Guest feature | Prizes worth more than €5 million – and other important reasons why you really should take part in a startup contest
At the beginning of every new year, the German startup website Für-Gründer.de takes a close look at all of the startup competitions being organized in Germany. When they first embarked on their annual endeavor, there were 124 such contests. Now that number has risen to over 163. A good 20,000 applications came flooding into the competition mailboxes in 2016. Of those, 756 startups received an award from an expert panel of judges. So it looks like startup competitions are groovy-groovy at the moment. Small wonder really: startups are fully aware of the benefits of taking part in a competition – above and beyond the obvious prize money.
Is it all just about the money?
Three million euros in prize money and non-cash prizes valued at a further €2 million – that was the total reward handed out during startup competitions in 2016. Few would argue with the fact that for a startup, that’s a pretty useful cash injection and a good way to get the ball rolling. Startups should note, however, that taking part in a competition is not (just) about monetary motivations.
Take the example of the Munich-based startup Braufässchen, sellers of homemade beer brewing sets whose company name translates as “little brewing barrel”. At one get-together for a startup competition, the founders immediately got to know two business angels. Another example is Coldplasmatech, which has developed a new kind of medical plaster for chronic wounds. The startup was approached by investors following media coverage of startup competitions.
When business founders look back at their experience with startup contests, they don’t necessarily point first to the monetary aspects. What seems much more important to them is the media coverage, the access to networks (often crossing industry lines), and contacts with investors, future business partners and even sometimes new customers. Exclusive events and strategic partners at competitions are often a useful help in turning contest participation into long-term profit. Some contests even offer their own alumni networks which stay with you once the actual competition is over and allow you to stay in touch with other active business founders – or if you’re lucky, investors. A good example of this is the alumni network offered by CODE_n, which continues to provide startup teams with support even after the startup competition is over.
One of the other big reasons for taking part in a competition is feedback. If it’s a competition revolving around startup concepts or business planning, this can even take in the complete business plan – one that should be powerful enough to win over financial institutions and investors. During the later stages of the startup process, help comes in the form of workshops, seminars or talks in which experts divulge their specialist knowledge to help business founders work up their own business model.
Startup spotlights on
If you emerge as a winner of a competition, not only do you stand to win money or a non-cash prize, you’re
also thrust into the public spotlight, with a prestigious badge you can wear plus media coverage. For new companies it’s often a bumpy journey trying to gain the trust of a market and earn public recognition, and awards reaped at competitions can really help raise their profile. The more industry-specific contests in particular have earned a lot of respect over the years, especially with the key target group. So an award is like a quality endorsement – and larger companies, industry experts and investors are also likely to look more closely at firms that have earned honors at key competitions.
In summary then, we can say the following about startup contests: They’re a free opportunity to develop a concept or draft a business plan/business model and a good way to get feedback from experts or share know-how. You can win a quality endorsement, money or non-cash prizes; you can attend exclusive events, gain access to customers, investors and strategic partners, and attract media attention. So why wait? In 2017 there will be 190 startup competitions in Germany. To find out where and when, go to www.fuer-gruender.de/wettbewerbe.