Beyond the Pitch

5 VentureNEXT Lessons for Startups and Entrepreneurs

It was about this time last year that we began brainstorming ideas for VentureNEXT.

We knew we wanted to create a truly unique celebration of Central Ohio’s entrepreneurs. We wanted to host something memorable, something that hadn’t been done before.

So, like all good entrepreneurs, we white boarded the possibilities. We talked about having product demonstrations. We discussed setting up an exhibition hall. We considered various forms of on-stage presentations.

But when all our brainstorming and white boarding was over, the core elements of VentureNEXT—a pitch competition, scholarships for students who are excelling in STEM and entrepreneurship, and an evening of networking—had all been done before.

And yet, by all the measures—attendance, participation, and media coverage—VentureNEXT was a smashing success. It was a reminder that originality is important—but good planning and execution matter more.

The same is true for entrepreneurs creating companies. Originality is important but strategic planning, prioritization, and execution lead to accomplishing the milestones that reduce risk.

  • Develop strategic partnerships. Figuring out the kind of help you need and where to find it often makes the difference between whether a startup succeeds or not. It takes community to create an event like VentureNEXT. The Central Ohio business and professional communities rallied around it.  Sponsors provided funding, services, and scholarships. Regional entrepreneurs and investors participated as pitch competition judges. Mutually beneficial partnerships are the foundation of successful startups.
  • Apply proven processes to reduce risk. Pitch competitions, scholarships, and networking are stock-in-trade in virtually all entrepreneurial communities. That’s because they work to identify the best companies, the best people, and the best connections. A not-invented-here attitude (like an overly ambitious event agenda) has torpedoed many a young company.
  • Tap into the many organizations and individuals in Central Ohio who want to help entrepreneurs. Business people, service providers, and investors in this region are committed to making this region a dominant force in the Midwest’s entrepreneurial community. That’s why so many attended VentureNEXT. Knowing that’s the mindset here, entrepreneurs are wise to reach out to build meaningful relationships.
  • Understand how to attract the customers you hope to serve. Whether the company is selling software or medical devices, every business has to find a way to get customers’ attention. For VentureNEXT, we chose an edgy rock concert venue for the event. Instead of tables and menus, we signed up food trucks, vegan and natural ingredient bakeries, and a wildly popular late-night pizza place.
  • Great companies and great events are all about execution. The VentureNEXT pitch competition and resulting 2014 Startup Awards showcased startups and entrepreneurs who are doing it right. The four amazing student scholarship winners are developing as scientists and entrepreneurs in the best way possible.  In every case these individuals and companies are working a plan.

VentureNEXT engaged Central Ohio’s entrepreneurial community exactly as we hoped—and, as with any “startup”, we enjoyed the success of the evening and learned some things that will help us make next year’s event even better.

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