The winners of a new business competition were rewarded with an advice package instead of a funding prize. Is this the new way to help high-potential businesses?
Helping a business grow doesn't necessarily mean financial support. In fact, there might be more effective help to give.
Orange announced the winners of its first Different Business Competition on July 6, after an afternoon of judging at London's Millbank Tower. Unlike most other Dragons Den-style competitions aimed at smoothing the path for a high-potential business – and these events are springing up like mushrooms lately – the Different Business Competition made a statement of not offering a cash prize.
Instead, the winner took home £200,000 worth of advice. The package consisted of legal advice from corporate and commercial law specialists Lewis Silkin, marketing consultancy from Publicis Chemistry, business support from top accountancy firm Kingston Smith, communications support from Orange and top-notch mentoring from entrepreneurial star Mike Southon.
This offer attracted 150 exceptional entries, three of which made it to the final. The winner was 'pillpod' inventor Lorna Lou Ltd, whose founder Lorna Perks, after being treated with breast cancer, decided to find a way to help future patients take their medication more safely, correctly and on time. Lorna Perks expects the product to be used globally soon, since it has the potential to be used for all kinds of treatments.
“Winning the competition is such a huge opportunity for me and my business,” she said in an acceptance speech. “One of the most daunting things about starting out as a new company is not knowing who you can turn to if you need advice, and that’s what’s so great about this competition – it will not only give me the kit I need to succeed, but also the skills and knowledge.”
Lorna Lou Ltd. Competed against two other impressive finalists. Guess2Give, an online-based business that introduces a sweepstake element to fundraising, expects to generate ten million pounds for charity in the next two years. Abeterno Ltd, a biotech company that has developed a revolutionary way to isolate cancer cells, aims to develop technology that will enable cancer researchers to come up with better treatments that will specifically target cancer cells, without affecting healthy cells.
The great response from so many promising early-stage businesses shows that mentoring can be just as valuable as financial support to help a good product reach the next level. Especially amongst entrepreneurs who, more often than not in the modern start-up scene, jump into the business leader role from an entirely different professional background.
“Giving somebody with a great product the possibility to learn from experienced people is essential,” Mike Shirley, Head of Small Business Propositions at Everything Everywhere Ltd told Real Business. “A good idea is not enough – you also need a business plan. It's important to give young businesses the sources to help them grow, and to encourage them to take a step back and look at their product from a fresh perspective.”
Orange expects this to be the first of many Different Business Competitions. If their approach proves to be successful we might soon see more initiatives like it, that might just take the startup accelerator-like mentoring concept to a level that will help more established businesses to further growth.