The Benefits of an Innovation Competition

Innovation competitions have established themselves as a proven, crowdsourced way to help organizations reach larger innovation and business development goals.

The first step to running a successful innovation competition is understanding what one is. At the core, innovation competitions are a form of business development that focuses on the creation, elaboration, and celebration of the best sustainable ideas or solutions, crowdsourced from top innovators.

Your business development objective will not only inform the competition topic question and timeline, but also will define the type of applicants, judges and mentors you recruit, as well as the messages you put out to the market.

What makes an innovation competition different?

Unlike other types of competitive idea development initiatives which tend to be one-time event based and focused on engaging local audiences with a specific skill set, innovation competitions typically run over three months and create time for potential long-term partnerships between the participants and the sponsoring company.

In fact, the National Association of Broadcasters chose to start their PILOT Innovation Challenge at the ideation stage and continued to support the development of its winning teams. Submissions came in from across the country and were evaluated by professors, investors and industry experts. Quesnay mentored the six finalists to align their messages to the audience before a live, final-round pitch event. The winning teams will return to the stage at NAB Show 2018 to demonstrate their progress after six months of development.

Accelerate innovation and partnerships through competitions… Gathering “outside of the box” ideas through crowdsourcing

Supporting and rewarding innovation through a competition provides avenues to expand the reach of your brand across different competition stakeholders, including the startup community and key influencers. Consider the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, which raised the company’s profile as a partner to startups globally. Through their competition, Verizon associated its brand with being a leader in the Internet of Things, consistent with their overall strategy. Verizon attracted thousands of applicants from more than 70 countries and were able execute partnership opportunities, launch pilots, and deliver new commercial products.

“Not only did Quesnay help us manage a successful innovation competition at scale, but also delivered us access to thousands of IoT startups from around the world”. - VP of Strategic Sourcing Verizon, Gopal Rajagopalan.

Drive social impact through diversity...

When looking for transformative solutions, it is important to search beyond your own industry, geography, and demographics. The crowdsourced, innovation competition format with a heavy emphasis on recruiting through multiple channels, attracts innovation from unexpected places. As an example, the Female Founders in Tech Competition, hosted by Quesnay in late 2017, which attracted 100 startups led by women, called for solutions applicable to the financial services and insurance industries. The second-place winner, Marinus Analytics, is an AI platform set up to help law enforcement fight human trafficking. Through the competition, they presented the ability for this platform to also identify money laundering and fraud cases.  

Another innovation competition we’re honored to be managing is the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, which empowers high-impact, student-led startups from around the world with grants while advancing Cisco’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. Cisco’s challenge awarded first place winner Project Vive $100,000 in their work to make affordable, wearable speech generating devices.

Building a passionate community of experts and influencers....  

A curated set of judges, mentors, influencers and industry experts is critical to building a robust and meaningful, repeatable competition. Involving judges and mentors from a variety of sectors with diverse backgrounds and skills can help draw applicants to participate, as well as ignite meaningful partnerships.

Over the past 5 years, Quesnay has worked with hundreds of influencers and industry experts from organizations such as AMC Health, American Express, CEA, John Hancock, Microsoft, NBC, Penske and Spark Capital, TD Bank. They diligently screened and selected finalists who were not only creating cutting-edge solutions, but who also had the type of strong business plans and dynamic teams that reduce risk for corporate partners. Additionally our mentors provided guidance to the startups that helped not only shape their business models but also accelerated their ability to secure investment.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on innovation competitions, opportunities to participate as well as dates for our upcoming 2018 competitions beginning later in Q1.