The Innovation Project is composed of each of the several components described below. Each company will compete in each of the areas listed. The 5 companies achieving the highest combined scores on their business plans, business plan presentations and innovation fair investments will compete in a final round of presentation in front of a panel of judges from the business community. These judges will select the overall winner from among these finalists.
1. Business Plan
In summary, the business plan provides potential investors a summary of your product and the potential for your business to succeed in today’s competitive business world. If the plan is properly developed and written, it provides more than mere numbers on paper. It serves as an effective communication tool to convey ideas, research findings and proposed plans to others. Secondly, it forms the basis for managing the new venture. Lastly, it serves as a means by which to evaluate needed changes. Developing a Business Plan takes much time and effort, but the result can make the difference between success and failure. The Business Plan should show how all the pieces of the company fit together to create an organization capable of meeting its goals and objectives.
A properly developed and well-written business plan should answer questions such as:
- Would the business be attractive to lending institutions?
- Does the proposed business have a reasonable chance for success at the start?
- Does the company give any long-run competitive advantages to the owners? To the investors?
- Can the product be produced efficiently?
- Can it be marketed effectively?
- Can the product and marketing of the product be economically financed?
- Can the prospective owners express the plans for the proposed business in writing in a clear, concise, and logical way so that it is easily understood and convincing to potential investors or lenders?
The Business Plan is comprised of the following sections. The section headings are linked to project sheets that fully describe the content required in each section of the plan. Information on due dates is located in the project calendar.
- Cover Sheet – Include your company’s name and contact information and be sure the design matches the style guide you develop for your business.
- Executive Summary – Though written last, the executive summary goes first. Provide a clear but brief summary of the business plan. If an investor reads anything it will be this, therefore it is perhaps the most important piece of writing in the plan.
- The Market (competition?)
- Opportunity (Customer?)
- Product – What are you making? What does it do? What value does it have for consumers? List the features, functions, and benefits.
- Sales and Marketing – The four P’s: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion
- Management Team – The company essentials: Who are these people who want our money? Are they qualified? What are their goals?
2. Business Plan Presentation
Your goal is simple. Get our panel of venture capitalists to give you the funds you need for start up. The panel has millions to invest, and will choose the companies they believe give them the greatest opportunity at a return on their investment. These decisions are based on a myriad of factors, some of which are unrelated to your product and reported bottom line. Many investors choose to invest in a person, not a product. Thus, a professional bearing, attire, rehearsal, personality, and a hook are a must.
You will have precisely 10 minutes to pitch your company to the investors. This will be followed by questions from the investors. It is vital that all members of your company are intimately familiar with your plan so that you can answer questions with confidence and authority. Since the time is so limited and such specific information must be communicated, we have prepared a suggested outline for your presentation.
3. Innovation Fair
During the Innovation Fair, all teams will compete simultaneously as groups of individual “investors” move through the crowd deciding how to invest money they have. While these investors will represent smaller amounts of cash than the venture capitalists, they could serve to fill in the gaps left by a shortage of venture capitalist funding.
Each team will create a booth which they will use to present their company, product, and business plan to individual investors. Each investor who attends will have $50,000 to invest in one or more companies. In addition, there will be several anonymous “Million Dollar Investors” moving through the crowd with the power to really separate your company from the competition. Your goal will be to get as many investment dollars as you can under this format. Instead of presenting a single time in a structured format, this style of presentation will require you to work the crowd anticipating their questions and giving them the answers they need.
Your booth will exist on a 3′ x 6′ table and will need to include visuals of your product and key components of your business plan adapted to a tri-fold display. You may include whatever items in your display that you wish as long as you are able to fit them within the confines of your table.
4. Print Advertising Campaign
Preparing to market your product to your customers is an essential part of the Innovation Project. Identifying your message and method and producing actual portions of your marketing plan will bring you closer to your product and put you in a better position to communicate your core values to your investors.
Advertising is not neutral. Its purpose is not simply to be looked at. Its purpose is to inspire action in the viewer. You want the people who come in contact with your marketing message to reflect and act on it. Specifically, think about the following questions when developing your message and method:
- What’s in it for me? and,
- Will this product make me happier? healthier? richer? more attractive? solve my nagging problems? make my life better?
For your company’s print advertising campaign you will design a series of 6 full color 8” X 10”, 150pixel/inch print advertisements suitable for magazines or other print media. When developing your ads keep the following in mind:
- Establish a benefit.
- Avoid cliché.
- Limit yourself to one message per ad.
- Originality, freshness, innovation (as long as it makes sense).
- Tell the consumer something they didn’t know.
- The visual and the copy should not be repetitive.
- Believability – no empty sales pitches.
- Pay attention to visual hierarchy and other design principles.
5. Video Commercial or Website
Each company must produce a 30-60 second promotional video or a basic 3-page website.
Promotional videos and websites create unique opportunities for you to establish desire in your customers and to communicate key elements differentiating your product from the competition.