Ideas Challenge FAQ

The Spark Ideas Challenge is due in 4 days, 1000 words for a 1000 dollars – I’m not even joking. If you can, you should definitely enter. Putting together 1000 words on a business idea is pretty easy and there are a lot of prizes to win and less competition than you think. There will be at least 20 different winning teams on the day and $33,000 is the total prize pool. Your odds are good.

The main rules:
1. It needs to be a business Idea, not something that is already in the market
2. One or more of the team members need to be an Auckland University student or employee. Only one though, so drag someone into it if you need to.

You can read more about the competition here and download the entry form here.

I’ve been a winner and a judge before and I’m judging again this year. I usually work on the web and software entries, but all judges contribute to the final discussion. I tend to get a few emails every year asking for advice, so in the spirit of fairness, here are some of my answers to the more common questions.

My idea is super awesome so I’m not willing to tell you anything without you signing an NDA, you’ll definitely want to steal it. The NDA is attached
Nice try, that wasn’t even a question. Good news though, all judges sign NDAs before looking at your entries so don’t worry. The bad news: lots of people stop taking you seriously when you take such a hard line on this stuff, I prefer the FrieNDA approach.

What kind of team do you recommend building? Do I need a business guy?
For the Ideas challenge don't be too concerned about the team, but make it obvious that you are aware of any major skill gap and outline a plan for filling them. For the larger competition later in the year, there's not really a need to have a 'business guy' on the team who doesn't have another pertinent skill to the the business. Instead plug the gap by up-skilling yourself and by getting a good advisory board that you can ask the 'business' like questions to. Spark can help you with this, just ask.

What kinds of ideas do the judges like? Do they look at things beyond the idea, like team members? For the ideas challenge, it’s all about the idea. When we do the judging we work in teams of two usually going over about 20 ideas that relate to our field of expertise. I usually judge for the web/software division, and these are the things most likely to lead to to being cut from the running:

  • Idea is too similar to something else already on the market
  • Idea was tried and failed in the recent past (You have no idea how many people suggest creating a social platform for ‘X’ niche)
  • Idea is not useful until it has a massive amount of users – the exceptions are those with either a killer user acquisition strategy or localisation strategy to get a density of users.

How much chance do you think a solo entrant has?
In ideas challenge, an equal chance if the idea is good and you know where you’re lacking. However no one has ever won the 100k challenge on their own. Find someone to share the burden, lots of groups of 2 get through to the final 12 in the 100k, and you can build a team from there once you’re in the running.

If you’re a developer, find a designer to be your co-founder. Not someone to help you with your logo, but someone who understands user interaction. They’ll help a lot with making your work digestible by a non-technical judging panel and will do wonders for your user testing during market validation.

What is the competition like? Was there a lot of people in it? How many people really had a good idea what they were doing? Anything from amazing and experienced through to people’s first shot at putting something down on paper. The good news (for you) is there’s generally less than 300 hundred entries so your chances are pretty good. You can take your idea a long way by running it past a few people from the industry first. Don’t worry about them stealing your idea, they won’t.

Do you have any general tips for the Ideas Challenge?
You obviously have to get the basics right: your idea needs to be original, feasible, defensible and be going after a market that exists and is preferably measurable. Please do some research on who your competitors are as well, don’t write that you are applying a Blue Ocean Strategy and have no competitors, you’re wrong.

Most of all though, get something down on paper and enter, as many times as you can. It’s a great exercise and the feedback sessions are awesome and fun. Every entrant gets one. If I’m one of your judges you’ll get me along with someone much smarter and better looking.

Read more, get involved and enter here.