How Startups 100 helped FlatClub raise $1.5M investment

Business awards can help your start-up gain exposure and even attract investment, as online short rental marketplace FlatClub reveals

Recently, my company FlatClub announced a second funding round of $1.5m after being selected for the second time to feature in the Startups 100 List.

The importance of reputation for start-ups

Securing this funding round required achieving outstanding business results and getting buy-in from investors.

As entrepreneurs, sales is one of the most challenging tasks and the most important skill to hone. We need to sell to customers, suppliers, partners, investors and team members.

I believe that a successful sale, especially in the early days, requires two ingredients: network and reputation.

While a network can be built through contacts, friends, business experience, and university background, reputation is sometimes tricky to build for a new business with a limited track record.

How to build a fantastic start-up reputation

As mentioned, reputation is built with track record, but you need a good reputation to gain some traction. So, how can a start-up solve this catch 22? No track record, hence no reputation, hence harder to sell and build a track record.

The most obvious tool is to leverage the entrepreneur’s personal reputation, and another great tool is by getting media coverage, social proof and of course, winning start-up competitions.

How do start-up competitions help build reputation?

From a personal point of view, I feel that winning start-up competitions can really help build a brand’s status – it certainly really helped us to build FlatClub’s reputation. Being listed in the highly prestigious Startups 100 meant not only media coverage, exposure, and traffic to the site but it also offered an external validation which ultimately helped me secure a strategic partnership, and finalise the funding for FlatClub.

After applying to almost 30 competitions, I realised that there is zero risk in applying.

When I wasn’t selected as finalist, no one cared.

And when I was selected it was a reason to celebrate.

Hence, I started to look at applying to start-up competitions in a more structured way and have prepared some tips on the best way to tackle applications – and how to ensure you present your business in the best way possible.

How to win start-up competitions

1. Research

Well, the first step is to find them. I am glad to share with you the most updated version of the UK start-up competition guide my team and I built, which includes the largest database of start-up competitions, with over 60 and growing.

It’s free to use and is a great starting point for finding out about the best opportunities to promote your business.

You can’t win a competition if you don’t apply so it’s worth having at least one of your team members scouting relevant websites/publications for free or low-cost PR opportunities.

2. Meet the criteria

Some competitions are only available to early stage/late stage ventures, to social entrepreneurs, or they’re sector specific. In our competition index we’ve created an option to filter the list to your specifications. There’s no point wasting time on an application that can’t even be considered.

3. Prepare and refine your pitch

It’s probably worth spending a good few hours on the first application. The rest will be similar, so if you prepare one good pitch – you can just change it slightly and use the core pitch over and over again. This should be based on your one-page business plan.

4. Apply on time

Finally, it’s easy to miss a deadline – but don’t. Make a note in your calendar of key dates you don’t want to miss and be disciplined about sticking to them. Although filling in an application can seem like precious time you can’t spare the benefits of a win will definitely make the time worthwhile – and if you don’t win, you’ll have a good basis for entering other competitions more swiftly.

Winning start-up competitions is of course just one step in building a business. Without solid growth, clear differentiators, talent, a motivated team, and an outstanding marketing plan, it’s not possible to succeed and raise funding.

However, external endorsement not only offers a great boost for your team but it really can be the tipping edge for you and your business, just as it has been for FlatClub.

Nitzan Yudan is co-founder and CEO of FlatClub, an online marketplace for short term accommodation within trusted networks. http://www.flat-club.com

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