Will the world’s largest business plan competition please stand up?

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Hey, what’s going on? I didn’t expect to see more than one organizer standing up. Why so many?

The self-proclamation of “largest,” “richest,” or “best” business plan competition seems to be catching on these days. Just today, a coalition of southeast Michigan business groups put in their claim as launching the largest business plan competition in the world, called the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, with $1 million in cash prizes, including a $500,000 grand prize.

For years, the student-oriented Rice Business Plan Competition was undisputed as the world’s “largest and richest”. Earlier this year, MassChallenge was launched in Boston self-billed as the “world’s largest global start-up competition”.

Of course, competition among competitions is all good. As the stakes are increased, start-up companies have even more reason to get excited about entering these events. Most will walk away with no cash prizes, but whether they expected to or not, almost all will gain valuable knowledge and connections that will be of great benefit to their ventures.

I don’t care to nitpick too much – when I add up the Michigan competition’s prizes I cannot quite reach the $1 million advertised – but I do hope that every competition clearly discloses what they include in their headline figures. Cash grants, the “value” of in-kind services, and convertible notes or other “investment” prizes are truly different things.

And we should all remember that among all the business plan competitions taking place globally, today’s largest is not going to be tomorrow’s. After all, some of us can think back to when the world’s tallest building was always located in the United States.

Here is some more coverage of today’s announcement concerning the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Contest:

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit News

Crain’s Detroit Business

Xconomy

Time.com

Photo credit: reway2007

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