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BCIC-New Ventures competition offers arsenal of expertise to tech startups
March 16th 2013 at 10:38 AM
Saturday, March 16, 2013
By Paul Luke, The Province

The BCIC-New Ventures Competition is expected to attract 150-180 contestants.The competition comprises four increasingly tough rounds. Competitors are eliminated after each round. leaving 10 finalists in Round 4 to vie for $300,000 in prizes.Registration deadline is April 18. Prize winners are announced in September.Juries, which consist of experienced business people, evaluate submissions and presentations, provide feedback and decide who makes it to the next round.Mentorship is a key part of the competitive process. Business experts mentor competitors in Rounds 2.5, 3 and 4.“Mentors answer questions, provide focus, examine the business plan, brainstorm possible partnerships, evaluate milestones, provide relevant contacts, evaluate presentations and advise on incorporation and intellectual property rights,” the competition says.For more information, see newventuresbc.com.New Ventures BC Society is a non-profit group that runs the competition.

ARSENAL OF EXPERTISE

There may be technology entrepreneurs somewhere in B.C. convinced their idea is a magic bean poised to vault them into a land of golden eggs.

Technology veterans offer gentle advice to these dreamers: Forget the magic beans unless you crave failure and flatulence.

A technology idea needs mounds of multi-faceted TLC to poke its green head above the ground, says John Jacobson, president of the B.C. Innovation Council.

“It is absolutely daunting to start a new venture from scratch,” Jacobson says. “If you’ve never done it before, it’s mind-boggling.”

Data from the U.S. puts the failure rate for technology startups at about 60 per cent during the first three years, Jacobson says.

Jacobson, a successful entrepreneur himself, heads a crown corporation charged with nurturing B.C.’s technology community. That’s why his organization is lead sponsor of the BCIC-New Ventures Competition, an annual program in its 13th year that offers informed and practical advice to technology entrepreneurs.

The competition, which is now accepting applicants, offers more than $300,000 in prizes this year to early-stage entrepreneurs who impress judges with their potential to turn ideas into successful outfits.

Those who enter the competition, which runs from April to September, access a sprawling arsenal of expertise: mentors, coaches, potential investors and battle-hardened entrepreneurs who can share the skills a startup needs to succeed.

Angie Schick, the competition’s program manager, says many participants are intellectually strong but have little business background, and no support network. The competition introduces participants to people who can give them honest feedback, help them build a prototype or find financing.

“Winning one of the prizes is great but it’s the whole process that is going to help companies,” Schick says. “The program itself is the big benefit.”

A study released earlier this year found that 56 per cent of the 295 companies that made it to the competition’s third round between 2001 and 2011 are still in business. Collectively, those companies have generated 3,170 jobs and estimated revenue of $194 million.

Victoria-based MediaCore, a startup that won the competition’s first prize last year, has just made Fast Company magazine’s Top 10 list of the world’s greatest innovators in digital video.

SEMINARS

Emerging entrepreneurs signing up for the BCIC-New Ventures Competition’s nine-part seminar series should be ready for tough questions.

Competition mentor Ralph Turfus won’t beat around the bush when he leads the series’ first seminar on April 3: Assessing the opportunity.

Turfus, a veteran entrepreneur, wants entrepreneurs to ask themselves whether they, and their idea, have what it takes to succeed.

“Many of these people have a technology background and now they’re creating a business,” Turfus says. “They’ve got to learn the language of investors.”

That language starts with questions:

*Do I have the stuff to be a successful entrepreneur? Do I have a value proposition that will let me win?

*Is my market big enough?

*Am I ready to let someone else run my business who may take it in a different direction?

Would-be entrepreneurs can sign up for the seminar series separately, or as part of the overall competition.

The seminar topics and times are:

April 3 — Assessing opportunity

April 17— Intellectual property strategy

April 24 — Market research and product marketing

May 1 — Basic finance and choosing a business model

May 8 — What angels really want

May 15 — Corporate structure

May 22 — Early-stage financing

May 29 — Perfecting your pitch

June 5 — Exit strategy

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