It’s that time of semester again where some of the best and brightest UWaterloo students put their entrepreneurial ideas to the test! That’s right, Concept $5K applications are open and we are looking to help students take their high potential startup ideas to the next level. Although we had to quickly adapt last semester, this time we are prepared for a fully virtual pitch competition experience. The format will remain mostly the same, but this new digital version will bring some unique challenges. To help you create dynamite applications and better prepare for a virtual pitch competition, we talked to previous participants and judges and got the inside scoop on what it takes to succeed.
Writing the Best Application
There are tons of great students with awesome ideas, so you need to stand out and explain why your idea is worthy of being picked. Here are some best practices and common mistakes when writing your application:
Focus on the problem:
Fully describe the problem you are working to solve and why your solution is truly new and needed. Our judges aren’t as versed in your field as you are, present a “customer eye view” of the problem – how does your potential customer view their current buying options, and how can your idea fix or change this?
Showcase your traction:
Just because you don’t have customers, doesn’t mean you have no traction. Demonstrate that you’ve gone out and talked to the people you think you’ll be selling to and explain the ways you have validated interest in your idea. Showcase the evidence from potential customers that they would be willing to pay for your solution.
Be clear and concise:
Avoid technical jargon and long meandering sentences. Keep your answers clear, concise, and to the point. You should be able to describe the problem you are solving and your potential solution without writing long paragraphs. Hit the main points that you believe make the strongest case for the importance of your problem and the suitability of your solution.
Winning doesn’t always equal more winning:
It’s awesome if you have won other competitions with your idea, but this does not guarantee success in the Concept $5K. Many applicants feel that previous awards show validation and see this is a substitute for researching and understanding their customers, but this is not the case!
The Virtual Pitch
If you impress the judges with your application and make it on to the virtual pitching stage, you clearly have a great idea and potential, so now it’s time to prove it! Pitching virtually is not all that different from in person, but there are some things to keep in mind and prepare for.
You are still on stage:
Be aware of the tone of your voice, as well as the body language you are exhibiting throughout your pitch. Because the judges aren’t in the room with you, you really need to work to show your personality and passion for your idea, make your presence felt and command the virtual stage!
Make your pitch pop:
Your slides will be front and centre while you present, so be sure to make them visually pleasing and easy for people to follow along with. Avoid text heavy slides that take the focus off your voice. As the saying goes: a picture is worth 1000 words, but videos can be blurry, distracting, or cause technical issues. Be careful what you include on your slides and set yourself up for success.
Learn from the past:
Check out the pitches from our previous competitions and see what worked well and made the winners stand out. You can see pitch videos from our virtual edition, and in person competitions on our YouTube channel.
Practice, practice, practice!
This goes without saying, but you should be practicing your pitch like crazy! Have it memorized, know your pacing, and practice if things go wrong or you mix up your words. Use your slides as benchmarks and avoid reading off them directly. Practice your pitch with friends, family, advisors, mentors, and anyone that will listen until you can do it in your sleep.
Just apply! If you don’t apply, you’re robbing yourself of a potential opportunity.Aileen Agada, BeBlended Founder- W20 Concept $5K Winner
If you have an idea for a potential startup, there is no time like the present so be sure to complete your Concept $5K applications by Sunday, June 28th. In the meantime, book sessions with Concept Coaches, attend Intro Sessions (specifically the upcoming Intro Session: Pitch to Win), and Working Sessions to help best prepare and give you a leg up on the competition. If you aren’t sure if your idea is ready, don’t be shy, just apply! Even if you don’t advance, you will receive valuable feedback on your idea and how you can improve. Best of luck and keep innovating!