The movies that win at the Oscars are rarely the movies that impress at the Box Office. In business, it is wiser to impress at the “Box Office” than at the “Oscars”
What is the Box Office, the Oscars?
The Box Office is where movies make sales. Movies with the highest sales top the list and thus earn bragging rights. These movies are the most popular amongst the end-users, the viewers.
However, certain movies get recognized at the Oscar Awards. The winners are voted by professionals in the movie industry. The Oscars are like a nod from one team player to another on the same football team in appreciation of a game well played.
The “Oscars” for businesses include the awards that are given to businesses by organizations. These are symbols of recognition by fellow business professionals for the exceptional qualities exhibited by the winner.
A little bit of recognition from your peers is not really a bad thing. Actually, it means you are so good that your competition bows before you.
After writing the above statement, I feel like taking it back. I mean why should I trust my competition’s word?
After all, my loss is its gain and happiness. I realize, though, that, usually, it is not your competition which gives you these awards but non-competitors. Nonetheless, the awards shouldn’t be your focus.
The Dangers of Innovations Contests to Early Startups
Early startups face a common temptation to focus their energies on winning at least one of the many startup contests advertised all year round. These contests promise the winner funding and/or mentorship.
My advice to startups is focus on the final goal, “the Box Office”. Only get involved in contests that fall into your plan.
Do not butcher your original plan for the sake of the contest. The only time it would be okay to change your plan as a result of a contest is when something you learn from the contest changes idea.
The time spent trying to adapt your plan for each contest you enter cannot be regained. Usually, these contests are looking for certain qualities in your project. For you to win, you are forced to adjust the project.
It is not unusual to feel like shifting the goal posts by changing the final goal of your project.
Sadly though, despite your efforts, you are not guaranteed to win. And if you don’t win, you usually get nothing. Winner takes all.
Focus on the End Users
What a business should focus on is being relevant to its customers and not its peers or competition.
Your competition should actually not smile when it thinks about you. If that happens, chances are, you are being beaten.
The “Box Office” is the reason every business is started, the “Oscars” are just a bonus.
If you lose your focus, you will join the multitude of startups that engage in these so-called innovation contests and end up dying immediately afterwards.
Actually, many of the winners of these contests fail to stand the test of time. They soon crumble due to loss of time, and ability to independently seek out their own path and company culture.
Such Contests Can Hurt Any Startup in Any Field
It is amazing how this is not only restricted to tech startups. Even upcoming musicians who take part in such contests like ‘Tusker Project Fame’, an East African music contest, disappear afterwards.
These guys don’t become as big as their counterparts who didn’t focus on the ‘panel of judges’ but rather on the end-users, i.e. the listeners.
May be the problem is the way these contests are handled. Probably, these contests are not geared towards giving skills. Or there is some complex effect on the attitude of the participants.
I don’t really know what the problem is. I am thus not sure how to solve it as of yet. It would be nice to win on both fronts but chances are you will win on only one (or on none). Let that one be the one which counts, the end users, the “Box Office”.
If You think You Won’t Lose Focus, Go Ahead
Quote me right. I am not saying every startup that has won an innovations funding contest fails. I am saying it is hard to focus on winning these contests as well serving the startup’s original purpose.
To win on both stages would require exceptional discipline and probably a huge team. However, if you trust that you can win the contest and still remain focused on the real prize, go right ahead.
Actually, there could be some good contests out there that truly build businesses. You would be blessed to join such.
The exposure you would get from those would be invaluable because of being in the proximity of other startups like yours.
However, the contests that make you act less independent are bad for you. A startup should always work with others, that much is true. However, it should be able to stand on its own when there is no one else to support it.
Focus on the big bucks of the “Box Office” and maybe, just maybe, the red carpets of the “Oscars” will come. However, the “Box Office”, the end-users should be the people you set out to impress at all times.
What are your thoughts? Comment below.