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General Feedback from Judges

General feedback from the judges to the participants from Spring 2011
  • Some of the best ideas appeared to leverage the research or innovations from other areas of Duke (engineering, life sciences, etc.) and that provided a very substantial amount of credibility as well as confidence in having a team of experts involved in the venture.
  • Consider these points
    • 1. In today's world, you can do some testing/market research of your product at almost no cost. If you are not willing to bet the money you spend on a weekend at the Outer Banks on testing your idea ($300-500) why should anyone think you are serious about this Business Plan?
    • 2. Go and talk to people who have started a company. Ask them for advice and feedback before you submit.
    • 3. Go lure one or two RELEVANT people into agreeing to join your team 'if you get funding'"
  • The executive summary (and business plan) should be a fact driven analysis of the business (less fluff or interesting but irrelevant information).  Also, make sure to discuss competition and barriers to entry (first-mover advantage is not enough).
  • Go with what you know.  The best business plans I read were those where there was a real connection - students who had done original research, or who were solving a problem that they faced themselves.  If you can build a product based around a problem you face, you are your own customer, and you can really build in direction based upon the challenges you want to solve.
  • Not much consideration given to the competition each would face--a universal concern of mine. More attention to grammar and spelling. Work on your writing and delivering the message.  It can get obscured 
  • Think about how the plan will be profitable.  Take the time to have someone look over the final executive summary for a spelling and grammar check.
  • Find someone who has built or funded a business and have them edit your business plan for real world
  • Spend more time on differentiation.
  • Clearly define:
    • 1. The problem that you aim to solve, and who experiences the problem
    • 2. Your solution to the problem
    • 3. Why your solution is credible, including having the right team with expertise
    • 4. How you would monetize the solution to the target group with the problem
    • 5. What you need to execute this plan
  • Do the following
    • 1) Look at typical formats for executive summaries and follow that
    • 2) Be professional in writing, not conversational
    • 3) For Life sciences track, need more research on regulatory pathway/reimbursement
    • 4) Put more time into near term cost estimates-most numbers appeared nrealistic "
  • Many of the executive summaries lacked the consideration of the question: "What makes my idea unique, and what prevents the competitors from entering the market?"
  • Clearly articulate the problem/opportunity you're addressing, the magnitude of it, and the elegance of your solution. 
  • Tell me the problem, provide a solution and tell me how you will provide/finance the solution.