How These Brilliant Businesses Won Startup Competitions In 2010

Redbeacon founder and CO Ethan Anderson winning Startup 2010

Entering a startup competition to win funding for your venture has a lot of benefits, even if you aren’t victorious. 

Thousands try, but only a few score the top prizes, which often include hefty cash prizes, mentorships, and exposure for your business.

To give you an idea of what it takes to win first place in a funding competition, we compiled a list of winners from several of this year’s contests.

Redbeacon won Business Insider's Startup 2010 Contest in May

The winning idea: Local services site Redbeacon lets users submit requests for local jobs in various service categories in San Francisco and forwards the requests to relevant participating service providers, who may then submit bids for the job and an appointment time at which they can complete it. All three founders (Ethan Anderson, Yaron Binur, and Aaron Lee) are former Google employees and worked on products like Google News and Google Video.

The finalists' entries were judged on the following criteria: (a) compelling products or services with a clearly-defined value proposition; (b) viable business model; and (c) entrepreneurs who have the ability to execute on their plans; and (d) the Finalist's presentation.

What they won: $100,000 Grand Prize. The prize consisted of a $25,000 cash investment from General Catalyst Partners and $75,000 in goods and services including up to 6 months of office space in New York City at TechSpace, legal services, web hosting and more.

Soluto and Qwiki won TechCrunch's NYC and San Francisco Disrupt Startup Battlefield Competitions

The winning idea (NYC): Soluto, an Israeli-based startup and winner of the TechCrunch Disrupt New York City contest in May, created free software that monitors your PC to identify things that slow it down such as space-hogging applications and printing problems. It then offers solutions on how you can fix your computer issues.

The winning idea (San Francisco): The Palo Alto-based startup, Qwiki nabbed first place in September at the TechCrunch Disrupt contest in San Francisco. It won by offering, 'a new way to consume information: text, audio, video, and images melded together in a seamless interface, generating a dynamic movie of whatever you search for,' according to TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid.

What they won: Both teams took home $50,000 and shared possession of the Disrupt Cup.

C-Crete Technologies won MIT's $100K Business Plan Competition

The winning idea: C-Crete Technologies, is a new startup that was founded by MIT doctoral student in Civil and Environmental Engineering Rouzbeh Shahsavari and MIT Sloan School of Management MBA candidate Natanel Barookhian. The students developed a new type of cement that reduces CO2 emissions and is stronger than any currently existing cement.

The contest consisted of two rounds; finalists submitted a full business plan and 12-slide PowerPoint pitch deck.

What they won: $100,000 grand prize.

Couchange.org won MIT Twitch, A Twitter pitch competition

The winning idea: Based in Boston and Pittsburgh, Couchange.org develops fundraising technologies to help nonprofits access over $8 billion dollars annually in abandoned assets such as leftover giftcards, frequent flier miles, and other reward point currencies. It helps nonprofits meet their fundraising goals by converting abandoned digital assets into cash donations, running mobile 'text to donate' campaigns, and designing analytics-enhanced fundraising strategies. Couchange's CEO, Jia Ji, describes himself as a 'serial social entrepreneur' and has worked for several technology startups.

The Twitch contest, which was launched this year in celebration of the MIT $100K competition's 20th anniversary, required entrepreneurs to give their best business pitch in 140 characters or less. Re-tweets of the business idea served as votes.

Couchange's Twitch: 'Convert giftcards into cash for charities, win $500 for charity at http://edeify.com/RT #100kTwitch,' won the 20-day contest with 132 re-tweets.

What they won: $500. Couchange combined its prize money with additional donations from its fundraising platform and donated $20,000 to Dream Corps, a non-profit organisation that promotes education in China.

BiologicsMD won Rice University's Business Plan Competition

The winning idea: BiologicsMD, a startup founded by graduate students from the University of Arkansas, is developing a drug called OsteoFlor to treat osteoporosis with a single, annual or semi-annual injection (daily injections are the norm) that builds bones better than current alternatives.

What they won: The Rice Business Plan Competition awarded more than $1 million in prizes to aid new start-up businesses at the 10th annual competition. BiologicsMD took home the grand prize (and eight other prizes), with total winnings of $300,000 in investments, $39,250 in cash grants and $80,100 in business services and gift cards.

OsComp Systems won the Harvard Business Plan Contest

The winning idea: Harvard Business School second-year MBA student Shantanu Agarwal and MIT Sloan School students Pedro Tomas Santos and Emmanuel Magani took home the prize. They are the cofounders of OsComp Systems and are commercializing a revolutionary gas compressor technology developed in conjunction with MIT that drives natural gas into pipelines at a lower cost and with greater efficiency.

What they won: $25,000 in cash, as well as accounting and legal services. The contest awarded a total of $170,000 in cash and in-kind services to the winners and runners-up in the business venture and social venture tracks.

ToVieFor and America Smiles won the NYU Stern Entrepreneurs Challenge

Five teams won the GE Ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid

The winning ideas: Entrepreneurs were invited to submit ideas that could contribute to creating a cleaner and more efficient electric grid. They were selected by a panel of judges including Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, GE executives and leading academics and technologists.

The winning ideas were a lightweight inflatable wind turbine; a technology that instantly de-ices wind turbine blades so they never slow or shut down; an intelligent water meter that can generate its own power; a cyber-secure network infrastructure that allows two-way communications grid monitoring and substation automation from wind and solar farms; and a technology solves short-circuiting and outages from overloaded electric grids by enabling precise control over their flow and power.

  • Capstone Metering: Intelligent Water Meters -- Carrollton, Texas
  • ElectricRoute: Secure Communications Network for the Electric Grid, Salem and Hollis, New Hampshire
  • GridON: Controlling Power Quality in Electric Grids, Givatayim, Israel
  • IceCode: Wind Turbine Blade Anti-Icing and De-Icing, West Lebanon, NH
  • WinFlex: Inflatable Wind Turbines, Kiryat Yam, Israel

What they won: Each company received $100,000 to develop their ideas.

M-Dot Network won Amazon's Web Services Start-Up Challenge

The winning idea: Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, the M-Dot Network enables consumers to receive digital coupons via a retailer's website or micro-website on their phone which they can then redeem at the check-out counter.

During the final round of judging, seven finalists presented their businesses to representatives from Amazon Web Services and leading venture capital firms. M-Dot Network was selected based on its implementation of AWS solutions, originality and creativity, likelihood of long-term success, and how well the business addresses a need in the marketplace.

What they won: M-Dot Network was awarded $50,000 in cash and $50,000 in Amazon Web Service credits at the finale event in Palo Alto, California.

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