nothing better than getting your company in front of an audience who will likely become customers or users for your product or service.
Startup pitching competitions are helpful because they give founders the opportunity to get their startup in front of a captive audience who may see the potential value in what your startup does and be willing to try it out.
Startup pitching competitions can help you meet other founders and investors
As a founder, it’s always good to know more people than just your team members. Startup pitching competitions are great ways for founders to meet other founders and investors who have similar ideas about how their industry should evolve. After all, if you’re going to change the world, you might as well do it with your friends!
In summary, I recommend participating in at least one startup pitching competition before deciding whether or not they are worth your time as a founder.
Some competitions are well organized and allow you to get real feedback from potential investors while others are poorly organized and leave founders wondering whether it’s really worth their time. I think it’s always worth trying!
Once, a local entrepreneur in Singapore whom I admire (I won’t name her), told me after my pitch that “Cudy”, my company’s brand name, sounded like a Porn site — I obviously no longer admire her afterwards.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.