The Way I See It… by Michael C. Volker
Building Better Companies: the New Ventures BC Initiative
The most common reason given for the failure of tech companies is the lack of good management. Accomplished entrepreneurs-turned-angels are a good first step for many companies to take towards finding mentors. But making connections with these and finding other resources can be a daunting task for a new venture team.
In the USA and Europe, business schools and engineering schools have teamed up with government and industry to provide assistance to emerging ventures. The vehicle for doing this is a new venture competition with substantial prize money at stake.
In B.C., the recently created BC Venture Society has launched the New Ventures BC Competition as an annual event open to all BC residents, with prizes totaling $125,000 - which is believed to be the largest of its kind in North America. Individuals with a new business idea can attend seminars and networking information sessions that will give them the chance to turn their idea into a successful startup.
British Columbia’s technology business innovators now have the chance to win a grand prize package worth $50,000 with more than a little help along the way. However, the real prize is not the prize money per se - it's getting the attention and interest of the investment community that really counts. I can’t imagine the winners not getting serious offers in addition to the prize money.
Entrepreneurs of any age and background with an idea for an innovative product or service involving a new technology are encouraged to sign up. Everything necessary – including seminars and networking opportunities – will be available online. The aim of the competition is to increase the number of startup businesses in the province and to help establish an entrepreneur-friendly business environment that nurtures new ideas.
The BC Ventures Society is a cooperative endeavor of business, academic and government partners, sponsors and contributors that have banded together to help stimulate a strong, healthy economy in British Columbia. It will work closely with many other organizations in B.C., such as the Vancouver Enterprise Forum.
“Entrepreneurs are the engine of the BC economy, bringing new jobs, tax revenue, human capital and investment capital to the region. The New Ventures BC Competition will establish British Columbia as a great place to develop a new business,” according to Don Calder, a well-known local industry leader and chairman of the new entity.
Lead sponsor Bank of Montreal has joined other inaugural sponsors Palmer Jarvis DDB, Western Economic Diversification Canada, SFU Business, TAP Ventures, Caldwell Partners, and Campney & Murphy in a three-year commitment to fund the grand prize and the financial backing for this initiative.
Western Economic Diversification Canada will invest $338,000 in the project. Providing modest infrastructure support such as this will benefit many companies. It is a superb way of stimulating the economy! And government doesn’t need to pick the winners. In fact, an independent jury is commissioned to do that job.
The competition is broken down into four phases, and anyone intending to participate should register by April 7, 2001. Up to 100 of the best ideas will be selected to move on to Round Two, the Feasibility Test. During this time participants will have opportunities to attend seminars on legal, accounting, marketing and more. The jury will choose 35 finalists to compete in Round Three, the Venture Plan, all of which can take advantage of mentoring, and networking opportunities. The 30-page Venture Plan is due August 20. From there, the jury will select six finalists, each of which will win $5,000 in cash and proceed to Round Four, the Finale. The final six teams will make an oral presentation to the jury on September 21 and the first and second prize winners will be announced at a Gala Wrap-up to be held on September 27, 2001.
The way I see it, the goal of the New Ventures BC Competition is to support British Columbia’s emerging technology sector and to motivate researchers and developers to commercialize their ideas. By participating in the annual competition, entrepreneurs will build business skills and help to create a sustainable diversity in the province’s investment community. Contest details and registration forms can be found at www.newventuresbc.com.
Michael Volker is a high technology entrepreneur and director of Simon Fraser U's University/Industry Liaison Office. He oversees Vancouver’s Angel Technology Network and is a director of the BC Advanced Systems Institute and the Vancouver Enterprise Forum. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.