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10 Lessons From The European Business Plan of the Year Competition

Red Bull, t-shirts with suits, speaking under pressure and one swanky campus. But where were the women?

Mon Jun 11 2012

The 20th annual European Business Plan of the Year Competition brought some of Europe's sharpest business students to London this weekend for a high-octane final.

BusinessBecause was lucky enough to have a front-row seat as teams from 15 leading b-schools battled it out at London Business School's Regent's Park campus. ALL the teams impressed us with their stamina and ballsy attitude - read on for the ten most imoportant lessons we learned from the a weekend of ups and downs and stress and elation.

The competition kicked off with an elevator pitch, a quick-fire session lasting three minutes. The team from University of St. Gallen HSG won the prize for the best elevator pitch. Their firm, AgriCircle, uses online technologies to provide services such as group buying to farmers in Europe.

Successful teams were then invited to the semi-finals to spend 30 minutes presenting a plan and answering the judges questions.

At the finals participants were judged as if by professional investors. The judges' criteria included a clear explanation of the business idea and value proposition, justification of market potential, an attractive proposition to investors and whether the presentation made the audience to want to know more about the business.

The teams that made the final were:

Mannheim Business School's Spotted, a smart phone app that helps users break the ice in social situations by making tidbits of information available for users to access;

AgriCircle from St. Gallen;

Rotterdam School of Management's Verified ID, an online identification system that can be sold to dating sites;

Vlerick Leuven Gent's Gorilla Seat, an outdoor furniture firm designed to keep pillows and cushions dry;

WHU Otto Bessheim's Votique, an online fashion retailer that aims to overtake Vogue in setting fashion trends;

IESE's Tidibi.com, an E-Bay style website for bidding for vacations and sports events. 

So, here are the top ten lessons we learned after watching Europe's most talented would-be entrepreneurs in action!

1. Redbull can make or break your pitch: Of course we don't have the stats to conclude this but the morning started with the Competition Director Jeff Skinner, Executive Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School arriving with a carton of Redbull and tossing cans to our severely sleep deprived participants. They had been informed just the night before that they needed to create and master entirely new presentations for the final rounds.

2. Timing is Everything! Participants had 15 minutes to present plans they’d spent three to four months perfecting, and another 15 minutes being grilled by judges. If you think 15 minutes to present feels too short, 15 minutes to answer questions must feel like forever...It was very Dragon’s Den-like!

3. Umm...Like...Basically A lot of us may feel we are OK public speakers but we noticed its not very easy to speak without making use of  these types of interjections.

4. The LBS Campus is Swanky It was filled with so many friendly faces. We still can’t get over the fact that the seats in the lecture theatres are reclinable so that you can study like a boss. And, maybe it was just for this event but there was food everywhere. Way to put your best foot forward, then again it might just be how they roll!

5. Where Are All The Women? There were some women present at the event but none of the teams that made it to the final rounds had a woman as part of them.

6. Social Media Rules All the business ideas in the final rounds relied hugely on social media and pushing its impact ahead. It may be coincidental but we wonder if this hints at what investors are after these days.

7. Embossed T-shirts Under Suit Jackets Are In...Not Tidibi.com and Spotted were rocking t-shirts with their companies names, a style that seemed to be quite popular at this year’s competition. Votique admitted to me that they were slightly disappointed at not having t-shirts and Spotted mentioned that theirs were custom-made all the way from India! We wouldn’t recommend wearing a similar outfit to your day job in a bank or to a job interview. 

8. Be Ready to Learn While the judges deliberated on the final awards, serial Angel Investor Julian Costley gave a very informative lecture on how to secure funding. Full lecture slides were made available to participants but his key message was to think like an Angel. So, if you’re at the funding stages of a start-up its recommended to ask yourself this: What Would An Angel Do?

9. Don’t Argue With The Judges they are super-smart and have a world of experience. If you can’t hold your ground, you just end up looking silly!

10. Everyone's A Winner All the participants had brilliant ideas. It was a fantastic atmosphere to meet people and learn from them. The Rotterdam team were the only non-MBA team at the final. They are all on the MS Enterpreneurship and are currently interning with Rocket Internet. We particularly enjoyed chitchatting with the St. Gallen team, having lunch with the WHU Otto team and teasing Spotted about their t-shirts. We are looking forward to seeing which of these business ideas will roll out in the future!


Read more about students doing an MBA in Europe here