The following blog post was written by Lindsay Thom and was published earlier today on BCIC’s blog.

With the deadline to register for the 11th annual BCIC-New Ventures Competition less than two weeks away (April 18th), BCIC sat down with Executive Director Bob de Wit to talk about this year’s competition – why it works, who should enter (this year’s competition has added prizes for Agritech and Social Ventures) and why for budding entrepreneurs who are serious about moving their idea or company forward, it will be the best $200 they ever spent.

Bob, how long have you been involved in the competition?

I’ve been involved with the competition since it started in 2001. At first I was a volunteer mentor and then a judge. In 2006 I joined the board and took over recruitment of all the judges and mentors. In 2010 I took on the role of Executive Director.

Who should enter the BCIC-NVC competition? I.e. is it for established companies only? I have an idea but am not really sure where to go with it.

This competition is meant for BC-based startups (or restarts) that are less than five years old and leverage technology in their business model. Combining education, mentoring, networking, competition and non-dilutive cash prizes, there’s no better way to test whether an idea will have legs in the marketplace!

What does the $200 entry fee get me?

Participants can attend all the seminars and networking events, plus a shot at the mentoring and cash prizes available to companies who make it to round 3 and 4 of the competition.

What types of companies or ideas are you looking for?

Past winners of our competition have come from every type of industry: digital media, software, cleantech, biotech, manufacturing, you name it. This year we have even created two prizes for companies developing technology products in the agriculture and food science areas.

Learn more about past winners here.

How do the judges compare digital media companies (no patents) to cleantech and biotech companies (lots of patents)?

Patents are great, but they’re not everything. As demonstrated by our top winner last year, HiretheWorld, the key thing entrepreneurs need to do is demonstrate how they can develop an “unfair” competitive advantage over others in their marketplace. This can be done via patents, but it can be done in many other ways: demonstrating some early market traction (beta customers, or better, paying customers).

How long will my application take to fill out? Any tips for making my application stand out?

Entering the information for Round 1 is very simple. If you have a draft business plan already, it should take you about an hour.

Round 2, however, is a different story. The deadline for completing the Round 2 entry is May 11 and I recommend getting started now. There are nine questions to be completed and your answers need to be kept to five pages – one page to talk about your team, your product, the stage of the technology and your business plan, and then four pages to explain:

  • Your intellectual property (key: what’s your defensible competitive barrier to competition?)
  • Your market (key: what’s your value proposition to customers? How big is the market? What exact segment are you going after? What does your ideal customer type look like? How will you make money?)
  • Distribution or go-to-market plan (key: how do you plan to utilize existing market channels to your customer?)
  • Competition (key: profile who you’re up against in the market and your plan for how to create an unfair competitive position, utilizing your unique customer value proposition)
  • Financials (key: how much, if any, capital do you need to raise to become a cash-flow positive business? What kind of return could investors expect? When and how do you expect to exit (i.e. sell) your business?)

How do the judges evaluate my venture?

In Round 2, five different judges will rate your submission on each of the five latter questions above, on a scale of 1 to 5. As well, they will score you on a scale of 1 to 5 on “overall potential.” The first five measures are weighted 10% each, while overall potential is weighted 50%. Once we get all the judging results back, we aggregate them and have a third-party data analytics company (Octothorpe Software) normalize the results and provide us with an ordinal list of the companies as the judges saw them.

In Round 3, the top 25 companies submit a more developed plan, with the help of a mentor team, and it gets reviewed by a different jury composed of angel and venture investors. This jury uses a simpler judging rubric: those ventures they believe will be challenged to survive are rated zero; those ventures who will likely survive but are not addressing a sizable market are rated one, and those companies who will likely survive and are addressing a potentially large market, are rated two. At this point, the number of companies gets reduced from 25 down to 10.

In Round 4, the “money round,” the companies pitch in-person to a jury who uses the same rubric as in Round 3 and the cash awards are determined.

This year’s competition has two prizes for Agricultural technologies – what are some examples of that? If my technology is eligible for this stream of prizes, can I also be considered for the other prizes such as the BC Hydro Sustainability Prize or BCIC 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes?

Companies eligible for the agritech/food science award should be developing agricultural applications, in the categories of primary production, food, bioenergy or bioproducts. Ventures that are eligible for these prizes can also apply to participate in the main competition – no additional entry fee is necessary!

So I could potentially take home more than one prize?

Absolutely. However some prizes are sector-specific, so for example, if you’re a digital media company, chances are you may not be a strong contender for a bioenergy prize…

Over the past few years we have seen ventures come away with multiple awards. In 2010, Solegear Bioplastics took home three prizes in total – the BCIC 2nd place prize plus the BC Hydro Sustainability prize and BCIC Economic Impact prize.

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