Develop Your Inner Entrepreneur

Last Thursday (2/14/08) Wharton released the results of Phase II of its annual business plan competition. The Wharton BPC, now celebrating its 10th year, provides students and non-student collaborators an opportunity to compete in a three-tiered selection process. In Phase II – the first competitive phase – the top 25 teams are selected as semi-finalists. These 25 teams then compete in Phase III, which requires submission of a full business plan. The best 8 teams are invited to present their business plans to a panel of judges at the venture finals. This year’s venture finals feature a one minute “elevator pitch” competition and a people’s choice award. Grand prize: 20k in cash plus 10k in in-kind services.

Think you have what it takes to win? You’ll have to compete against teams like Syatsui, which aims to develop a device that harvests energy produced by body movements to charge cell phone batteries. Other semifinalist concepts include a drug that prevents blindness, a technology that embeds particles into plastic or rubber to produce durable product surfaces, and of course, the “brallet,” a combination wallet/silicone breast enhancer.

Although teams may get some mileage out of a particularly innovative concept, participants are required to include detailed information in their submissions, including financial statements, a survey of the competitive landscape, and a risk analysis. While the BPC undoubtedly stimulates the already active competitive drive of the Wharton crew, the competition is not entirely about wild success or crushing defeat. All participants benefit from detailed feedback at every phase of the competition. And who knows…you might meet the folks who will help make your billion dollar idea blossom at some later date.

Several other B-schools currently host business plan competitions, featuring cash prizes ranging from 5k to 100k. Finalists in some of these competitions are given an opportunity to enter their plan in regional contests, such as the DFJ East Coast Venture Challenge, which disburses a hefty $250k in seed money to winning teams. For more on the topic, check out Jeffrey Gangemi’s BusinessWeek article on “The Afterlife Of Business Plan Contest Winners.”

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