Converge Challenge provides
‘students and staff of all Scottish Universities and research institutes with practical commercial skills enabling them to bring to market novel products and services, thus creating sustainable profitable companies helping Scotland grow as a CAN Do competitive economy’.
Taking place annually, we are excited that Converge Challenge 2017 is now officially open to applications until 10th April 2017. To help us get a better idea of the opportunity that Converge Challenge presents to staff and students at the University of Stirling, we asked Veronica Ferguson (Enterprise Outreach Manager for Converge Challenge) to give us the low down on the competition.
What is Converge Challenge?
For those of you who are not aware of Converge Challenge, we are an entrepreneurial development programme and company creation competition focused on embracing and nurturing the entrepreneurial ideas found in Scotland’s universities and research institutes. Whilst the programme is a competition – in that ultimately there is a winner – it is more than this! Why? Because over 60 projects can gain the tools and support to shape their idea into a better developed proposition that is investor ready. And there is a prize pot of over £150,000 – a mix of cash and in-kind support via our valuable partners.
Who can apply?
Converge brings together the most ambitious and creative thinkers from academia, research & business. In 2017 The Converge Challenge programme maintains a broad reach with an eligibility open to all university staff, undergraduates, postgraduates, as well as recent graduates (up to 12 months after graduation). In previous years, trading companies could not participate, but now early stage businesses trading for less than 12 months with revenues under £50,000 can apply.
What types of ideas are eligible?
We are open to any business idea at any stage, from any sector of study with a service or a product. There are three prize winning challenge categories
- Converge Challenge – if you are looking to spin out or start up from within the University and incorporate a new business in the next 12 months;
- KickStart – if you have an early stage idea for a new product or service; and
- Social Enterprise – if your business idea focuses on tacking social problems, strengthening communities, improving people’s life chances or protecting the environment.
Why should I apply?
Even if you end up deciding that setting up a business is not for you right now, it’s still worth considering applying. Going through the process of articulating your business idea, getting feedback on it (whether you go through to the training or not), going through the intense training programme, refining, pitching, networking and writing a business case for the idea will develop skills you never knew you had. These will be attractive to employers in the short term as well as help you set up a sustainable business in the long term. And, of course, there’s the opportunity to win the prize money to drive your business forward.
Have previous participants found it valuable?
This is probably best illustrated by a quote from one of our alumni – Robbie Norval from the University of Stirling who founded Lingo Flamingo in 2015. He was runner up in the Social Enterprise category.
“The Converge Challenge not only gave us the chance to explore to see if our concept was plausible, it developed our skill base, allowing us to gain confidence in pitching and making a sustainable business plan. The advice and the funding from Converge has enabled us to lay some very solid foundations which we are currently using to build our Social Enterprise upon.”
Veronica’s Top Tips for applying…
I’ve jotted a few recommendations to make sure that your idea gets through the sifting panel:-
- Answer the Question – It sounds daft, but answer all of the prompts within the questions!!! For example, even if you don’t know the exact and final shape of your customer base, if you think about how you answer the questions about your customers (Who are your customers? Are they different from the end users? And have you spoken to your customers and/or end users?), then this will help you form your customer engagement strategy in the long run! The sifting panel don’t need to see that you have already DONE all of the thinking, they just need to see that you know that you have to DO it and have thought about how that might work!
- Answer all questions – Make it as easy as possible for the sifting panel to see that you have answered each of the questions – it gives them the opportunity to tick off their questions in their heads. So, you could potentially put headings with information below so that they can easily see the answers to the questions.
- Try to use facts and figures – Try to quantify what you already know with facts and figures – this doesn’t mean that you put a line like “This is a 20 billion dollar market worldwide” – that may be true, but the judges want to know a realistic idea of what size of the market your start up or spin out business could realistically achieve. So provide a defensible summary, describing your market segment as a proportion of the worldwide market and why it will suffice as an initial goal! They just want to see that you have a good understanding of how you’re going to achieve world domination, and that you’re not just expecting it to happen overnight!
- Be clear why your product/service is needed – It’s really important to get across the problem that your product or service will solve! Some call it the “pain point”, but it’s that thing that makes people go “Why can’t somebody sell me something that will make it easier to (insert your product or service here)….” Products and services sell because people want to buy them, and people buy them because they make their lives better or easier in some way. So make that clear!
- Show that you understand your customers – the judges have a wide range of expertise and life experience, so know a lot about a lot. They look at applications and immediately think – who else do I know that does this type of thing? So, if you demonstrate that you know who else is out there and how your idea differs (is better than!), it really helps.
- Don’t start with your 100 words summary – it’s better to do that at the end once you have answered the rest of the questions – this will make sure it contains elements of the whole picture….
If you are interested in learning more or getting help with your application, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Key facts about Converge Challenge
Entries Open Open now!
Entries Close Monday 10th April 2017 at 5pm
- Converge Challenge Award – for developed business ideas likely to incorporate in 12months
- KickStart – for early stage ideas for products and services
- Social Enterprise – for businesses that focus on social issues
Business Training May 30th-June 1st 2017
Business Plan Due Thursday August 3rd at 5pm 2017
Awards Dinner Thursday September 28th 2017