Liam Wadsworth, Full-time MBA Class of 2015, gives an insight into the European Business Plan of the Year competition:
MBS has four competitions built into the Full-time MBA curriculum. The European Business Plan of the Year Competition is the third and it’s competitive from the minute we start. Students with ideas have to convince other students that their idea is the one to follow, in a class full of good ideas – NO EASY TASK.
Once you have assembled a crack team MBS simulates the competition, with the teams pitching their ideas to a panel of judges that includes expert staff and external consultants, all with success as a track record – standards are high! This pitching happens twice: once in the morning and then six finalists are selected to pitch again in the afternoon. The finalists get the ‘pleasure’ of pitching to a much bigger panel of judges. This time the judges expect your idea to be significantly improved based on their original feedback. Given the amount of work that has been done to get there, this is no easy task. The second time is higher pressure as one winner is chosen to represent MBS at the final. The Q&A is a test of the team’s mettle, six expert judges looking to rip you apart. After a tough day, the end of two months of work, my team made it through.
This is where the real work starts! The competition requires a significantly improved entry so the business plan is refined again and again. This is a real eye opener, a good idea is not enough, covering a multitude of angles and concerns takes a lot of effort and learning to step back and criticise your own work is a skill that must be developed. You have to ask yourself what is the worst question a judge could ask? All this has to happen in the midst of significant deadline pressure for client facing assignments – be careful what you wish for.
Finally, the day has arrived. This year the final is in the impressive Tanaka building at Imperial College London, so the team caught the train red-eyed to London. Final preparations take place from start to finish – our elevator pitch was getting delivered between carriages – not sure what the passengers passing by thought of that …
When we arrive at Imperial, we have the privilege of hearing guest lecturers deliver key messages and lessons learned on the front line of start-up businesses. This is a real privilege! Then we move straight ion to elevator pitches from all the participants. This is our first look at the competition, an impressive set of ideas ranging for social business models to pure capitalism. Then it is the long wait for your slot – your team’s time to deliver its idea in full. We were the last team up, a loooong wait. Finally, it’s our turn and the guys nail the presentation. The Q&A session follows directly, another test of mettle – and the judges compliment us on our answers: “You aced the Q&A”. We delivered perfectly.
Then the wait starts. It’s only a few hours while the judges deliberate but the wait seems longer, however it’s a perfect time to network. At last, it’s time to discover our fate. Despite the judges stating in their feedback that they think the idea will get funded, we don’t go through to the last round. Perhaps this is the biggest lesson of all, when pitching for investment finding the right audience is equally as important as the idea you are pitching.