When it comes to competitions for entrepreneurs, one of the most impressive in the world is Shopify’s Build-a-Business competition. Shopify is a Canadian ecommerce platform that I first discovered back in 2006 and I have been watching its growth with interest ever since.
This week, the competition (which is open to Australian businesses) opened for entries and the prize is, quite simply, amazing. Entrants have to open an online store via Shopify and the four stores that sell the most over a two month period will each receive a $50,000 USD investment for a 5% equity stake from a mentor. This seed funding will value each company at $1,000,000. The competition mentors are:
* Tim Ferriss, startup investor and author of The 4-Hour Workweek
* Eric Ries, author of bestselling bible The Lean Startup
* Daymond John, investor on The Shark Tank (the US version of Dragon’s Den)
* Tina Roth Eisenberg, design guru at swissmiss
I’m thrilled to be participating as a guest mentor and looking forward to providing advice to a range of this entrepreneurs around the globe.
The competition runs from July 10, 2012 to February 28, 2013, with each of the mentors providing exclusive advice and guidance along the way. In addition to the $50,000 investment, the four competition winners will also receive:
Trip for two to New York City to meet all the mentors
$20,000 Google AdWords credit
Feature article on Fast Company’s website
This kind of prize and exposure is an opportunity that money simply cannot buy. And I’m particularly excited because, based on last year’s results, Australians are in with a big chance.
“Last competition, a large amount of our category winners were from Australia. In fact, Australian stores accounted for 8% of participants, but made up an impressive 38% of the leaderboard. This year, we are especially excited to see what Australian entrepreneurs bring to the table,” says Tobias Lütke, founder and CEO of Shopify. “Our first two competitions were extremely successful. In total 4,438 new businesses were created, selling an impressive $15,751,024 worth of products.”
Tim Ferriss said: ” “This competition is intended as a benevolent and encouraging kick in the ass. This stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does require stepping outside your comfort zone for a bit to realise this isn’t that hard. It’s just unfamiliar. If you do it now, a lot of people will be in the same boat and you’ll take the trip together.”
I’ve personally spoken to a couple of the Australian winners of last year’s competition. They not only grew their businesses beyond their expectations (amazing what a bit of healthy competition can do for you) but they also won the opportunity to go to New York to meet with Seth Godin over lunch. Chris Peters, co-founder of Annex Products, was one of the winners.
“Traveling to New York to meet Seth Godin was an amazing experience and we are very thankful for the opportunity and for the awesome lunch. Meeting Seth was a very down to experience. When we arrived at Seth’s office, about an hour north of New York, we were greeted by Seth at the door and welcomed into his office which to my surprise was more like a home than an office space. There were pictures and painting on every wall and some very unusual objects scattered about the place including a few Kickstarter projects. As Seth explained, it is key to have a story to sell a product. He pointed out that everything in his office has a story behind it and went on to tell us a few of the more interesting ones.
“Seth spent time talking to each of us in turn and very quickly got to grips with our products and businesses. He has this uncanny ability to cut through all the fuzz and narrow down to what it is you are really doing and identify who your customers really are. This provided a lot of a-ha moments and allowed us to get a clearer understanding of the next step or product we should be focusing on.”
I love the idea of the competition because, as Tim says, it’s a “kick in the ass”. Not to mention a chance for your company to be valued at $1 million. This may just be catalyst that can take your business to the next level.
Naturally, this inspired my post this week in Enterprise which you can read in full here including tips on how to run your ecommerce store.