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商业

如何赢得商业计划大赛?

Anne VanderMey 2013年04月19日

赖斯商业计划大赛的往届获胜者和盘托出制胜秘籍:何时需要忽略评委,如何像“相亲”一样选择投资者,以及在赛后你应该做些什么。

    赖斯商业计划大赛(Rice Business Plan Competition )正在如火如荼地进行,共有42名创业者们正在为120万美元的投资和启动资金而展开激烈竞争。往届的多位获胜者都将自己的公司卖出了高价:“我从没见到过这么多零,”2005年获胜者尼古拉斯•赛特开玩笑道。他的公司被Adobe公司以超过1亿美元的价格收购。赛特和其他几位往届竞赛的参赛者们,在大赛期间谈论了在参加比赛过程中学到了什么,以及他们如何将这些经验应用到真实创业过程中。以下为他们给出的部分建议:

做好出错的准备

    技术经常在你最需要它的时候出现故障,但只要经过精心准备,就不必为此惊慌失措。去年大赛的获胜者NuMat Technologies使用了大量视频,而这在演示过程中特别容易遇到技术上的困难。为了确保比赛按计划进行,NuMat首席技术官克里斯•威尔莫表示,他提前检查了所有练习室,对视频设备进行测试。一位评委记得,有一位参赛者做得更是彻底。这位参赛者带来了一堆广告板,上面是临时制作的PowerPoint幻灯片,以防投影仪出现故障。

有时候,你需要忽视评委的存在

    2011年获胜团队TNG Pharmaceuticals的CEO珍妮•科尔宾说道:“对于别人给出的建议,不要立刻接受。”这是因为有一位评委说过:“这样的建议并不一定是观众们期望看到的。”相反,她说道:“应该找出趋势,并跟随趋势,而不是一些奇怪的东西。”

    有时候,你很难接受别人提供的所有指导。赛特说道:“最后,各种建议之间可能出现矛盾。而正是在这样的时候,你才会明白自己真正想要的是什么。”他补充道:“有一半的评委喜欢Auditude这个名字,而另一半则讨厌这个名字。这时,我们知道我们是正确的。”

不要太过局限于商业计划书本身

    在赖斯大赛中获得赞同的商业计划,不见得适应市场。“评委是一回事,而消费者则完全不同。你需要听的是消费者的声音,”赛特说道。他在比赛中获胜后,便彻底修改了商业模式。“所有的一切都是错误的!”他说道。赛特称自己曾不止一次改变方向:“你不能过于固执地执着于比赛中的商业计划。”

    众所周知,随着创业者们离开课堂,走入现实社会,商业计划必然要发生变化。科尔宾说道:“你也可以直接把商业计划书扔到窗外。”但她补充说:“从比赛中获胜当然是很奇妙的过程,但要想让自己的商业计划变成现实,必须要有财务支持和专业知识。”

    毫无疑问,与评委和其他团队的交流,才是赖斯商业计划书大赛中最重要的部分。NuMat公司的本•赫尔南德斯表示:“赢得比赛不能保证创业成功,而比赛中失利也不意味着创业就会失败。”问问BlackLocus就可以了。2011年,这支队伍并未进入最后一轮,但他们在比赛中选中了关键的投资人,2012年,他们将公司卖给了家得宝公司(Home Depot )。

    he Rice Business Plan Competition is underway in Houston, where 42 hopeful entrepreneurs are going head-to-head for $1.2 million in investments and startup cash. A few former winners have sold their companies for big sums: "I'd never seen so many zeros," joked Nicholas Seet, the 2005 winner whose company went to Adobe (ADBE) for more than $100 million. Seet and a few other former Rice contenders talked during the competition about what they learned while pitching at Rice, and how those lessons have applied to running an actual business. Here are a few of their tips:

Be prepared for everything to go wrong

    Technology often fails just at the moment you need it most, but that shouldn't faze the seriously prepared presenter. Last year's winner, NuMat Technologies, used a lot of videos, which are particularly prone to technical difficulties during a presentation. To make sure it all went according to plan, NuMat CTO Chris Wilmer says he went around to all the practice rooms beforehand to test the video equipment. A Rice judge remembers seeing a presenter who took it a step further and actually brought a stack of poster boards along bearing makeshift PowerPoint slides just in case the projector failed.

Sometimes you need to ignore the judges

    "Don't take anybody's advice instantly as you receive it," says Jenny Corbin, CEO of TNG Pharmaceuticals, the 2011 winning team. Just because one judge says it, "it doesn't necessarily mean that that's what the audience is looking for." Instead, she says, "look for trends and follow trends, not the oddity."

    Sometimes, it's impossible to take all the direction you get: "Eventually, the advice will conflict [with] other people's advice," Seet says. "And that's when you know you're where you want to be." He added: "Half the judges liked the name Auditude and half the judges hated the name Auditude. That's when we knew we were just right."

Don't get too attached to that business plan

    A plan that goes over well at Rice may not be perfectly suited for the marketplace. "Judges are one thing, and customers are totally different, and you gotta listen to the customers," says Seet, who radically changed his business model after his victory at Rice. "Everything was wrong!" he says. Seet says he switched directions more than once: "You can't be so stubbornly married to that plan."

    Business plans are notoriously subject to change between the classroom and the real world. "You might as well throw your business plan out the window," Corbin says. But, she adds, "Walking out of the door here as a winner, which is fantastic by the way, you've got the backing and the expertise to help you make that business a reality."

    Connecting with judges and other teams is arguably the most important part of Rice's competition. "Winning isn't a guarantee of success and losing isn't a stamp of failure," says NuMat's Ben Hernandez. Just ask BlackLocus. The team didn't make the final round when they competed in 2011, but they picked up key investors at the competition and sold the business to Home Depot (HD) in 2012.

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