How Startup Competitions Can Get You Genuine Feedback For Your Business Idea

Be early to the market and you are responsible for educating the customers.

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By Syed Salman Ali

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Are you at the precipice of starting a business venture? Or has the startup bug already bitten you and you have ventured into the treacherous yet rewarding path of business? In either case, the strongest emotion that you may experience, in a multitude of different emotions, is the feeling of inadequacy.

If you are yet to start a venture, you wonder whether your idea has what it takes to make it big in the market. If you have already started but are still in the development stage, you keep on second guessing yourself.

You may still be some distance away from going to the customers, however, you do not know whether the product or service you are working on has the features that will excite your customers.

Like most entrepreneurs, you would have bootstrapped your venture either by investing your own money or by borrowing from friends and family. In other words, you are always on a shoe string budget when you start out.

Then there is always the matter of time – be early to the market and you are responsible for educating the customers. Be late to the market and you face stiff competition and survival itself becomes a task, let alone making a profit.

So with all these factors confusing you further, you usually do what a normal person does in your position. You seek help/advice. And to do so, you reach out to family and friends. These are usually people who have either a stake in your business or are your well wishers.

In either case, chances of getting an unbiased feedback is low. So, who do you reach out for guidance. You may have read about business owners who are leaders in your field. They may seem to be the ideal group to guide you, however, owing to their busy schedule, it may not always materialize.

Also, consider the time it may take for you to track business leaders, schedule meeting as per their convenience, and then actually get their inputs. This is the time you should spend in making your product more useable for your customers. So how do you get actionable feedback on your idea, product, or even service without having to invest a lot of time and energy on non-productive tasks? Two words – startup competitions.

Now, you must be wondering how something that was a fun-activity in college help you improve your business. Consider this – most startup competitions receive promising pitches for their ideas from across the globe. This means that even if you do not participate in the competition, simply attending such an event will allow you to interact with the next generation of entrepreneurs.

With such interactions, you can get a sense of how they are trying to solve some of the most pressing issues of the society. Secondly, thought leaders and experienced business owners are also part of such competitions. They are either judging the actual competition or are there to share their knowledge/experiences. Presenting your idea in front of such luminaries will help you get real world feedback and action points.

This feedback you can take back with you and work on improving your idea/product with the confidence that you are in the right direction. Finally, most startup competitions have a reward for the winners – either in form of actual cash or in form of entry into an incubator/accelerator.

If it's the former, that additional cash contribution to your seed fund is always welcome. If it is the latter, then you know that you can get the best mentorship, workspace, and even industry connections by working with an incubator or an accelerator.

Convinced how startup competitions can help your business? If yes, let's look at some of the most popular startup events that can help you streamline your business:

Berlin Startup Calling 2016

Organized by Visual Meta GmbH, this startup event invites participants aged between 18 years and 30 years from all countries. Participants can apply either as individuals or in a group of up to 5 members. Thereafter, a form on the competition's website needs to be filled and the business idea is then to be uploaded in a prescribed format by 31 December 2016.

Entries will be assessed by Visual Meta's senior management and the results will be announced on 31 January 2017. A total of EUR 15,000, paid internship for 6 months, and Macbook, and iPad will be given to a total of 4 winners of the competition.

Arena Singapore 2016

Targeted for Internet technology or hardware/software startups in Asia, Area Singapore provides startups the opportunity to pitch their ideas to actual investors, trains them for the competition day, and helps them gain visibility across the Asian business region. Judged by prominent Asian venture capitalists, the competition shortlists a total of 7 startups who compete on the actual "arena day'.

The winner can take home USD 10,000. While you have missed the date to participate in the event, you can still attend it in Singapore on 12-13 April and witness Asia's most promising start-ups showcase their venture ideas.


while there is still sometime to the event, as it is next scheduled for March 2017, SeedStarsSummit is one of the most popular entrepreneurship forums for emerging markets. In its last edition, the competition saw entries from more than 55 technology startups from around the world compete for equity investment of up to USD 1 million.

Scheduled to be held in LausanneSwissTech Convention Centre, next year's competition is expected to witness startups from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the MENA region. In addition to the startup competition, the summit will also include panel discussions, workshops, and even breakout sessions.

Techcrunch Startup Battlefield

Aimed at bringing early stage startups under one roof, Techcrunch's event has till now witnessed participation of over 500 companies, of which 75 companies have already experienced exists. As part of the competition, startups can win USD 50,000 prize, the Disrupt Cup, and media exposure. However, they have to first convince a panel of judges that include Techcruch editors, top venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs. The competition has recognized some of the most popular companies of today, such as Mint, Dropbox, and Yammer, among others who have all been previous winners.

Syed Salman Ali

An entrepreneur, Aviator, Publicist and Business Coach

Syed Salman Ali is an entrepreneur, aviator, publicist and business coach, he has helped more than half a dozen startups to grow, their online presence and revenue. He loves to share his thoughts around  tech, startups, leadership and cross-cultural competence.

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