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Interested in Venture Prize 2021? Below is a summary of the questions asked and the respective responses during the info session on January 26, 2021.
*Please note that these responses are applicable only to the competition held in the year 2021 and may not apply to future years.*
Download the information session slide deck.
Can I still apply if I’m the only member of my team?
Solo entrepreneurs are more than welcome to apply! Last year's Top Venture Prize winner, Mala the Brand was actually a solopreneur so don’t let being a solo team discourage you from applying.
Is there any assistance that Venture Connection can provide before the preliminary pitch-off?
Yes! As a part of the lead up to the competition and the preliminary pitch-off, we host two workshops, both on February 27th. Firstly, our pitch workshop will teach you how to present and verbalize your value to the jury. Secondly, our bottom-up financials workshop will take a look at the financials for your idea or company. These workshops are open to everyone and anyone! Please go ahead and register for those events once we have the links up.
How far along does your project have to be in order to be accepted into Venture Prize?
It can literally be an idea that you had yesterday; you can go and apply today! That's one of the great things about this competition and having the Idea Stream. Nothing is too early. Put in an application, and see what happens!
What percentage of people who apply for Venture Prize get accepted?
From application to the preliminary pitch-off, we would say around 90%. You're not being judged on how good your business or your idea is initially, we're really just seeing if you meet the eligibility criteria. From there, we'll bring you in for the presentation, so that's why we really encourage everyone to come out to those two workshops before your preliminary pitch.
Who in the SFU community is eligible to participate in Venture Prize?
Student, staff, faculty and recent alum within two years. If you have a member on your team that isn't from SFU, that's totally okay too, but we do expect to see SFU affiliation to the effect where they can drive the direction of the idea or business.
How much further along do we need to be on product development to be considered in the Venture Prize category?
It depends on what your business is and what that solution ends up looking like. Don't worry too much about what stream you end up in. We try and stream competitors in a way that sets them up for success. Although maybe you were expecting to be placed into the Venture Stream but you get steered towards Idea, it just means that you have a much better chance of winning some prizes out of the Idea Stream.
What are some of the defining differences between the Idea and Venture Stream?
It is essentially how far along you are in your development from a business perspective. For example, when it comes to things like customer discovery - how many potential customers have you talked to and how far along are you in these conversations? Then there is the product development side - how far along are you in the prototyping phase? It is a judgment call from those who are screening your applications, but then again, we try to stream competitors in a way that sets them up for success.
Is the same person allowed to apply multiple times with multiple ideas?
There's nothing in the rules that specifically forbids this, but our general advice would be to pick the idea or venture that you think has the best chance. Spend twice as much time building that venture and really polish your application so that you nail the pitch, rather than splitting your time between two.
Is it possible that the stream you are put into could change as you make progress?
The short answer is no. Once the decision on what stream you're in is made, it will be final. The competition moves pretty quickly so for most ventures we don’t see it changing.
Are you able to reapply the following year, even if you win a prize, either in the Venture or Idea category?
If you win the Idea Stream, you're ineligible to apply for Venture Prize again but you will only be eligible for the Venture Stream. If you win a category or the top prize in Venture stream, then you will be ineligible for the competition again in future years. If you get into Venture Stream and don't win a prize, then you would be eligible again.
If you win an attribute prize, but do not win any category prizes you will also be eligible for Venture Prize again in future years, just not the same attribute again.
The Director of Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection reserves the right to deem the eligibility of all ventures
While I'm glad that you determine the categories in a way that leads us to success, wouldn't it be a disadvantage if a pre-revenue company that has a MVP product competes with a profitable company that already has proof of concept?
In past years, competitors who were pre-revenue have won the top overall prize against companies that have had revenue. The judges look at your venture as a whole, and if your founding team has potential. They consider the market that you're entering and make a determination based on a variety of factors. That way, many pre-revenue companies have done very well in this competition in the past.
Does this competition aid in market testing and transforming ideas to products? Also, are there resources for networking options for founders who might need services such as software development or brand strategy?
We don't necessarily directly aid in market testing and transformation from idea to product, but where you may get some of that benefit is through our workshops! Part of what will be talked about is what information goes into a good pitch (like customer discovery and the like) and steps on how to develop your idea. If you become a finalist, you'll get some one-on-one time with our Mentors-in-residence where they can help you with whatever problems that your venture might be facing. In terms of specific networking opportunities, there will be a reception at the end with professionals in a variety of industries; hopefully you'll be able to meet someone there who can help you with software development or brand strategy.
What if the founders share percentage is not finalized yet, or if the shares are not based on a dynamic model at the moment?
We expect a lot of competitors, especially in the Idea Stream to not have finalized the equity percentages and that's totally okay. In those cases, typically what we look for is just founding teams of less than five and at least one founder meets the SFU related criteria that we set out in the eligibility. If you're a team of 10, and only one person is from SFU, then we might have to have a discussion around what that eligibility looks like.
What advice do you have for finding ways to protect competitive advantage?
For this competition I wouldn't worry about it too much. The people who review the competition want the best for you and are all under NDA. All pitches are done in a closed room as well, so there will not be anyone in the audience. We are keeping a close track on who is entering and exiting the Zoom rooms as they go on. It is only going to be your team and the jury and staff who are helping to facilitate the competition that will be able to see your presentation.