What should you know about business plan competitions

Business plan and startup contests take an entrepreneur’s thirst for competition to the next level. Throughout the year, organizations all over the country open their doors to new, aspiring or established business owners, offering them the chance to win much-needed funding for their ventures.

Even though most competitors don’t end up winning the prize money, they do gain one thing that all startups need: the chance to network and share their ideas with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors. If you want to advance your entrepreneurial dreams, consider entering one of these annual business plan and startup competitions, open to eligible entrepreneurs in all U.S. states. Visit each competition’s website for contest dates and entry information.

American Dream Seekers – Fort Myers, Florida. RJ Riley & Company’s American Dream Seekers competition provides a platform for showcasing business creations to industry leaders, potential investors, peers, friends and family. Five finalists are selected from a number of categories to compete for a $5,000 prize.

FastPitch Competition – Savannah, Georgia. Students, early stage startups and established local entrepreneurs are invited to share their three-minute pitches at The Creative Coast’s FastPitch Competition. Local community leaders, academics and investors will assess the viability of each venture, and will also provide coaching and feedback to contestants throughout the competition. The winner receives a $3,000 prize.

Innovation World Cup – International. With the Internet of Things, wearable tech and cloud solutions rapidly integrating into everyday life, Navispace AG’s  Innovation World Cup series gives global, early stage entrepreneurs the chance to introduce innovative tech solutions to a panel of industry experts. The winning product for each of the three competitions (IoT/M2M, wearable technologies, cloud) gets a $5,000 prize.

MIT-CHIEF Business Plan Content – Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 2011, the MIT-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIT-CHIEF) Forum has sponsored a business plan contest that connects entrepreneurs in the United States and China with resources such as funding, industry expertise, legal services and marketing know-how. Startups in the clean technology, health care, consumer tech/services, social good and Web/IT/mobile industries compete for a $20,000 prize.

NAPEC Innovation Challenge – Chicago, Illinois. The North American Professionals and Entrepreneurs Council (NAPEC) Innovation Challenge is designed for student entrepreneurs from top universities who want to pursue an innovative business idea, develop a technology or create a new approach to a difficult problem. Finalists present their ideas to entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists for the chance to win the $10,000 grand prize. Second- and third-prize winners receive $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.

Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit Business Plan Competition – Lafayette, California. If you have business idea that will capture the growing baby boomer market, the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit is the competition for you. Early stage entrepreneurs in all industries are welcome to submit a 10-slide-deck business plan to the competition organizers at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University.