This Is What All Business Plan Competitions Should Do

Earlier this week, I participated in the press conference that announced the new competition I had first discussed in this post.  Ivy Tech Northeast, together with the Innovation Center as a collaborator, announced Launch: New Venture Competition.

As I mentioned before, this is NOT your father’s business plan competition.  It is really not a business plan competition at all – it is a new venture competition, and it is enfused with a good dose of reality – in two ways.

First, all of the Ivy Tech student participants will have thought through a business plan by the time they start this competition.  In this competition, they will work in groups on weekly hands-on exercises designed to help them take their ventures to the next level.

Second, each week the weakest group will have to vote one of its members “off of the island”, reality TV style.  The top three winners left standing will compete for up to $50K full seed funding for their venture.

Why is this style better than the traditional business plan competition?

  • Instead of basing the competition on one plan submission and maybe one pitch, this competition features multiple pitches with coaching.  This emulates the real world iterative that happens as a startup explores its business model, and for students, this means they learn a lot more.
  • Instead of providing a token award, the winning venture receives enough seed investment to establish their business.  Most competitions award token amounts that really don’t provide the winning venture a way to move to the next milestone or to sustainability.
  • Every student entrepreneur completes all of the exercises (when you are voted off of the island, you really just go to another group and keep on with the exercises).  From a student entrepreneur’s perspective, everyone receives lots of hands on learning and coaching feedback.
  • The learning all takes place in a real setting.  No case studies – the exercises all address real startup ventures.  Everyone gets their hands dirty.

Go to the Ivy Tech website above and follow the competition as it unfolds.  You’ll even be able to vote for the venture you like best each week to help keep them safe from being voted off.  Entrepreneur bios hit the site on March 15.

Fort Wayne WordPress Meetup #1

Fort Wayne WordPress Meetup #1

Today the first WordPress Meetup in Fort Wayne happened.  For a very first event, it came off rather well.

Over a dozen people gathered at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center and spent a couple of hours discussing their WordPress sites, expertise, likes, needs, and so forth.

The group ranged from the earliest stage beginners to folks who have forked WordPress or coded a WordPress site from scratch (who needs a theme, anyway, other than as a starting point).  Lots of people had published multiple sites, some for business and some personal.  In other words, a good mix.

The Meetup was organized by the crew from WPCandy.com and MC’ed by Ryan Imel (at the podium above).  We looked through a bunch of our sites, shared notes on plugins, and left the beginners with a full notebook of ideas to research.

The Meetup will be a regular event, held at 1:00 p.m. on the 3rd Thursday of the month at the Innovation Center.  You can stay in touch at WPFortWayne.com.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Tech and Arts

Recently the City of Fort Wayne asked for ideas for investing / spending a $75 million legacy windfall coming from the Fort Wayne Community Trust and City Light Lease Settlement funds.  We didn’t lack suggestions, some VERY good (cough high speed rail cough) and others a bit humorous.

I suggested starting a seed fund for ventures in both technology and the arts, and even though it has scored (so far) in 52nd place in the voting, I’d like to explain why I made the suggestion.

I believe that we should grow the tech community here in Fort Wayne.  I see no reason why we can’t develop a tech community and culture that is as effective as anywhere else – the Valley, Boulder, Austin, Seattle, Boston, you name it.  We are as well equipped here as anywhere to make web apps, mobile apps, game apps, and related software or webware.  We have the talented young technologists, growing up in our schools and colleges or recently graduated.  These ventures don’t cost the millions that our prior generation’s rust belt manufacturing ventures needed for startup.

But one thing we suffer from is the the perception of lacking a culture to support young tech geeks.  That’s why it is important to invest both in tech ventures AND arts ventures!

By the way, the arts culture is here, if you look!  Like the tech area, we also have lots of talented young artists, growing up in our schools and colleges or recently graduated.  If you attended Drop Your Avant Garde  downtown recently, you couldn’t help but notice the crowd.  In fact, you had to nearly fight your way through the crowd!

I’m just saying that we need to bring it to the forefront and then grow it some more.

Tech geeks need art geeks.  We need great tech entrepreneurs, and they need great places to go and be entertained.  We need an arts community that packs downtown (or some neighborhood) EVERY night, just like at Drop Your Avant Garde.

Are you with me?

NIIC’s new and improved student entrepreneurship program

The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) has made some improvements to its student entrepreneurship program.  The Student Venture Lab program is now patterned after the successful tech venture accelerator programs Y-Combinator and TechStars (and all the others).

In other words, the Student Venture Lab now provides a small amount of seed capital and office space at NIIC’s campus in exchange for a small amount of equity.  NIIC also provides the owners a small stipend.  The ventures work over a six month period (students need a bit more time than the full time ventures in most accelerators) to prepare for demo day, and they receive mentorship and coaching help during the process.

The first cohort was just accepted to the Student Venture Lab this month.  Watch for the more information at niic.net and studentventurelab.com.