Can Competitions Can Hinder Startup Success?
Startup competitions can be seen as a stepping stone — and in some cases a boulder! — to success. Not only can they offer you a stage, in person or virtual, for you to pitch your business, but the benefits trickle down into PR, social media coverage, contacts, networks, and of course, what everyone is vying for: prize money.
Now, I have competed in my fair share of university competitions, and I recommend that startups do pursue them, if and only if, they fit these criteria.
The competition is already in line with your business priorities.
As a startup, sometimes priorities can look more like a mind-map than a clear roadmap. But, you as a founder need to have the KPIs and milestones paved for your business. Then, you need to ask yourself:
- Does this competition allow me to achieve my KPIs? Faster, more effectively, or differently?
- What are the objectives for our team/business/or product management for this competition?
- What are the tangible and intangible benefits of putting the time and effort into this competition process?
If these questions are stirring up some unsettlement, pause. As a team take a look at what the benefits are and the ROI on your time.
This competition is not a personal distraction — or a huge pit of anxiety.
Yes, it needs to be in-line with your business objectives. That is 100% priority.
But, as someone who is already type A, sometimes I would put additional mountains of pressure on myself for a startup competition. This led to about 4 packs of Tums being consumed in a week at one point, and when we lost, I felt like I had let the team down. I had banked on this being a chance to secure the prize money for our team, and now all I was left with was the start of an ulcer.
Having this personal chip on my shoulder was actually distracting me from doing my best work day to day in the business, and it was even worse in the final pitch. It also was a distraction to my own wellbeing.
Nothing, no trophy, giant check, or anything of the like is worth risking your health over.
But, if you are in a startup competition, it should you. And, you should be able to learn something.
Competitions should be fun. They are exciting ways for you to push your business to new audiences, and it is a unique challenge to showcase your venture in its best light. As someone who loves to write, I secretly loved doing applications for startup competitions. 400 character limit — challenge accepted!
Whether we got into the next round or not, the competition process was sharpening skills in writing. Now, can the process teach you more about:
- Communication, written or verbal
- Editing (as many of these are shorrrrrrrt.)
- Reflection + Synthesis of Milestones
Or maybe something not on this list like public speaking.
There are lots of competitions coming down the pipeline, like NACUE Tata Varsity Pitch, have think and ask yourself if this is the right time and the right competition. And, of course, have fun throughout every step of the process.