Thoughts on startups by investors that
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If They Ask You to Judge a Business Plan Competition, Say Yes

Posted by on May 7th, 2013

I’ve had the pleasure of judging several dozen real business pitches in the past six weeks. Some were pitches for angel investment at the Willamette Angel Conference, an angel group in Oregon. More to the point, others were for the University of Oregon New Venture Competition, the Rice University Business Plan Competition, and the University of Texas’ Venture Labs competition.


The three business plan competitions I participated in were all MBA-level contests organized by the entrepreneurship-related faculties at the three schools. They all invited startups from dozens of different schools, including several from other countries. 

Judges read business plans first, then hear the pitches, then ask questions, and vote for winners. If you’re an angel investor you’re familiar with what works and doesn’t, you’re interested in startups, and you’ll enjoy judging in one of these competitions. You see some great plans and smart people.

Unlike the old days of the early business plan competitions — University of Texas’ Moot Corp was the first, in 1984 — these are no longer academic exercises. These are mostly startups that will launch. Teams that competed in just the three contests I mention here in the last 10 years have raised close to a billion dollars in venture money between them. For example, Auditude, the 2005 winner of both Texas contests, was purchased in 2009 by Adobe for $120 million.

And the entrants come from all over. A Thai company tied for first place in the University of Oregon competition last month, and an Indian company just won the University of Texas competition last weekend. A British company and several other Thai companies got into the finals of these three.

And judges are a mix of venture capitalists, angel investors, and successful entrepreneurs. So if you are one of those, then I recommend you check with local universities or with to see what competitions take place close to you.

(Image courtesy of Rice Business Plan Competition)

Written by Tim Berry

user Tim Berry

Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software and, the co-founder of Borland International, and the official business planning coach at He has been called the "Obi-wan Kenobe of business planning" and "The Father of Business Planning." He is a serial author of books and software on business planning.

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