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4 Tips For Your First Startup Competition

By Anton Javelosa

When only 10% of startups succeed, it seems only right for competitions designed to find the next great startup be extremely challenging. The lure of a hefty cash prize and the attention of some notable investors remains to be irresistible for many, which is why people are always on the lookout for ideas that could land them the top spot in a startup competition.

We’ve put together four strong tips for people looking to participate in startup competitions, and while they can’t guarantee you a shot at living in Silicon Valley, these insights are sure to give you an edge over your competitors.

Silhouette of a startup pitch

Photo taken from cullinanelaw.com

1. Immerse Yourself in Startup Culture

There’s really no substitute for genuine exposure to the world of startups. No matter how much time you spend on calculations, case studies, and strategic planning, an outsider’s perspective can only take you so far --hence the best insights really do come from experience.

That’s why winning a startup competition takes immersion. Observing startups in action, and learning from their successes and failures have to be as much of a priority as the standard planning that goes into developing your own pitch.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a startup hotbed, do your best to visit their offices, chat with all levels of their organization (upper management especially), and learn from their operational and business models.

If you don’t happen to live in an area with a thriving startup community, our best advice is to spend a few months where the action is. There are startup hotbeds located all over the U.S., with California being the most popular. Finding temporary housing is easier than ever thanks to the same model for corporate housing that businesses (startups included) turn to when they have investments to pursue outside of home base.

Startup pitch in front of potential investors

Photo taken from swiftlydigital.com

2. Find Mentors that Resemble Your Judges

Whether you’re working out the details of your pitch or rehearsing your presentation, it’s critical that you have the right set of minds troubleshooting your processes. The best people to have around when prepping a startup competition should resemble your panel of judges as closely as possible.

Every competition comes with a panel of judges who have their own respective opinions and priorities when it comes to assessing the potential of a pitch. Knowing their backgrounds will definitely be important when it comes to wooing them during the competition proper, but this information can also give you an edge when selecting mentors.

Take G-Startup for an example: it’s one of the largest startup competitions in the world, awarding their chosen winners with a million dollars to get their ideas off the ground. Their panels of judges are composed of, “world leading venture capitalists and tech leaders,” all of whom enter the competition grounds with their own set of ideals and biases (yes, biases) that shape their respective visions for a great startup. Short of asking them to mentor you themselves, your next best option is to find a close substitute.

Find mentors from similar fields and with similar priorities (at least, from what you can gather) to assess your progress and dispense advice. It costs you nothing to send a friendly and respectful email, and it should be especially easy to contact a handful if you choose to find a corporate housing setup in a startup hub.

That having been said, however, there’s value in keeping a diverse set of eyes and ears around when developing your idea. You can’t say your idea is simple and intuitive until it makes just as much sense to a homemaker as it does to a professional consultant with an doctorate in economics. Note that you only have a short amount of time to pitch your idea, and that the best speakers can deliver compelling ideas in very simple terms.

3. Book A Champion's Lodgings

Checking into a hotel room is old hat. They’re costly, and while some may work well under luxurious conditions, many seasoned contestants find them too cushy, opting instead to take time to find the nearest coworking space or coffee shop to continue preparing for their startup competitions. The best lodgings are versatile: they allow for R&R when necessary, but are also conducive for various workstyles.

Booking a home for rent is an increasingly popular choice among traveling professionals, and a big part of why that trend is growing comes from the fact that extended nightly stays in rented houses make for more productive time. They’re comfortable enough to afford restful nights and breaks, but they also make for great workspaces thanks to the space and relative familiarity they provide. In the same way that it’s easier to turn a home into a workspace than it is to find productivity in a hotel setting, corporate housing or extended nightly stays in rented homes are a better fit for minds at work.

When competing in any field, the quickest way to success is to keep a level head. Staying calm in the face of stressful circumstances can do wonders for your performance: from retaining information that you’ve worked hard to recall, to maintaining a confident and credible demeanor.

4. Stay Relaxed

Staying relaxed is a matter of preparation. It means knowing you have strong material to back you up, and it means having to rehearse under stressful conditions so you’re ready to handle whatever your judges have to throw at you. Granted, a cool head under (perceived) crisis comes with time and experience, but you have everything to gain from addressing those jitters early on.

Finally, a touch of home is important to help manage the nerves. This intersects a little with our previous post, but to cap off this point, note that the look, feel, and square footage of a rented house can do wonders for contestants who need to keep a level head.

Photo of a man on top of a summit

Photo taken from weknowyourdreams.com


Winning a startup competition takes strategy. You need to keep your eyes on efficiency at every step of the way. Be sure to consider every possible angle when preparing, and find lodgings that help you keep your eyes on the prize.

If you’re planning to join a startup competition, do away with the cost and hassle of booking a hotel for your stay and check out 2nd Address’ listings. We have spacious properties in locations all across California, right down to the heart of Silicon Valley.

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by Anton Javelosa

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