Robotics · Startup competition

Is there such a thing as too early to enter a startup competition?

Michael Savoie

June 17th, 2015

I have a robot startup and am concerned that if I enter I'll get too much exposure. I don't have any IP in place nor a complete prototype.

LanVy Nguyen Founder & Managing Director at Fashion4Freedom

June 18th, 2015

Start-up competitions can only guarantee exhaustion.  Some competitions borderline scams and will not necessarily benefit the start-up.  You need to assess how much time and effort you can and should devote to applying yourself for any competition.  

Know the audience, will they buy or promote your product once you've taken the time to present?
Know the Competition itself:  If you make it to the semi-round or final round and didn't win, this that good enough reward to be a marketing bonus?
Know your target customer: would they care if you won such a competition?

Like anything, aim your goals at finding customers; once you have plenty of them, the investors will find you.

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

June 20th, 2015

I generally recommend to my clients that they write up whatever they are doing as a provisional patent. I recommend getting and reading Patent Pending in 24 hours, or Patent It Yourself, to learn how to do this without a patent attorney. The goal is not really to get a final patent filing, but rather to make it safe to talk about what you are doing without a lot of NDAs (which investors generally won't sign anyway). We now have a first to file, not first to invent patent law, so delaying filing means you are allowing someone else to have a similar idea after you, but file before you, and then shut you out. So a provisional patent becomes a defensive way to protect yourself from someone else's patent filing. For most early stage start-ups, there is very little offensive value for patents, because it costs a lot of money to prosecute a patent suit. In general, how good your ideas are don't matter that much -- it is how well you execute on whatever ideas you have that generally matters. So if you are confident you can out execute other start-up competitors don't worry about them. If you aren't confident then you might want to take steps to get better at executing, or try to divide up the space among other near competitors so you can all become collaborators in building something even bigger than any single start-up can alone. By doing this, you can go for lots of exposure -- which will make you more visible to other potential people who will want to share your vision (and execution success) and make you successful: investors, potential employees, suppliers, and distributors. With more people helping you, you'll be more likely to execute well and succeed.

Jessica Alter Entrepreneur & Advisor

June 17th, 2015

In terms of people "Stealing your idea" no - never worry about that. http://founderdating.com/startups-and-shark-attacks/
In terms of something to show and a complete prototype- yes, you want to have it be useful and get reaction.

I've never heard of a startup failing because they got "too much exposure" and startup competitions really don't bring that much so don't do it for that reason.


Michael Savoie

June 18th, 2015

I was less worried about someone stealing my idea and more concerned about IP protection for patents, should I eventually file, which leads to me being less risky to outside investors. 

Anonymous

June 18th, 2015

Some startup competitions don't allow you to participate if you don't have a prototype yet. You'd think this would be clearly posted in their rules or application guidelines, but not always. So my only advice for you would be to check with the organizers before applying if it's a lengthy application so you don't waste your time. Hope this helps!

Christopher Hubert Industrial and Aerospace Executive

June 18th, 2015

Michael,

 

Jessica has a point on the idea. There is a significant chasm between an idea and money in the bank. there will be lots of money spent in not just the patent but the implementation and maturation of the idea. Anyone that sees your idea will need to spend that money and if they took it from you open themselves up to other legal issues. In the filing and documenting of the patent process you will realize other claims that will apply and you will want those included. I own a patent on the automatic sealing of aircraft wings. However, in perfecting this for industry I realized that there were other fine details and advantages that I need to include for it to work on the factory floor. Now I need to protect them as well.  So you will learn more about your idea as you perfect it for commercial applications.  The point is you will learn more about your invention as you work out the details and you really want all of these ideas included in the final patent protecting all of the IP, not just the initial idea. If you want to protect your idea without spending a lot of money up front and you really want some credibility with investors then file a provisional patent on line with the USPTO.  that will give you a year to file the final patent.  whatever you do take a lot of notes, time stamp everything in those notes and be able to show how you arrived at the idea.  here are some other ideas in this link. good luck and you can never get too much exposure.

 

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226595

 

Stan Podolski CEO at Nimble Aircraft.

June 21st, 2015

If you think you have anything worth to patent, why not to do a provisional? around $200 if you do it yourself, and 2k if lawyer is involved. And stealing your idea? forget it, nobody would do it unless you have a business running already, so they can imitate it outright

Lars Østergaard CEO at MocialCall ApS

June 22nd, 2015

The probability of someone stealing your idea is close to zero. Don't be afraid. Unless what you have is crap that doen't work, my advice is: Get out of your seat, talk to your customers, face your fears and validate your assumptions.

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

June 22nd, 2015

There is such a thing as too early when the market you need to survive doesn't exist yet or isn't large enough for you to reach your target income since you could run out of investment cash before you hit breakeven. 

Don't worry about anyone stealing your ideas... People who want to steal  ideas want to be sure  that the market is huge already. They want to be sure the idea is already vaildated and they just need to out execute you.  The best protection against that is to build a crack execution team that keeps you well ahead of late entrants.