How To Create A Dating App That Doesn’t Suck

There was a time where it was uncommon, and even a bit weird, to say, “I met a great guy/girl online!” In some cases, meeting someone online even seemed a bit taboo. To stir the pot even more, at some point someone figured out how to create a dating app for smartphones – and finding love moved from online to the palm of our hands.

Today, online and mobile dating is a natural part of our culture. According to The Knot, online dating is now the most common way of meeting for engaged couples. But let’s face it, there are almost as many dating apps on the market as there are daters; and out of all of them, only a handful are able to secure more than a couple thousand users.

If you’re looking to launch a startup in the mobile dating sector, I’ll be honest… you’re facing a tough challenge. There’s a very thin line between great dating apps and cheesy dating apps, and a disappointing ratio of dating apps that succeed to those that don’t. The good news is, if you know how to create a dating app startup the right way – you can drastically minimize your risk of failure. There will be a next greatest dating app, will you be the one to create it?

In this article, we’ll explain what you need to know about creating and developing a dating app, and specifically, we’re going to explore exactly how to create a dating app that doesn’t suck.

Why Dating Apps Suck

First, let’s clear something up – not ALL dating apps suck, just most of them. Also, not all of them suck for the same reason. There are some apps out there that have millions and millions of users, like Tinder and Bumble. Some others serve super niche markets, and may have a smaller but still significant user base; like Bristlr, the dating app for beard lovers, which has around 150,000 users. If there are millions of mobile daters out there, why do so many dating app startups fail? Simple… because they suck, and here’s three reasons why:

  1. User Goals: Most dating app entrepreneurs don’t really know what their intended user really wants. What does it mean to date? Does this mean someone is looking to date a bunch of different people and enjoy their single life – or that they are dating to hopefully find a special someone? Dating apps are easily accessible and often used by a wide variety of daters with conflicting goals. Some users may be looking for a whole life companion, while others may be looking for a one time hookup. Popular online sites like Match were able to attract individuals with similar goals by charging higher fees and making the matching process extremely thorough. For someone searching for long-term potential, swiping on Tinder may lead to many many low quality dates before a real match is ever found. According to Psychology Today, only 8.9% of Tinder’s users actually use the app due to a desire for a relationship – while the majority of people have signed up solely off the hype.
  2. Copycat Innovation: While there are probably hundreds of dating apps on the market, many of them seem almost identical in technology and functionality. Or, they use the same technology but serve a niche market instead. Tinder introduced the “swipe dating” model for instance, and since then, a hundred other swipe dating apps have hit the market. Maybe one is a swipe dating app for farmers, or a swipe dating app for people who love country music – but innovation in the mobile dating industry has been relatively flat over the last several years. Many brands have figured out how to create a dating app, they just haven’t figured how to create one that actually moves the industry forward.
  3. No Growth Plan: Some dating apps seem promising at launch, gaining some hype in the early days only to quickly fall completely off the map. Successful dating apps require a deep level of traction and a strong momentum.  Even the best dating app concept won’t succeed if they are unable to drive enough people to the app to make it worthwhile. Dating app consumers aren’t extremely loyal – if there isn’t a large pool of potential daters available in their specific areas, they’ll quickly move on to the next dating app. Likewise, if they sign in every day and there are never any new potential matches, they will move on to an app with a deeper local penetration.

Coming Up With A Dating App Concept

The point of any dating app should be to make dating easier, more convenient, more effective, or at least, more fun. Nobody needs just another dating app, people need the right dating app that will actually serve their need. When developing or evaluating your dating app concept, consider the following questions:

  • Who Are You Helping? Knowing your customer is everything. Not every dater is the same. A 20-year-old millennial dater may be looking for something totally different than 50-year-old recently divorced dater. Decide exactly who you will serve, and identify the pain points that they have with dating. Also, find out why consumers in that segment have trouble meeting their dating goals with current solutions. The more you know about your user, the better you will be able to serve them.
  • How Are You Helping Them? Once you know your consumer’s goals, it will become easier to figure out how to help them. Identify what your customer truly seeks and design a solution that helps them meet that particular goal. No one wants another app that “helps singles find dates” — but millions might want to use “an app that helps millennials find long term relationships with people of similar interests” or “an app that helps divorcees meet one another to form new relationships” or “an app that helps single parents have fun with other adults”. It’s not necessarily always about being niche, but it is always about providing a real solution to a real problem.
  • How Are You Different? Consumers aren’t typically loyal to just one dating app, in the same way that most people have profiles on multiple social media platforms. If your concept isn’t different enough, why would users stay on your app instead of using the three other dating apps they have installed on their smartphone? Be creative, be innovative; do something new. When everyone else is releasing swipe-based dating apps, figure out how to create a strong video-based dating app concept. When everyone else is focused on interest-based matching, consider perfecting the “mystery match” angle. I can’t say exactly what will work for you, but I can tell you what definitely will not work for you – reusing the same technology and concepts that dating consumers have seen a million times already.

Proving The Demand

It is a fact that people want to date, and that people are open to using technology to help them. It is an only assumption however, that your concept is the right one to help them meet their dating goals. Before even touching the first line of code, it is important to prove that singles would even be interested in using the dating app concept that you have developed.

Start by blueprinting your idea to visualize how your app will look, then have it designed. Develop a low-function (or no-function) demo or prototype, or in some cases, even a well put together app video will do.

Create a focus group of individuals within your specific demographic. If your dating app specifically targets 20-35 year old musicians who are looking to date other musicians – get ten single musicians together to form your focus group. Show them the demo, ask them questions about their thoughts and encourage them to give feedback; open up the floor and allow them to ask you questions about your concept. By going through this focus group process, you will realize one of three things about your dating app concept:

  1. It’s awesome just like you thought it would be. Everyone loves it, says they would use it and tells you that it’s exactly what they were looking for. You’re ready to move to development.
  2. It’s sort’ve cool – most people like it, but many people also had suggestions about what could make it better. With a few tweaks and a slight pivot, the app concept can be strengthened and made more effective.
  3. Everyone hates it. The majority of people remark that it wouldn’t really help them, or that it wouldn’t help them better than other solutions. Either way, you’ve just saved thousands on wasted development — back to the dating app drawing board!

If you want to know how to create a dating app that doesn’t suck, the first tip is – make sure it doesn’t suck before you develop it. Focus groups give you the opportunity to test the awesomeness or suckiness of your concept before undertaking the expense and effort of developing it into a functional application.

how to create a dating app - vector with two smartphones

Creating A Buzz

Dating apps often fail because they can’t generate enough traffic to sustain the demand of their users. Imagine these scenarios:

  1. You are a startup in Chicago and you just launched your dating app. A single man in Detroit downloads the application and finds that there are no matches in his area – and actually, only a few total users in his area. He deletes the app.
  2. You are a startup in Miami. A single woman in Miami downloads the application and views the limited pool of potential daters. She logs out. She signs in two weeks later and the pool still only includes the same people that were there weeks before. She deletes the app.

Downloads mean very little if there is no retention; and if there is no momentumous traction to your dating app, users likely won’t stick around for long. The success of your dating app will lean heavily on how you launch it and how you market it.

Launch Regionally

There’s really no point in immediately launching your application to a large market. Consider the first scenario – if there are very few users in a region, there is very little value for a consumer within that region. For dating apps to work, there must be a dense pool of daters within the region that a consumer will want to date.

Start by launching in one city. Penetrate that city as deeply as possible so that daters in that city can access a large pool of potential matches. Once successful, scale into another city (or several cities), and then throughout a whole region. As you create more buzz, the user adoption process will become much easier each time you scale.

Develop A Strong Marketing Strategy

Dating app startups have less options when it comes to marketing online. Some platforms, like Facebook, don’t allow dating apps to purchase ads, which limits the opportunity for these apps to reach social media audiences. Marketing is critical to building traction for your dating app. Consider scenario 2 – if new daters aren’t constantly being added to the network, users find no reason to revisit the application.

Be creative in your strategy. Some dating apps start at universities, advertising their apps on site (Tinder partnered with sororities). By launching regionally, you can even take advantage of traditional regional marketing channels such as radio and television. For more ideas, check out our article on how to make an app go viral.

Finding The Right Developers

Lastly, it’s important to have the right developers on your team. Your developers shouldn’t only understand apps – but they should specifically understand the functions of dating apps and be highly experienced in building technology with a lean process.

At ThinkLions, we know exactly what it takes to build a dating app that doesn’t suck. We have worked with several dating app startups – helping them raise hundreds of thousands in investor seed funding to bring their app ideas to life. Ready to create the next major dating app innovation? Contact us today and see how we can help you reach your app startup goals.

What Can You Learn From These 5 Unique And Interesting App Ideas?

Over the last several years, the growth of mobile apps have allowed us witness the launch of some of the most life-changing technology the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, these days, unique and interesting app ideas are few and far between – for every Uber there are 20 app copycats and for every Tinder there are 100 other swipe-based dating apps that you’ve probably never heard of. Developers know how to create an app, but creating unique, first-moving and extremely interesting apps? Well, that’s something only few tech entrepreneurs can truly achieve.

This post isn’t about the copycats. It’s not about the entrepreneurs who took a concept, added a small feature and claimed to have developed some “disruptive” new app idea. Instead, it’s about the innovators, the ones who saw a problem and created a new interesting way to solve that problem. Furthermore, we’ll show you what you can learn from these interesting app ideas so that you can come up with your own unique app solution.

In the following list, we’ll offer the ten most interesting app ideas that caught our attention. Here’s the awesome part, none of these apps are especially complicated – and they were created by someone just like you; a normal person with a great idea, a high level of commitment, and a focused follow thru.

5) Dubsmash

the most interesting apps - dubsmash app screens

Dubsmash is a unique video recording app that was created by three German engineers in 2014. The app allows users to record and blend lip sync videos. With the app, users can choose their favorite music or sound clips, blend the content with their videos, add special effects to the video, and create one-of-a-kind videos that can be shared with their friends.

Like many other social type apps, Dubsmash feeds into our need to connect with one another – and to simply kill boredom. Dubsmash created a craze with users around the world; uploading and sharing millions of their fun (and often funny) lip sync videos. The hype around Dubsmash created a FOMO situation – users had a fear of missing out on the social action.

What really drove the Dubsmash craze was the participation of several celebrities. Whether it was Lewis Hamilton lip syncing to a sound clip of Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2; or Hugh Jackman, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez or Rihanna lip syncing to their favorite clips – Dubsmash was able to create fans out of some of Hollywood’s most effective social influencers.

During the highest point of its popularity, Dubsmash served over 100 million users around the world.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:

Your idea doesn’t have to be revolutionary, but it does have to be “different”. Being the first mover of an idea allows you to capture the market, and its influencers, with a fresh idea that has never been seen before. Influencers play a huge role in what consumers find ‘interesting’ – get them talking about your idea and their followers will do what they do best – follow.

4) Puddle and Pile

interesting new app ideas - puddle and pile

Wherever a problem exists, there will be an entrepreneur seeking to create a solution – and puppy poo is no different. Puddle and Pile is a puppy training app that allows pet owners to learn their canine’s toilet patterns, monitor their schedules, predict “puddle periods” and alert them before accidents happen. Relying on data inputs, the app uses smart technology to remind you when outside time is needed. Furthermore, collected data can be shared with veterinarians for diagnosis in case strange patterns arise.

Puddle and Pile was created by the Paul, Fiona and Keren Manser and is available for $1.99 in both the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:

Successful and interesting app ideas may not always be glamorous, but they solve problems for a large portion of their intend market. Whether you think a dog poop training app would gain mass success is a matter of opinion, but one thing is for sure; there are millions of dog owners around the world, and each and every one of them must deal with puddles and piles in one way or another!

3) Cheatsheet Widget

Interesting & Cool app ideas - Cheatsheet Widget

Let’s face it, security means everything – whether it’s the password to our email provider or a code to our gym locker. With so many passwords and codes to remember, security can become an issue when we accidently secure our items or accounts… from ourselves! Christopher Overholtzer, a California-based developer, had this same problem when he launched the Cheatsheet Widget in 2014. Like many of us, he found himself always forgetting his ID numbers and the passwords to his many accounts.

Cheatsheet is an app that helps your remember all of your codes and passwords – ID numbers, license plates, luggage combinations, bike lock combinations, locker combinations, and all those other numbers that we fail to remember from one day to the next. The app has over 150 hint icons to help users easily organize and locate their information. Cheatsheet is also compatible with the Apple Watch, making it ultra convenient to those who need to quickly pull up their code or password.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:

Interesting apps don’t have to be complicated; sometimes simple mobile app ideas get the job done jus as well. Cheatsheet is an ultra simple app that provides an extremely beneficial service to a mass audience. While you may not use Cheatsheet everyday, users tend to rely on it heavily during certain times – such as when they are traveling and must remember their luggage codes. Don’t overcomplicate things – find a problem and create a simple solution to help others overcome it!

2) ParkJockey

Interesting app ideas - ParkJockey

There are dozens of parking apps available in the App Store; the issue is, many of them do not have the bandwidth (enough parking lot partners) to make them effective in a realistic setting. ParkJockey is a mobile app that connects drivers and available parking spots to eliminate the dreaded “parking spot search”. Specifically, the startup bridges the gap betweens drivers and parking lot operators; allowing drivers to find the most ideal parking spaces and book them instantly (pre-booking or real-time booking).

Park Jockey currently operates in the UK, Chicago, Miami, New York City and San Francisco. The startup has an estimated annual revenue of $4.2 million and has secured partnerships with several corporations including mobile payment services provider, PayByPhone; ticket sales company, Ticketmaster; the Miami Heat basketball team; American Airlines; Odeon Cinemas; and online reservations leader, ResDiary.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:

Interesting app ideas usually aren’t the only solutions serving their market. In many cases, successful apps solve the problem better or more effectively. ParkJockey was able to secure the right partnerships to make their app as useful as possible within the markets that they serve. Look at your competition and find their strengths and weaknesses. Capitalize on their weaknesses to create an advantage.

1) Shapr

Interesting mobile app ideas - shapr

Hailed as “Tinder for networking”, Shapr is an app that helps professionals connect with one another. Using a sophisticated algorithm, Shapr provides users each day with several profiles of other professionals within their vicinity that have similar interests. A quick swipe to the left or right will indicate whether they want to connect with the professional, or pass on the opportunity. If both users swipe right (indicating they want to connect), messaging capabilities open up to allow the two to connect with one another.

Shapr was launched in 2014 and has raised over $16.5 million in funding from over 80 private investors. While other professional social media platforms exist (like LinkedIn), Shapr specifically targets millennials, who are growing more accustomed to the “gamification of life” – or the gamifying of processes to streamline them or to make them more effective. Shapr now has over a half million users active on the app and generated more than 3 million matches in 2017.

Interesting App Ideas – Insights:

The best app ideas aren’t always that innovative. Sometimes, an existing idea can be introduced to a new market to solve a totally different problem. Tinder, for instance, solves the issue of meeting interesting people – for dating. Shapr, on the other hand, solves the issue of meeting interesting people – but for professional purposes. Look for opportunities in existing apps – can that same technology be used to serve a similar problem for a totally different market? If so, you may have major opportunity!

Ready To Build Your Interesting App?

Unfortunately, a great app idea means very little if it only sits in your head and never makes it to the App Store. If you’re ready to take the first step and bring your amazing app ideas to life, we’d love to help. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our app startup specialists!

What Is The Key To Advertising Apps?

Developing an awesome app is hard work, but when it’s finally launched into the market, that’s where the real work begins. Many app developers and app entrepreneurs know how to create an app, but when it’s time to market it, they often fall short. The truth is, the mobile app market is highly competitive and advertising apps properly can be extremely difficult – especially when you are competing against established players with huge marketing budgets.

It’s easy to envision the end result – millions of users downloading the app and telling their friends about it; but how to do you get there? How do you advertise apps? Even knowing where to start is a challenge, especially when your marketing budget is low or non-existent.

In this post, we want to explore exactly what it takes to advertise apps the right way; getting your idea in front of the consumers who will most benefit from it and persuading them to download it. To get the best advice possible, we turned to several experienced app entrepreneurs, app marketers and marketing experts and asked them – what is the key to marketing and advertising apps?

The Must-Do’s of Advertising Apps

It’s always nice to try out cool marketing tactics like contests, giveaways and other out-of-the-box ideas – but none of these methods are effective if a few app marketing basics have not been established. More specifically, every app startup needs to: build an associated website, optimize for App Store rankings (ASO), and optimize for Search Engine rankings (SEO).

Andrew Glantz, founder of GiftAMeal, suggested the following – “There are several ‘must-dos’ when marketing apps. You need to ensure that your app is easily discoverable with valuable keywords, have preview app screens that accurately capture the value of your app to potential users, and provide a compelling app description.”

The way your app performs in the App Store is extremely important. Apps that are featured receive considerably more downloads than those that are not; and those that show up first for related keywords receive considerably more downloads than those that are ranked in lower positions. Not only does your app description need to be written with a persuasive and consumer-forward tone – it also needs to cover ASO basics to ensure that it is visible to potential users.

Stav Tishler, Head of Marketing Communications at Lightricks gave the following advice, “SEO – that’s how people find your apps online. If you’re buried all the way on page 13 of a Google search result, will anyone ever find you? Does anyone even click to the second page of the SERP? I don’t know if I ever have.”

SEO is competitive, and ranking highly for valuable keywords includes many factors, such as: on-page optimizations, links from high authority websites and the website’s relevancy to the keyword. Furthermore, SEO is a long-term strategy – but establishing the app’s website early on gives startups an advantage; allowing them to generate organic and free online traffic. Paid ads on the other hand, can allow a startup to receive traffic to their website immediately. Since advertisers must pay for each click however, the benefits of paid ads end once the advertising budget has run out. When it comes to the must-dos of advertising apps, ASO and SEO give startups the ability to level the playing field with more established competitors.

What keywords should you target when advertising apps? Adrien Caiazzo, Marketing Director of Narraly (parent company of Flixup.io) says, “We use solutions like www.thetool.io and www.appannie.com to find the best keywords for our app, and also compare those with our competitors’ keywords. Before we could afford other paid avenues, finding strategic keywords was the best way we could get people to find our app.”

Caiazzo also added the following advice for app advertising must-dos, “Make sure the app is functional, as early adopters are incredibly valuable. And use your networks. Friends, old coworkers and family are more likely to download and rate your app than new users. If your app is very innovative; post it to different websites such as www.launchingnext.com or www.producthunt.com. These offer great visibility, and many of the users are passionate about tech, so they give helpful (albeit direct) advice.”

Mobile App Advertising – Establishing Authority

Publishing high quality content has become a leading way of advertising apps and marketing online businesses. Consumers are aware that competition exists in every industry and often, it is the credibility factor that makes them choose one solution over another. Furthermore, each piece of new content a startup publishes becomes another marketing asset; giving the business an additional avenue to connect with consumers. Content however, is extremely competitive as well. The quality of information you are putting out there is much more important than the quantity.

Take Mint.com for instance. Before Mint.com was even launched, the founding team already had a target customer in mind – young professionals. To reach them, they focused on their finance blog, MintLife. By publishing strong content, they were able to build themselves to the largest financial blog online. When Mint.com was launched, they already had a direct link to young professionals – their blog already had the market’s attention.

Eric Chiang, Marketing Lead at GooseChase Adventures says, “The most effective way we’ve been able to market our app in the recent months has been to create content showcasing how users are engaging with our app; instead of focusing on content that simply just shows how the app works. In general, potential investors might be interested in hearing about the technology and innovation behind your product – but your target demographic, the people who you’re actually trying to sell to? They only care about how your app will improve their life.”

Brit Armour, Director of Marketing at Kibii says, “Maintaining a blog will help you establish brand awareness and visibility. Most importantly, it allows you to gain trust and credibility by connecting with your audience on a deeper level. You need to appeal to your audience’s emotions. To be considered a thought leader, you must provide extreme value and provide consumers with the expert information that they seek. Content marketing is something I invest a large amount of time into. You can promote your app and its features as much as you want, but if your audience doesn’t resonate with your brand, they won’t give you a second thought.”

Building A Social Media Community To Advertise Apps

Like marketing other types of businesses, mobile application advertising requires a strong engagement with your target market – and there’s no better way to engage than social media.

advertise app through social media - lyft facebook feed

Lyft for instance, which has always competed against the larger rideshare company Uber, uses social media to really engage with their drivers and build user loyalty. Lyft’s CMO, Kira Wampler says, “While rival Uber is an efficient delivery service, Lyft is seeking to differentiate itself by offering a combination of ‘humanity and technology.” Social media offers the perfect opportunity for them to bring in the humanity aspect of interaction with their users. As a result, their social media page is filled with awesome customer photos, comments from drivers and passengers, driving stories and other content that engages fans and followers.

Regarding social media, Tishler answered, “Specifically for our apps, which are all about being creative, we use community-oriented social tools: Facebook and Instagram Live, Facebook groups, subreddits, and any new tool available to create a community. This allows us to provide a place for users or potential users to ask questions, get inspired and engage in a community of like-minded individuals.”

Creating Media Relationships through PR

The way your startup is introduced by the media will play heavily on how consumers perceive your brand and app. When advertising apps, it’s important that the media is not only talking about you, but that they are mentioning your business in a positive light. Media relations requires finding journalists and media sources that cover products and software in your industry, and reaching out to them with a newsworthy story. Here’s the thing – if a media source is worth it’s weight, they probably receive dozens of pitches from startups each and every day. For your pitch to be effective, you must be offering them a quality story – not just another ‘app feature’ opportunity. Nobody wants to talk about another new app – but a startup that just received a high level of app funding? Well, that’s a story worth writing about.

To take advantage of media relationships early on, you may want to consider hiring a PR agency. Tishler points out, “Find a PR company. It’s expensive, but they tend to work. And if they don’t, you’ll know early on and you can find a new one.”

It can also be extremely beneficial to focus on building relationships with social influencers. These are individuals that are within your industry that influence the market through social media – whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or another platform. A single mention from the right influencer can instantly lead to thousands of downloads of your application and can have positive lingering effects when advertising apps.

Establishing Great Feedback – Reviews

You can spend millions on advertising apps, implementing every trick and hack, but if users come across your app in the app store and your reviews are bad; they won’t download it – especially if it’s a paid app. User trust is built with 20% of what you say about your business, and 80% of what other consumers say about your app.

Whatever strategy you use for advertising apps, make sure to start establishing your reviews early on. Invite people from your personal network to use your app and ask them to leave a review. Incentivize users to leave reviews, offering them free credits or other rewards. Remind them to rate your app with the occasional popup notification.

Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics says, “With a surplus of good reviews, the sky’s the limit. The app with the most five-star ratings is going to hit the top of the search page quicker than those that are lesser reviewed. Having a good rating is all about having a functional app, that does what it says it’s going to do and brings excitement to the user. Asking for a review in a witty way could be just what you need. Being persistent is good, but being clever is better.”

Advertising Apps By Thinking Outside The Box

As mentioned, marketing apps can be difficult due to the sheer amount of competition that you will likely face. Sometimes, startups need to think outside of the box to make sure their solution is visible to their audience. Tinder for example, went straight to the “party” schools to market their application. They pitched the app to sororities and signed up sorors on the spot. They leveraged the participation of these sorority women to persuade the campus’ men to sign up.

GiftAMeal also does on-site advertising. Glantz remarked, “We also physically advertise our app at our partner restaurants. We put out table-tents and window decals at participating restaurants to encourage customers to download and user our app.”

How important is it to think outside the box when marketing apps? Caiazzo of Narraly says, “I try to spend a third of my day on out-of-the-box strategy planning. I think the real questions should be: how do entrepreneurs brighten their creative process to find out-of-the-box ideas? For me, that includes meeting and talking to people, reading articles, brainstorming with colleagues or other companies, and studying other businesses that use creative marketing techniques.”

Advertise Your App Like A Marketing Master

The key to advertising apps like a master is to test your marketing techniques on a small scale before betting it all on one horse. Focus on the ‘must-dos’ first: creating a strong website with on-site optimization and ensuring that your app description is optimized for ranking highly in the app store. Then move to establish yourself on social media, build media relationships and generate positive customer reviews. If the competition is thick, use out-of-the-box methods to reach your consumers directly or to stand out against competing brands.

Marketing apps can be challenging, but fortunately, we know exactly what it takes to create a winning marketing strategy. Contact us today to setup a free consultation with one of our expert startup consultants!

Do you have an out-of-the-box method for advertising apps? Tell us about it in the comments below!

8 of the Best Pitch Decks That We’ve Ever Seen

Great businesses are built on making great deals; and creating the best pitch decks with a branded pitch deck design is an integral part of presenting your startup to the people and institutions that can make great deals happen.

Startups are fundamentally different than other types of businesses. Although they are relatively young in age and smaller than enterprise organizations, they hold the potential for explosive growth. Take a new pizza shop as an example – no matter how successful they are and how great their product is, it is not a startup because it is not designed for quick and rapid scale.  As Paul Graham of Y-combinator emphasizes, a key to a startup is its ability to grow.

Fundable startups sit in between the “idea stage” and the explosive growth – they have proven that there is a high potential for growth, but have not yet realized that growth. Usually, the thing preventing these startups from scaling widely is a lack of resources; they need all the help they can get to convince an investor audience that their growth potential is a real and likely possibility. While a strong presenter is necessary, nothing helps support an investor pitch like an awesome startup deck.

Combined with a impressive presentation, a pitch deck is essential for successful fundraising. A great idea (or budding startup) with a sloppy presentation or pitch that leaves key questions unanswered has little to no chance of persuading investors to part with their dollars. An average idea with a great pitch deck will have greater potential. The sweet spot of a pitch however, is when you have an awesome and proven idea, a confident pitch and a memorable startup pitch deck that sells.

When it comes to pitching, competition is thick. Startups use all the ammunition they have – number of users, monthly growth, revenue, feature concepts, prototypes, MVPs, usage feedback, and anything else that will help prove their case. Great startup pitch decks provide an organized presentation that allows the founders to perfect the right arguments, in the right order, with the right visual tools to create the maximum effect.

A pitch deck isn’t something that’s just tossed together in a rush. The best slide decks are a mix of science, persuasion and art – using each slide as another stroke of paint on the canvas. It can be tough to create a winning pitch deck without some inspiration, so here are 10 of the best pitch decks that we’ve seen over the years… and the reasons we love them!

The 8 Best Pitch Decks for Inspiration

1. Castle

 

Castle is an innovative real estate solution for rental property owners. This startup lives by the slogan, “Put Your Properties On Autopilot!” and exists to help owners manage their properties without the usual headache of being a landlord. Castle serves a niche market so you may have never heard of them; but still, they have one of the best pitch decks and one that you can definitely learn from! 

Here’s why we love it:

  1. The pitch deck has a modern and exciting design with visual aesthetics that draw in the audience.
  2. Starts off immediately by identifying the problem – “Rental property owners want to make money without the work of being a landlord.” This immediately gives investors an idea of why a solution needs to exist.
  3. Uses simple icons to explain each point, making it easy for the viewer to digest. Good pitch decks know how to give an incredible amount of information without cluttering the slide. 
  4. Leads viewers into a strong and concise elevator pitch – “Automate landlording through software and on demand labor.
  5. Provides an easy-to-understand growth plan that showcases historical growth as well as projected future growth.

How much did they raise?

As of date, it is reported that Castle has raised around $3.3 million in investor funding.

2. Adpushup

Adpushup is a unique startup that has streamlined the process of optimizing ad placements. The solution allows publishers to optimize their ads by testing different ad placements, sizes and types. While the design of this sample pitch deck is extremely minimal, the data they were able to display was critical to their funding success. 

Here’s why we love it:

  1. Traction slide shows rapid growth using impressions as a metric. By focusing on this metric, they are able to show that while revenues may not yet be established, there is already a high demand within the market.
  2. Includes a case study that shows the effectiveness of the product. Case studies aren’t just gold for potential customers, they also help sell your pitch to potential investors!
  3. Milestones slide shows how the Company quickly grew from a weekend project to 10 million impressions in only a one-year timespan.

How much did they raise?

It is estimated that Adpushup has raised approximately $632,000 to date.

3. LinkedIn
pitch deck examples - LinkedIn

(Click image to view pitch deck)

LinkedIn’s Series B pitch deck is an oldie, but it is a must-read for anyone looking to build a strong pitch. Although this deck is quite long and thorough, it is a great example of how a seed funding round pitch deck may differ from a VC pitch deck for a Series B round of financing.

Here’s why we love it:

  1. Because they had to explain how the internet works and predict how users would use the internet in the future. Remember, this was 2004! There are many factors that played into this explanation from online search to online payment – and all of these trends needed to be explained to prove why LinkedIn was the right solution for the problem.
  2. It clearly detailed their first priority – establishing the network; and furthermore, explained exactly why this was important to their ability to scale rapidly.
  3. Showed how their actual growth far outscaled projected growth, proving to investors that there is a wide potential for growth.  

How much did they raise?

In total, LinkedIn has raised over $154.8 million in investor funding, and was valued at $352.8 million when they went public in 2011. This pitch specifically led to a $10 million from Greylock Partners.

4. Canvas

 

Canvas is a business solution that allows corporations and organizations to digitize their paper assets. Their goal is to rid the world of paperwork by transitioning business processes into mobile apps. When it comes to the best startup decks, Canvas shows us how to use imagery and simplicity to get the point across. 

Here’s why we love it:

  1. They start the pitch with simple visuals that show how all of our processes, from listening to music to reading, have become digitized over the years.
  2. They provide statistics to show how their application has helped high profile businesses like Pepsi and Healthtronics; giving them instant credibility.
  3. They use a clever strategy to compare competitors by showing that they focus on the “why” while competitors focus on the “what”.

How much did they raise?

Overall, the GoCanvas startup has raised approximately $24.1 million in investor financing.

5. SickWeather

Sickweather is an app that analyzes data to predict and forecast population health. The app claims to accurately predict illness outbreaks 91% of the time and 2 weeks before the CDC on average. This sample pitch deck shows how important credibility is – especially when your clients are some of the most respected brands in the world. 

Here’s why we love it:

  1. It includes a pitch video. While this wouldn’t be included in a presentation deck, it works fantastic for pitch decks that are sent via e-mail or posted to online platforms for viewing by potential investors.
  2. Early on, they provide a list of previous clients. These clients are extremely well known brands, which immediately gives the startup a high level of credibility and authority.
  3. Graphs showcase impressive growth in monthly recurring revenue, giving the startup a great argument for rapidly rising projections and forecasts.

How much did they raise?

To date, Sickweather has raised approximately $2.6 million in investor funding.

6. Match Box (Tinder)

Match Box was the original name for the globally recognized dating app, Tinder. Although there were many dating apps in the market, Tinder was able to succeed by adding a gamification aspect – allowing individuals to swipe left or right to express interest or to pass on another user. Match Box’s startup deck shows how to balance creativity and simplicity to win investors over. 

Here’s why we love it:

  1. It’s extremely simple but it uses a real world scenario to explain the problem (fear of rejection) and the solution (Match Box).
  2. It gives an “under the hood” look on what the app will offer.
  3. It shows a clear monetization model – and although it has changed significantly since this pitch deck was created, it at least let investors know that the founders had considered how they would create revenue.

How much did they raise?

In September 2016, Tinder received an investment of $1.4 million. Since then, the company has been acquired on three separate occasions.

7. WeWork

WeWork addresses the startup and freelance market by offering “Space As A Service”. Individuals can rent co-working space instead of renting a whole office; which helps them save on rent, provides them with a community of like-minded individuals, and offers services to help them advance their businesses. This VC pitch deck was created for WeWork’s Series D funding phase and is quite long in length; but it shows how as more data is collected by the business, more growth insights can be presented for a stronger case.

Here’s why we love it:

  1. They use several slides to describe the “why”. It would be impossible to explain why coworking space is important without first describing how the employee economy has shifted.
  2. The “WeWork Effect” slide shows exactly how the WeWork business model meets the new demands of the market.
  3. Since this is a Series D pitch deck, the Company had to take several slides to explain their current traction. By describing their first mover advantage and showcasing their growth, they were able to successfully present the grand potential of their concept.

How much did they raise?

According to CrunchBase, WeWork has raised approximately $8.1 billion over 12 funding rounds and has had 10 acquisitions.

8. Crew

Crew exists to connect developers and creatives to clients, without the headache of normal freelance sites. Once a job is posted, clients are recommended three makers (usually within one to 24 hours) who can complete their job for them. We love awesome pitch decks, and Crew shows us how to really showcase the features of a product, while maintaining focus on the startup’s growth. 

Here’s why we love it:

  1. Their growth is staggering and they showcase it with clear graphs that present a 10x increase in total project revenue.
  2. The pitch deck subtly describes the app’s USP by detailing how the higher priced projects on the app bring in better talent than the low priced projects on other platforms. Furthermore, they show exactly how their app works from a user side – displaying a much cleaner user experience.
  3. They explain the data collected from their “pilot” launch. Having a strong MVP with great traction is key to securing investor funds.

How much did they raise?

Crew has raised approximately $9.9 million in total investor funding and was acquired by Dribbble in 2017.

Creating The Perfect Pitch Deck

We chose these pitch decks as our favorite and best pitch decks for many different reasons. While some of these businesses are smaller and some are much larger, there are some elements that each of these great startup pitch decks have in common – and if you want to raise seed funding, your pitch deck should share these elements too. Specifically, the best pitch decks:

  1. Address the problem up front and show the current state of the market.
  2. Provide a tested and validated solution.
  3. Explain how that solution is better than the competition.
  4. Showcase some initial traction and forecast future projections.

Your pitch deck will either give you a huge advantage during your pitch, or will completely turn investors off. Use our “best pitch decks” examples as your motivation to create something amazing and memorable. As always, if you want to create the best pitch deck, our experienced startup consultants are here to help! Contact us to today and set up a free consultation.

Is there an awesome pitch deck that should have made our “Best Pitch Decks” list but didn’t? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!

The Best Ways To Raise Seed Funding For Your App Startup

Anybody can launch an app, but if your goal is to build an app startup that has the potential for large scale success – well, at some point you’re likely going to need to know how to raise seed funding. Building an app is an expensive undertaking; it can cost tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring a full-scale app to the market. Once you launch it, you’ll need additional capital to fund your marketing efforts and actually get users to the app. Knowing how to raise seed funding is a critical skill for successful app entrepreneurs, as many major app startups must go through several funding rounds to maintain progress until profitability is reached.

Everyone with an app idea believes that they are ready to pitch VCs and secure a large investment to bring their idea to life. Unfortunately, of the millions of app startups (or pre-startups) out there, very few of them are actually in a position to secure even a minimum amount of initial funding. In this guide, we will answer everything you want to know about how to raise seed funding and convince seed money investors to invest in your app startup.

Is Your App Startup Fundable?

Often, entrepreneurs who have not been through the process of obtaining funding mistakenly assume that just having a great app idea is enough. It isn’t. These entrepreneurs are quickly humbled when they pitch their idea for the first time only to be hammered with questions that they weren’t prepared to answer. The truth is, an idea on it’s own has zero value to seed money investors. Everyone has the next idea that will “completely disrupt the industry!”; or the next “Uber for ____” idea; or the next idea for an app that will “really change our lives!” Mark Hurd (CEO of Oracle) once said, “Without execution, ‘vision’ is just another word for hallucination.” Unfortunately, very few app ideas ever become apps, and very few apps ever become fundable startups.

There are several steps between the app idea stage and the seed capital funding stage. At minimum, a fundable startup will have reached these three milestones before raising seed capital:

  1. Established Startup Team: A single-member team isn’t a startup team at all. Building a business takes more work than most first-time entrepreneurs can ever imagine, and doing it alone is usually too much work for one individual. Your team should be complete with several professionals that have an extensive breadth of knowledges, experiences and backgrounds. Each member should have a specific job that relates to their skill set, and particular talents that add major value to the overall organization. When you’re raising seed capital, potential investors will lean heavily on the strength of your startup team when making a funding decision.
  2. Validated Idea: It is not always necessary to have a full-fledged and already launched app to get seed funding for a startup business. However, it is necessary that you have tested the idea with real users and that you have validated every assumption. It’s not enough to assume that a demand exists for your app or to assume that your idea is the one that will effectively meet this demand. Ideally, you should have a functional minimal viable product with real customers using it, and should already be producing some type of revenue.
  3. Developed Strong Pitch: Even if you have a great startup, if you can’t communicate why it’s great, you’ll have no chance of convincing seed money investors. Make sure your business plan is strong, have an effective startup pitch deck in place and practice your pitch until it is ready to be delivered confidently, at a moment’s notice.

If you haven’t accomplished these three seed funding requirements, all of your efforts should be going into doing so – especially before seeking initial funding from seed money investors.

You Already Know Your First Investor

There is one person out there that is in the perfect position to invest in your app idea – and you already know them. You guessed it…. It’s you! There is a bootstrapping stage to every successful startup. Some startups do so well in this phase that they bootstrap their way to success without giving away any equity for initial funding. Taking just the first steps towards building an app takes time, energy and money; and before you can ask someone else to invest their resources, you’ll need to invest in yourself.

By definition, an entrepreneur is an individual who takes risks to reap a large reward. It is quite the irony that many app entrepreneurs want seed funding firms to risk their funds, but aren’t willing to risk their own. Even those who have very little savings can access funds if they are committed to putting in the effort and taking a risk to pursue their idea. Ready to invest in yourself? Here are a few ways you can access funds to get your app idea into the minimal viable product stages:

  1. Business Plan Contests: Although many business plan contests also require businesses to be at a certain level before entering, some lower-prized contests and events also allow entrepreneurs to pitch in the idea stage. Some of these events may offer several thousands of dollars in prize money which can be used as seed capital funding to build a prototype or launch a first version minimal app.
  2. Crowdfunding: One of the best validation tests for your app idea is crowdfunding. If you believe that consumers in your market would really find value in your app, crowdfunding allows you to bring it to them pre-development and allow them to support it with their donation. However, succeeding with a crowdfunding campaign is not as easy as it may seem. It takes much work to successfully promote a contest, and the rewards must be worthwhile. App startups that have been effective with crowdfunding however, have been able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in initial funding; while forming a strong consumer base.
  3. Loans: We take out loans in our everyday personal lives, but for many entrepreneurs, personal loans have also been used to fund the launch of their startups. To secure a loan, you will need to have decent personal credit – likely you will not have established enough business credit at this point to secure a business loan. Before taking out a loan of any kind, make sure you understand the terms of your agreement and that you can afford to pay back the required monthly payments.
  4. Credit Cards: While only recommended as a last resort, many entrepreneurs have financed portions of their businesses on credit cards. Unfortunately, credit cards often have high interest rates, so you will pay much more to access these funds; but they are also quite easily accessible by anyone with a decent credit score. Again, it is important to only borrow money that you can comfortably pay back. Financing should only be used to better your position, but it can severely worsen your position if not careful.  

How To Find Seed Money For Your App Startup

There is no shortage of seed money investors out there – some of them are obvious, some are hidden in plain sight, and some don’t even know that they are investors yet (maybe they need some convincing first). You may not know anyone who meets the requirements of an ‘angel investor’, but without a doubt, you can access investors if you try hard enough. If you want to know how to find seed money for a startup mobile app business, here’s a few places to start:

  • Explore Your Network: There is no better way to begin a positive relationship with an investor than through a direct referral. A great referral can move the startup/investor relationship several steps ahead before the two even have a chance to officially meet one another. Take inventory of everyone you know, and who they know. Tell people about your business and let them know that you are looking for app investors. Six degrees of separation is a real thing, and you probably don’t have to go six whole degrees to find potential seed money investors to pitch.
  • Join An Incubator: App incubators are made to take apps from their initial phases and to bring them to a fundable level. Many incubators have connections with app angel investors, seed funding firms and VC partners; and some are launched by VC firms themselves. Furthermore, many app incubators provide some type of initial seed funding, in exchange for a small equity percentage, to help businesses bring their ideas to life.
  • Promote On Investor Platforms: With software startup financing being at an all time high, app funding sites have sprung up like spring weeds; acting as a bridge between fundable startups and angel investors. Sites such as Gust, AngelList and Dealroom allow businesses to set up profiles and promote their startups directly to investors. These platforms are extremely competitive however, and to succeed in raising seed capital, startups must meet several seed funding requirements to help them stand out against other startups.

How To Prepare for Seed Funding

Once you know how to find seed funding investors, you will also need to learn how to attract them and convince them to invest in your business. These seven tips will position you for the most success when seeking to raise seed capital funding:

  1. Make your elevator pitch count – Sometimes, you only have a few seconds to make a good impression with an app investor. An entrepreneur should be able to effectively explain their business within just a sentence or two. Make sure that your elevator pitch is simple in content but offers enough information to draw curiosity. Your elevator pitch should be refined, reworked and optimized frequently until the most effective version has been established.
  2. Be the expertEntrepreneurs can become so fixated on all the features and functions of their app idea that they miss important things happening within their industry. Investors put their capital in people that they believe have the knowledge and expertise to truly deliver a successful product; and if you want them to invest in you, you must have an above-average knowledge of your market, industry and competitive landscape. Moves that your competitors make will have a direct impact on your startup, as will trends in the industry, government policy, and other important factors that may relate to the potential success of your idea.
  3. Know the numbersThere is one thing every investor cares about, and that is, whether their capital investment will produce a positive return. During your pitch, it is likely that you will be asked about sales, the number of users on your app, revenue, profits, projected revenue, funding requirements and more. Don’t pitch a seed money investor without knowing the numbers that represent your business. If they ask you about these numbers, and they will, you will lose major points if you fumble over their questions and will lose all credibility if you accidentally misrepresent them.
  4. Have a pitch deck readyDon’t wait until you’ve got an investor meeting scheduled to start working on your pitch deck; get it ready ahead of time so that you can focus on perfecting your pitch on the days leading up to your meeting, instead of building slides. Create a pitch deck that is captivating, compelling and that tells a story that investors can easily follow. Design is important, but use it minimally to enhance your pitch so it doesn’t draw attention away from the slide’s content.
  5. Show a demoTalking about how your pre-developed app will operate can possibly help app investors visualize it in real use, but showing a demo leaves a lasting impression. A demo or prototype may not be a totally functional app, but it allows potential investors to interact with your software and “experience” it for themselves.
  6. Pitch it wellThe key to pitching seed money firms or investors confidently is practice, practice and more practice. Practice your pitch in front of a mirror; record yourself and play it back for critique; pitch it in front of friends and family, and get their feedback; pitch it EVERY CHANCE YOU GET! Eventually, pitching your app idea will become second nature – the more you practice it, the quicker your confidence will build.
  7. Evaluate and optimizeUnfortunately, you won’t convince every investor to provide seed capital; but you will receive valuable feedback each and every time you pitch your app concept. Don’t lose sleep over an investor’s critique of your startup, but use their feedback to optimize your pitch. Identify the weaknesses in your pitch and in your business, and strengthen them until they are no longer seen as weaknesses.

Putting It All In Action

Knowing how to raise seed funding for an app is about as beneficial as having just an app idea – it means nothing without execution. In your startup journey, it is vital to be honest with yourself about whether your startup is truly fundable, or if you need to put in more legwork to validate your idea first. There are many layers to successfully landing your first seed funding investor, and many more layers to building a successful app startup.

Can’t decide what the next step is in your seed funding journey? Contact us today and schedule a free consultation with one of our app startup experts!

How To Win A Business Plan Contest

A well developed business plan creates the foundation on which a successful startup will be able to establish itself, and is especially necessary when considering participation in a business plan contest or pitch event. When every factor is considered – market and industry, finance, marketing, operations, and etc. – success becomes a long-term plan as opposed to a hope for a stroke of startup luck. Along with a solid pitch and pitch deck, a business plan is a critical element in your journey to landing a successful seed funding round. Writing an investor-ready business plan can be difficult, but securing funding without a solid plan in place is pretty much impossible.

Once you finally get the perfect business plan written, what’s next? For those who are far enough along in their business, submitting the plan directly to investors might be a wise step. For those who aren’t quite ready to approach VCs yet, but could use a financial boost to get thing going, participating in business plan contests can be a tremendous help. Not only do these competitions often provide significant rewards for the winners, they also often draw the attention of angels, VCs and even corporations looking to invest in or partner with the next billion dollar startup. Unfortunately, where there is honey there are bees – business plan contests often attract some of the brightest minds, and the higher the reward, the more competition you can expect. In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know to find a great business plan contest, enter it with confidence, and win against other participating startups!

The Benefits of Winning A Business Plan Contest

Business plan competitions are beneficial platforms that allow entrepreneurs to showcase their idea, product or startup to a group of judges. Often, these competitions involve pitching the idea or startup to judges over one or more rounds. Once each competing startup has presented, judges vote on which business (or businesses) will receive the offered reward.

While business plan competitions highly benefit winning startups, they offer immense benefits to investors who attend them also – access to early stage businesses that they can invest in before others have the opportunity. Furthermore, these competitions work to even out the playing field for entrepreneurs who otherwise may not have access to investors – winning a business plan contest could be the difference between funding your business’ launch or failing before you even get the chance to begin.

The most obvious benefit of winning a business plan contest is winning the offered reward. The reward value of these contests can vary from small amounts to extremely large amounts.  For example, the Panasci Business Plan Competition by Syracuse University offers around $35,000 in total rewards, while the Rice Business Plan Competition offers over $1.2 million in seed funding to it’s winners and runner-ups. Winning the right competition can impact your business greatly; providing you with the app funding required to progress your business from the app idea phase to launch and beyond. There is something that should be considered however – some business plan competitions may come with specific conditions that must be met to receive the funding; such as headquartering the business in a certain location, offering up an equity percentage, or being involved in a startup incubator for some length of time.

High-profile angels and VCs often attend larger business plan competitions, and even participants that don’t win the contest may attract the attention of an investor. In some cases, teams that don’t win may end up with larger investments than those who the judges selected for first place. Investors aren’t always looking for the same things in a startup; your idea might not be of much interest to the judges, but may be exactly what an attending investor was looking for! These investors aren’t only good for the funds they bring – some of them may provide a critical mentorship component to your startup; helping to advise your team for greater success down the line.

Lastly, one of the least recognized but most effective benefits of participating in a business plan competition is having your business plan and startup critically reviewed by experienced judges, entrepreneurs and investors. Even if you don’t win, the insight provided by the panel of judges will offer different perspectives regarding your startup. Ultimately, by applying this insight, you can further position your startup for success when participating in future events.

Finding The Right Business Plan Contest

The unique beauty of business plan contests is that they are relatively ubiquitous – and today, more competitions are popping up than ever before. A variety of organizations, educational institutions, and even individuals organize business plan competitions to seek out investable and fundable business ideas. In general, most business plan contests can be grouped into two categories:

  1. University Competitions: Many major universities organize some type of business plan contest through their business school. Eligibility may vary from contest to contest, but these contests are typically only available to those connected to the business program – students, alumni, and in some cases, even on-staff professionals. Due to these eligibility requirements, competition is generally limited – which means that participants have a much larger chance of winning when compared to contests with less regulation. Furthermore, universities know that any successful startups launched through these contests will give their business program a major boost in visibility and credibility. As a result, universities often go a step above to support winners of these programs – providing additional on-campus resources or even access to alumni professionals that can help them advance their businesses.
  2. Sponsored Contests: Sponsored business plans are those that are planned and hosted by an organization, corporation, individual or other entity. Specifically, these organizers ‘sponsor’ the competition – organizing the event, involving investors and judges, and securing rewards to incentivize winners and participants. Sometimes, these competitions may be sponsored by companies within a specific sector such as biotech, healthcare, urban transit, architecture, and etc.; while other times they may be part of a larger startup incubator or accelerator program.  

Business plan and pitch deck competitions take place several times each year in most major cities – and even in many less popular upcoming startup regions. If you are a student or an alumni, check with your university to see if they have a business plan competition in place – if not, maybe you can help them organize one! For those who are not eligible to join a university-sponsored competition, a simple Google search will provide you with several options. Search for “industry name + business plan contest” or “city + business plan contest” to see what upcoming business plan contest events you may be eligible to participate in.

Winning Big At Your First Business Plan Contest

Participating in a business plan contest can be extremely valuable, but the real goal is to win – and to win big! The key to winning a business plan competition of any type is to know what the judges are looking for and to position your startup, business plan and pitch to exceed their expectations.

Judging The Judges

In general, whether you win a business plan contest or not will hinge upon how your business idea is perceived by the panel of judges, and how they perceive you as an entrepreneur and presenter. It is worth noting that judges often come from various backgrounds with varied experiences; what may be a top consideration for one judge may make little difference to another. However, most judges compare businesses on at least the following three factors:

  1. Originality: Successful business ideas need to be original in nature and able to improve upon an existing solution, solve a wide-scale problem, or effectively meet the current market demand. Businesses that simply spin-off from other successful ideas are not looked upon favorably by judges or investors – since they usually have little advantage to compete against already established players. To win a business plan contest, it is essential that your idea is fresh, scalable, sustainable and eventually, profitable.
  2. Ability To Generate Profit: Even the most creative ideas need to be able to turn a profit at some point. Understandably, most investors aren’t interested in funding businesses that won’t provide them with a return in the long-run. In order to gain interest in your business during a contest, your business plan should show exactly how your business will provide a return for investors in the long-term. While some investors may be interested in other aspects of a business, such as their social consciousness or involvement, the majority of investors are looking for opportunities to grow their portfolio by investing in businesses that are capable of generating strong profits.
  3. Effective Presentation: It’s not always the best idea that wins a business plan competition. A perfect business plan and an exciting idea means very little if an entrepreneur can not properly convey their message during their presentation. In most contests, participants are given a set time limit (such as 10 minutes) to present – and expressing all the necessary information within this time period can be rather difficult. Judges look for confident entrepreneurs who can articulate their business enough to convey the efficacy and scalability of their idea properly. The knowledge an entrepreneur needs to possess doesn’t end with just the text presented in their business plan or pitch deck. Most often, there is a Q&A portion during these events in which the entrepreneur will be required to answer specific questions by judges and investors. The inability to answer these questions properly and confidently can quickly dissuade an investor from investing, or can cause a judge to give a lower score than they would have otherwise.

Preparing For Business Plan Contest Success

Success at these events are often linked to how well an entrepreneur has prepared themselves beforehand. One thing is certain – your competitors will be prepared; and if you aren’t, it will be embarrassingly noticeable. Unfortunately, in a business plan contest, there is no way to mask unpreparedness, especially among an audience of experienced entrepreneurs and investors. To best prepare for an upcoming business plan competition, consider the following tips:

  • Sell A Strong Team: There is one thing that’s more important than having a great business plan – having a strong and experienced team that can actually execute it. Management teams are what bind all the elements of a business plan together; combining the skills necessary to put the plan into action successfully. It is vital that your team encompasses a broad range of skills and that each team member has a specific job that will lead to the startup’s success.
  • Present The Problem First: Startups that win (in contests and in general) are those that truly solve an existing problem – whether the problem is shared by a mass group of people, or by a niche audience. There’s a lot of “cool tech” out there, but even simple ideas can solve major problems. Taxis have existed for decades, but a simple idea like ride-sharing changed the way the world views personal transportation. Prepare a pitch that is challenge/solution heavy by focusing on what the problem is, why individuals experience the issue, why current solutions don’t solve the challenges effectively, and why your product/service is the right solution for the problem.
  • Know Your Funding Requirements: Investors don’t want their funds to just sit in an account; they want to know that there is a plan in place to use these funds and effectively scale a startup from its current position. Have a funding plan in place – know how much funding is required, what actions need to be completed to successfully progress the business, and how each dollar will be spent to meet your launch or growth objectives.
  • Be The Expert: If there is any gap in your business plan, it will be uncovered during the Q&A stage. Investors and judges are highly experienced in asking the right questions to get a full picture of your startup and to gauge whether you are well-informed about your business, market and the issue that you are attempting to solve. It’s not a good sign when an investor or judge knows more about your business than you do. Ensure that your business plan is all-encompassing with vital information, and that you can answer any necessary questions without needing to reference your business plan. During the Q&A session, you should be able to answer questions proficiently, confidently, and with enough expertise to prove that you know exactly what you are talking about.
  • Listen, Learn and Apply: You can’t win every business plan or pitch contest, but you can definitely take the insights given during one competition and use it to propel your potential for success in future contests. It’s not everyday that you’re able to receive critical feedback from a group of investors, and when you can, you should take advantage of it as much as possible. Even if you don’t win anything in a business plan competition, the insights gained can be used to catapult your business to the next level.

Writing A Business Plan That Wins

Even if everything else is perfect – if you want to win, you must begin with a well-thought out, perfectly articulated and investor-ready business plan that tells your startup’s story in an effective manner. There are many factors to consider when writing a business plan from proper market analysis to financial projections – and any weak point in your plan will decrease your chances of winning. If you need more advice on writing a business plan, see our business plan guide or contact one of our experts today for a free business plan consultation!