Virgin #VOOM 2016: How to enter and excel

I’ve written over the last couple of weeks about young entrepreneurs, about the success story of Tom Cridland, and the reason that so many fail to replicate his success.

In the latter of these discussions, some key challenges were raised, namely:

  • Experience – Many young people have an idea, but lack the specific expertise to get it off the ground. Be that related to operations, to technology or simple business administration, lacking even a couple of necessary skills can create a real barrier to entry.
  • Red tape – The world of business is one ladened with bureaucracy: legislation, taxes, weird forms, the intricacies of running a business from a legal perspective is certainly an intimidating one, and often enough to put people off starting.
  • Funding – Even when the minefield of issues mentioned above has been crossed, there’s an obvious issue related to the money required to start a business which young people – generally – lack. The traditional ‘Dragons Den’ means of pitching to investors is great, but the percentage of the business young people are often asked to give up is a grueling prospect.

The discussion ended with an allusion to schemes like #VOOM 2016, which has just been launched and aims to overcome such obstacles.

By working in collaboration with LinkedIn, #VOOM enables young entrepreneurs to connect with established professionals with specific skills and expertise in the field they need help in. These skills will be on tap for entrants to the competition to their business plans to develop and flourish.

Additionally, Virgin are giving away £1 million worth of prize money to a selection of successful entrants. Not only will this provide a huge boost to a project and, crucially, enable it’s viability, it also comes with no catch: it is not in exchange for investment and the company will retain it’s complete autonomy.

How does it work?

The competition takes place over 14 weeks and has two entrance categories: Start-up and Grow, so is tailored towards brand new ideas, as well as more established businesses.

Entrants then have the option to create a Crowdfunding page in association with crowdfunder.co.uk which can act alongside their pitch and provide a cash injection regardless of whether or not they win.

Once entered, voting begins on the 5th of April, and the public vote for their favourite business ideas. Voting closes on the 23rd of May but people can enter right up until the 10th, and the shortlist will be announced on the 25th.

Those who have made it on to the 160-team shortlist will be invited to a ‘Pitchathon’ in London, a 29 hour Guinness World Record attempt from the 1st to 2nd of June, and the top 40 will progress through to the next round.

The next round involves an entrepreneur workshop in Birmingham on the 13th and 14th of June, from which the top six teams will head to Edinburgh on June 21st and benefit from professional help as they craft their pitches ready for the finale on June 28th in London in front of a stellar board featuring Richard Branson.

Fancy giving it a go?

Here’s some top tips to ensure your pitch stands out from the crowd:

  • Be original – if it’s been done before, chances are people won’t be interested and won’t be inspired to vote for you
  • Have a clear vision – how do you see your product expanding in the future? What information and resources do you need to bring it to market?
  • Keep it positive – nobody wants to hear about your potential problems, make sure you address issues but do it constructively
  • Talk about the product – it’s easy to get side tracked by talking about the market as a whole, or by discussing why you’re the best out there, but make sure you keep your pitch product-centric so people know about you, not others

You can enter the competition here, and can enter until May 10th.

Good luck!

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