What It Was Like to Compete at the QEC, From a Former Competitor
At the 29th Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition, I was a top 15 competitor, pitching a Wi-Fi marketing company. Now, for the QEC’s 30th anniversary, I am a competitors’ coordinator on the executive team, connecting student entrepreneurs across the eastern U.S. with the QEC in the hopes that they too will be able to experience the thrill of competing for a prize that could very likely transform their business overnight. I am the first person in the QEC’s 30-year history to have both competed in it and been on its executive team – so here’s an idea of what’s in store for you:
- You will meet some of the brightest, friendliest, and most fascinating entrepreneurs in the world.
I get it – every university representative and every campus job recruiter that has ever existed has used that line about the people in their organization as well. But I’ve seen firsthand as a competitor the kind of drive that enable these entrepreneurs to build the businesses that they’ve built. One of our competitors last year deferred school to write a quarter of a million lines of code for his business that now stands at the cusp of revolutionizing the way lawyers and governments do work. Another flew to Europe two hours after competing because he had scheduled another pitch in Paris only a few hours after the QEC. At the QEC, I got the chance to learn about other cultures, share ideas about how to successfully launch or expand a venture, and even make some lasting friendships. So will you!
You’ll also get to network with professional entrepreneurs from fintech to green tech who have had decades of experience creating, growing, and exiting businesses. Every year, venture capitalists come out as well to meet the competitors. Some teams that don’t win the grand prize still receive financing from venture capital firms!
- Work hard…
A funny thing happened a few days before we were due to compete. We had recently acquired a new client and with that new client, we discovered a new market that, with some minor tweaks to our current business model, would be highly profitable. So, during the very week in which we were due to compete, we re-wrote our 13-page business plan and created an entirely new pitch deck. I was rehearsing even in the car ride on the way to the pitch. We slept 5-hour nights that week!
You probably won’t have to completely rewrite your pitch days before the competition, but you’ve got your work cut out for you nonetheless. It isn’t easy to write a 10-page business plan, film a 3-minute video, and then make 20 minute pitches complete with slide deck and 20-minute Q&A sessions. But looking back, the hard work made it all the more fulfilling when I saw the judges’ faces light up with interest as they learned more about what we offered. Their enthusiastic questions and suggestions and their encouraging comments made the hard work worth it.
- …Play hard
At last year’s QEC, I liked to joke that while not all competitors could win the grand prizes, all the top 15 competitors were still winners, because the steaks that we got to eat on the first night were worth at least $100! You’ll also be able to explore vibrant downtown Toronto and check out the night scene at the QEC’s social events held at Toronto’s bars.
This blog post was written by our team member, Winston Huang (Eastern US Competitor Coordinator).