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Tips and Training for Startups & Entrepreneurs

The Startup Challenge is more than a simple pitch competition; it's an entry point into the community of photonics business development. Review the information and tips below to give you a head start in the pitch competition and the startup world.

Prepare your pitch before you arrive

Pitches will be judged on:
•  Pitch delivery
•  Quality of the business case
•  Quality of the financial case
•  Competitive advantage

Rules for the pitch

Oral pitches for both rounds of the Startup Challenge can be no longer than FIVE (5) MINUTES each and can be supported by a powerpoint or PDF slide deck. Extra time and additional materials beyond the slide deck are not allowed. Pitches must be made live and in person at Photonics West by the applicant or a team member named in the application. 

After the pitch, judges will have about 5 minutes to ask the presenter questions. Audience members may not ask questions during the pitch sessions. 

Pitch Resources: A PC computer, projector, screen, and remote slide advance are provided for presenters. Timing and pitch pacing is the responsibility of the presenter, and the room monitor will indicate a cut-off. For the finals, a confidence monitor and countdown timer will be visible to the presenter. Switching personal laptops into the system is not allowed. Pitch decks will need to be provided electronically to the organizers at least 1 day ahead of the semi-finals.

View previous winners' pitches

One of the best ways to prepare for the competition is to view past winners and their pitches.

Implicit agreement to publicity

Participation in the competition means that you agree to have your startup presentation evaluated publicly. Furthermore you allow SPIE to use your name, likeness, and the information provided in the Startup pitch to promote your product and this competition, in print and electronic communication means.

Online training and onsite training at Photonics West

Applicants to the Startup Challenge are invited to participate in a series of webinars to help prepare them for the competition and ongoing life as a successful company.

Online training includes
•  Storytelling for Entrepreneurs
•  Creating Opportunities for Customer Discovery 
•  Financial Benchmarks for Photonics Companies

Applicants selected to pitch at Photonics West are invited to attend an entrepreneur training that includes a Pitch Clinic, networking, and help refining their business plan.

Pitch Clinic training includes
•  Business plans: from beginnings to exits
•  Representing product-market fit
•  Identifying decision-makers critical to your success

A networking lunch and additional industry programming will serve to introduce you to the right people to help solve your startup questions. Representatives from IP Law, finance, marketing, partnerships, and capital funding are looking forward to learning about your plan and answering your questions about creating a successful venture.

Other resources

•  Business Model Generation: A handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers.
•  The Business Model Canvas (PDF)
•  I-Corps Toolkit: provides you with tools, templates and materials
•  Steve Blank's Lean Launchpad Course: a comprehensive starting point