"Also, I really encourage people to pick businesses where you can do a lot with a very small team," he adds. "There are some cases where that might be necessary with very technological plays, but the reality is, particularly if you're in school, you're surrounded by people who want to help," she says.Talk to enough people and they know it's your idea.
The Rice University competition is one of the largest in the world.
Brad Burke is managing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which organizes and hosts the competition.
Dig Deeper: Understanding the Consumer of the Future Winning a Business-Plan Competition: Be an Expert on Your Product and its Market Holly has seen teams mistakenly choose the data they have instead of setting out to find the data they need. "If the entrepreneur is really doing it, not just presenting an idea but has put a lot of effort into making it happen already in real life and could use the funding to move their business forward, that carries a lot of weight with the judges," Behnke says. "Even if it's a prototype you mock up in your dorm room that's put together with tape and rubber bands," Mitchell says, "You're going to learn more by having something out there." One pet peeve that nearly every judge has is teams that present their idea and say that there is no competition in the space.
"That's always a red flag because investors will say either you're completely clueless or it means that there's no market," Holly says.
With that kind of money and influence at stake, here is insider advice from organizers, judges, and competitors: Winning a Business-Plan Competition: Pick a Strong Team Megan Mitchell, senior associate director of entrepreneurial programs at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, helps students manage the Wharton Business-Plan Competition.
"Make sure you look outside your closest friends for your teammates," she says. "If you're a med student, find a business student who might be interested in helping you commercialize your idea." Internal friction and bickering can be devastating.
In 2000, Ask Jeeves bought Direct Hit for 2.5 million.
Today, Cassidy is director of product management at Google.
For serial entrepreneur Mike Cassidy, MIT's Entrepreneurship Competition wasn't just a contest. In 1998, one of the two years he won the competition, he won with a plan to provide Web portals with smarter search engine technology called Direct Hit Technologies.
"In the beginning, I was trying to get these other search engines to work with me and nobody would return my calls," he says.