Business plan competition v. business model competition

At first we named this site entrepreneurshipcompetitions.com. We were convinced it was the most inclusive yet precise moniker for the competitions we were displaying and reporting on.

But we quickly set that name aside, and changed to bizplancompetitions.com, for several reasons:

  • the name entrepreneurshipcompetitions was too long,
  • it was too difficult to spell, and
  • outside of social entrepreneurship competitions, the term isn’t used all that often.

We’re hoping the name bizplancompetitions.com is an improvement at least in a generic (read SEO) sort of way. We’ll see. (It would help if dictionaries got around to replacing the word “business” with the much snappier “biz.”)

Call it a branding challenge, or even a mini-identity crisis. Either way, we’re not the only ones in the entrepreneurship-competition space facing this issue.

The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business has announced a phased jettisoning of the name — Moot Corp — it has used over 25 years’ worth of competitions. The Global Moot Corp Business Plan Competition will henceforth be known as the Venture Labs Investment Competition. Its self-billing as the “The Super Bowl of World Business Plan Competition” will change to “The Super Bowl of Investment Competition.” Perhaps a more accurate approach, but certainly not as memorable.

Many other competition organizers are giving careful thought to their names. The term “business plan competition” remains most common, and is still appropriate for contests focused on the academic exercise of creating the document called a business plan.

But other competitions are more about judging the viability of the business itself along with its ability to attract capital, and not so much about the contents of its formal written plan. And so we see phrases used in their names like “venture competition,” “entrepreneurship challenge,” “ideas competition,” “entrepreneurial grant competition,” “startup competition,” “business challenge,” and “venture championship.”

Some are attacking the name-game by coming up with something more catchy: BiG Idea, MassChallenge, Economic Fuel, Innovate Illinois, MIT100K, Be Your Own Boss Bowl, TigerLaunch, and The Joust.

Generic names will sometimes invoke generalized criticism.

Blogger Steve Blank wrote this week that business plan competitions are a huge waste of time. Startups should not be spending their energies creating a static business plan that presumes an accurate understanding of their customers, their market, and their product features. In actuality, and invariably, startups must “pivot” along the way, and so should focus on developing a business “model.” Business models, according to Blank, are “dynamic and reflect the iterative reality that startups face.”

Is there such a thing as the “business model competition” that Blank favors over a “business plan competition”? We know of one that at least carries the name, and it is located in our very own upstate New York: The University of Rochester’s Mark Ain Business Model Competition.

Of course, Blank might argue that by his definition the term “model” in the name of the competition is misleading if the focus remains on the static fiction of a business plan and not the dynamic reality faced by all startups.

Many competition organizers, I believe, and certainly most outside judges, appreciate that reality. We should not get too caught up on names.

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Joe Hurley is a CPA, author of "The Best Way to Save for College - A Complete Guide to 529 Plans", founder of Savingforcollege.com, and co-founder of Bizplancompetitions.com. He has also recently started making maple syrup.
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One Response to Business plan competition v. business model competition

  1. Nathan Furr says:

    We just ran the first true business model competition with Steve Blank. It was an incredible success. Your readers might enjoy seeing this.

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