10 Tips For Submitting A Winning Idea

New Venture Competition Submission Best Practices

Didn’t check “change the world” off your 2017 bucket list? Have no fear. We have you covered for 2018.

On April 19, 2018, nine future world changemakers take the stage to pitch for $300K in cash and prizes. Last year, Urgent Wellness took home more than $25K in startup funding to help bring healthcare to vulnerable populations.

How will your idea be the one to impact a community or industry? Tell us by applying to the GW New Venture Competition between January 1 and January 31 for a chance to make it a reality.

The application consists of three parts:

  1. Answer a handful of questions about your idea;
  2. Write up a quick 50-word summary of your concept;
  3. And upload a two-minute video.

New to this? Want to take it up a notch? Need a starting point? Lex McCusker, Director of Student Entrepreneurship Programs, shares more than 10 years of best practices and insights on what makes an idea good and how to submit it to the GW New Venture Competition.

#1. Start with an idea for a solution to a problem.

Have a problem with no solution? A cool solution but no verified problem to solve? Lean on the advice from past participants. From when to start to finding your “why,” these words of wisdom from GW alumni might be the ticket to launching your idea.

#2. Focus on helping people instead of asking for money
Unsure of what to include in the pitch? At this stage, don’t worry about the money. Focus on identifying a solution to a problem to help or improve the lives of other people. The clearer the message around creating value for people, the higher the chance of success.

#3. Think now, write later. 
In this early submission stage, there is no bonus for writing all the words. Find a quiet space to think about what’s most important about your idea, team, and customers. Hone in on three main points to convey, and when finally putting pen to paper, keep it concise. Think three times, write once.

#4. Read the instructions and study the criteria.

Take a minute to put aside notes, drawings, and back-of-the-napkin scribbles and read through the eligibility requirements and judging criteria to understand exactly what is expected. The meat of the scoring goes to articulating the problem and solution. Clear and thoughtful ideas stand out more than pretty proposals.

#5. Know your customer and the market.

Highlight interviews, statistics, conversations with people, and any personal experiences that support the validity of this idea. Be intentional in explaining the benefits of the service or product for that market, the pain points for the customer, and how the proposed solution stands apart from existing or potential competitors.

#6. Keep the video simple.

We want to meet the face behind the idea: use this time to showcase your passion, enthusiasm, and determination. Participants that express commitment early on are most likely to weather the inevitable adversity. Be authentic. Avoid slick or fancy video tricks. The easiest and most popular tactic? Prop a smartphone on a desk or table and press record.

Check out videos from past participants.

#7. Sit down. Be humble. Ask for help. 
Feel like you don’t know anything? You are not alone. It is okay to have an undeveloped business plan or idea. In fact, we expect it and provide a number of resources to help. Take advantage of our Mentors-in-Residence (MIR) program or visit the GW Online Mentorship Community to chat with experienced mentors and peers. They can both support your quest to solve problems and understand practices and principles.

Feel confident in asking for help and understand that nobody knows how to do this from the beginning. That’s the point!

#8. Don’t over-complicate it. 
Do not place imaginary constraints on yourself. The competition is meant to be a hands-on learning process. Find comfort in knowing that participants come in at all stages of business-savvy, or lack thereof, and continue to learn from the beginning of the application process through the final competition.

The only prerequisites are passion, an open mind, and an interest in improving the world we live in.

#9. Strength in numbers.
Having interdisciplinary team members who can operate cross-functionally and share the work is a big plus. Build a strong team from the outset. Consider the skills you offer and the skills you require. Identify collaborators with those complementary skills — like marketing, web development, design, engineering, or operations — and outline your dream team, including role functions, skillsets, or experience.

Not sure where to find team members? Reach out to us. We will connect you to our extensive network of students, faculty, and staff.

#10. Draft. Iterate. Review. Repeat. 
The time to start is now.

Take advantage of the upcoming holiday season to get the gears turning and find a level of comfort with the materials. Create a draft and share it with friends and family. Encourage constructive criticism and welcome the feedback — it will only strengthen the submission in the long run.

Next, sit at a desk and start filming the video. Do it multiple times until it feels natural.

And finally, between January 22–26, a week before submissions are due, bring a draft of a business model canvas, a video, or even a pile of drawings, to the extended office hours taking place in the GW Innovation Center located at the Tompkins Hall of Engineering. Mentors will be available to give specific advice on New Venture Competition submissions and help you become the one.

Ready? Set? Go!

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