Online business plan competitions: the next big thing?

The Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada will be staging its inaugural business plan competition, named the Tony Brower Innovation Exposition, on March 27, 2010 – ONLINE! Five finalist-teams will be presenting their business plans from remote locations via webcam to be judged by experts in other remote locations. The winner receives $7,500 CDN with the second-place finisher receiving $2,500 CDN.

I cannot say with certainty that this student business plan competition – traditional in many respects – is the first to go virtual, but it certainly seems to open up a lot of possibilities for future contests. By eliminating the huge logistical challenge (and carbon pollution associated with travel) faced by most business plan competitions in staging an onsite event, just about any group, with minimal resources, can host an online event. You just have to hope there are no technical glitches popping up on competition day.

An online competition should also encourage more teams from varied locations to enter, since they will not have to arrange travel should they reach the finals. The Tony Brower Innovation Exposition is open to students attending any post-secondary institution in North America, as well as faculty. In its first year, however, it seems the competition may not have gained widespread attention: three of the five finalist teams come from the University of Michigan, with one team from Columbia University, and one from the host school, Thompson Rivers University.

Of course, an online event does not easily replace the backdrop, social interaction, and drama afforded by an onsite event. Much can be said for having judges, including potential funders, in the same room as the competitors. It is for this reason that we are not likely to see many existing business plan competitions change to a completely new format any time soon.

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Co-founder of 2009 graduate of Nazareth College (Rochester, NY) who enjoys riding horses and motorcycles (in that order).
View all posts by Megan Hurley → This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Spotlight - Competitions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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