Starting a business sometimes feels like trying to figure out what comes first: the chicken or the egg? You need money to start a business, but usually, commercial banks won’t lend you money unless you HAVE money. It gets particularly hard as a newcomer, given that our credit history doesn’t migrate with us, so applying for regular funding, lines of credit and loans are almost near impossible at the beginning. I wrote about a few immigrant specific loans in a previous post. However, unless we manage to miraculously win the lottery, we may need to be more creative in order to come up with the solution. Thankfully, here in Canada, there is a way entrepreneurs can access funding. Today, I will be writing about pitch competitions in Canada.
What They Are and How They Work
Pitch competitions are events where budding entrepreneurs can go and pitch their business idea to a room of judges, investors and other business professionals. Candidates are usually given a short time limit (anywhere between 6-10 minutes) in which they can stand up and explain their idea and why it can be successful. The crowd of “judges” will then pick a predetermined number of winners to receive funding (and possibly other resources as well) for their project.
Some pitch competitions will provide a grant prize (free money!) plus additional business services for a determined amount of time (business coaching, accounting services, legal services, etc.)
You can check out a very dramatized version of what a business pitch looks like if you’ve ever watched the popular TV show Dragon’s Den – where well-known business people are presented with different revenue-generating companies who need money and in exchange the entrepreneurs give away equity (percentage in ownership) of their company.
Many pitch competitions in Canada are targeted toward tech startups, so if you’re looking to find pitch competitions open to “traditional” businesses, they will be harder (but not impossible!) to find. If you are a university or college student, chances are there is an entrepreneurship incubator or club that will likely have an opportunity for students with great business ideas to pitch and receive some sort of funding, mentorship or a combination of both. Contact your local student office to find out more.
Below are a few well-known pitch competitions just to give you a taste of what is out there. Another way to find out what pitch competitions are available in your area, simply Google “pitch fest/pitch competition in (your city/province)” and you will likely get a list to get you started.
SoGal Global Pitch Competition
This is a pitch competition after my own heart: it is created to encourage and fund women and diverse founders worldwide! Hosted in 25+ cities around the world, and culminating in a global final competition and 3-day immersive educational bootcamp in Silicon Valley, this is an unprecedented pitch opportunity for women and diverse entrepreneurs worldwide. The prize is over $500K (and counting!) plus mentorship and a supportive community. Read about SoGal here.
Every year, here in Ottawa, the AccelerateOTT pitchfest offers really great resources and rewards. With $750,000 in total awarded to the winners, this is a great opportunity for revenue-generating tech startups. For more information, you may go here.
Get In the Ring
This pitch competition is a LOT of fun. Imagine being on a boxing ring stage where you get to deliver your pitch against an “opponent” – the energy from the showdown and the crowd’s reaction make this pitch event a one-of-a-kind. Get in the Ring is different from any other startup pitching competition. Pitching in the ring creates an undeniable competitive electricity which means founders are forced to up their game and give a pitch they are proud of. There are over 150 Get in the Ring events around the world every year. By winning a local Get in the Ring event, you automatically win a place at a Global Meetup where everyone fights for the big prizes. More information here.
Held annually in Toronto, this pitch competition is part of a tech conference, and is quite well known. At what is called the ElevateR Pitch, a group of 32 tech startups get the chance to pitch their business in front a huge group of celebrities and business people. To learn more, go here.
Also very well known, the Telus Pitch, happens every year In Toronto as well. With the first place prize being the amount of $100,000, there are several other valuable prizes available to the winners. The next few runner-ups can win either the community impact award, most promising startup award, or the multicultural business of the year award. For more details, go here.
Synapse Life Science Competition Pitch Showcase
In March of this year, it will be the seventh time this contest takes place in Hamilton. Geared towards science-related entrepreneurs, this pitch aims to help their candidates turn their ideas into a reality. For more details, go here.
This one sounds exciting! It is open to newcomers, aboriginals, and females between the ages of 18 and 29. The number one winner of this competition goes home with a $10,000 grant and another $10,000 loan. The first runner-up wins a $10,000 loan, whole the second runner-up gets a $5,000 loan. All contestants get the chance to share their story and business plan. Details here!
The Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition is known as one of the biggest undergraduates’ startup competitions. They pick 15 of the many business plans that are submitted to pitch their startup over a weekend in Toronto. With $75,000 available to be won, it is also a great opportunity to network and learn from experts. For more information, go here.
NACO Summit Pitch Competition
Every October, the National Angel Capital Organization plans a startup pitch competition. The lucky winner of this particular contest can land funding and business advice from Angel Investors, as well as the title of the “Most Promising Startup of the Year by KPMG Enterprise.” More details, here.
These are just a few of the pitch competitions in Canada, there are A LOT more out there. Have you heard about any of them in particular? Are there any that I didn’t mention that you would like to talk about? Have you found some in non-tech that are worth mentioning? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!