Startups know they need to make the most out of the limited resources available to succeed. They endure long work days and often high-stress environments to bring ideas to life under uncertain circumstances. Startup founders are tasked with finding creative ways to ensure money flows into the business, while limiting how much goes out. If you’re pre-revenue, this presents even more of a challenge.

Pitch competitions are an excellent way for startup founders to earn the cash they need to subsidize their costs and grow their business. However, the perks of participating in pitch competitions extend far beyond the obvious and highly-sought-after financial reward. From networking opportunities to skills development, there are a variety of ways your company can benefit from throwing their hat in the proverbial ring.

As a founder, you’ve likely encountered pitch competitions that are seeking applicants. Of course, they won’t all be an ideal fit for your business, but determining which are suitable will be key to fast-tracking growth.

It is important to gauge whether the competition you’re considering is aligned with your company’s stage in its life cycle. If you’re in the idea stage and are new to entrepreneurship, look for competitions that aim to provide opportunities to practice. If you are further along and are beginning to gain traction, target competitions that offer investment or provide programming to the winning company. It’s up to you to determine which pitch competition is the right fit.

Though you’re not guaranteed to win every time, you are sure to benefit from a number of these perks when you decide to make your pitch.

Confidence and Experience

The thought of pitching to a panel of judges, let alone a crowd of spectators, can be daunting to many. For those who need a bit more convincing to jump on stage and pitch their business, entering local competitions like Volta’s Pitch Competition powered by Cox & Palmer is a low-pressure way to boost your confidence in your pitching ability and gain some quality experience before moving onto bigger competitions with higher stakes.

Practice and Feedback

Practice, practice, practice, and embrace feedback on your pitch. It’s a critical part of your development as a founder. With each pitch competition, founders tend to refine their delivery and better communicate the company’s mission and value proposition.

Accepting feedback – good or bad – will also help you improve your pitch deck and key marketing messages. Don’t be afraid to test out your new marketing copy or redesigned slides at pitch competitions. The feedback you’ll receive will help you scrap what doesn’t work and double-down on what does before going to market or presenting to a potential investor.

Exposure and Awareness

While pitching for exposure may not have the same allure as pitch competitions that promise cash prizes, you shouldn’t underestimate how lucrative pitching to a room full of people can be. Building your network as a founder is critical for your growing startup. You never know when someone within earshot of your pitch can help you overcome a problem you’re facing. Pitch competitions bring together people from all different backgrounds and provide ample opportunities to build relationships with other founders, potential customers, prospective business advisors, and more.

Pitching your business idea or product teaches others about the problem you aim to solve and the product or service you’re proposing as the solution. Helping people understand the “why” behind your business generates awareness for your startup and can even lead to future opportunities for exposure through invites to other events and media interview requests.

Partnerships and Investors

Pitching to an audience means you could be presenting your business to your next partner or investor. Proposify, one of Volta’s Alumni companies, experienced this firsthand when they made their pitch at a competition held by Volta several years ago.

“It was a [Volta] pitch competition, that is what really changed our business. Our first real investor was in the audience that day,” said Kevin Springer, COO and Co-founder of Proposify.

Even if a future investor isn’t in the room, they may know someone who did see you pitch and rely on their opinions to form an initial impression of your business.

Ready to pitch?

If you’re ready to reap the rewards of participating in a pitch competition, consider applying to pitch at the Pitch@Palace event Volta is hosting with the Rideau Hall Foundation on March 26. Applications are due March 7, 2019. For more information and to apply, visit www.pitchatpalacecanada.ca.

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