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：
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.