Cliff Ennico

Each year, the Entrepreneurship Foundation ( hosts a business plan competition in New Haven, Connecticut.

"Teams" from universities throughout New England submit business plans to the competition, and the 25 best are selected for an all-day "pitch" session to a three-judge panel consisting of a venture capitalist, an angel investor, and (ahem) myself.

I was privileged to judge the 14th annual Connecticut Business Plan Competition (as the event is called) last week. I judge several business plan competitions throughout the country, and I find a lot of "teams" come up with similar ideas. So, for those of you readers who are studying entrepreneurship and want to know how judges look at your team's business plan, here are my handwritten notes on some of the ideas presented at last week's competition.

Plan # 1: Online Dating Service.

The Concept: a website that combines the two most common ways couples meet -- finding potential partners online who are friends-of-friends. For a small monthly subscription fee, customers upload their Facebook profiles to the site, and people who think someone's Facebook friend is "hot" can contact that someone for an introduction.

What I Liked: Online dating is too scary for most people, yet people are reluctant to "matchmake" online by recommending their friends to potential dating partners. This is a "Goldilocks" solution that resolves both problems.

What I Didn't Like: Too much competition from,, and other sites. Also, if a customer's Facebook friend doesn't want to make herself available for online dating, there is no way for the friend to "opt out" of the site's database (other than "defriending" the customer).

Plan # 2: Skills Certification for Online Hiring:

The Concept: a website where people seeking specific jobs can take an online examination "certifying" them for particular job skills. The results are published online, so employers seeking specific skills can see how a candidate scored on the examinations for those skills.

What I Liked: From an employer's perspective, this is a great idea, as it helps them determine if someone claiming to have a particular skill actually has it.

What I Didn't Like: Several competing sites already test candidates for proficiency in skills that can be quantified (such as knowledge of a particular computer programming language). It will be difficult, if not impossible, to come up with an examination that effectively tests skills that cannot be quantified (for example, negotiating and other interpersonal skills).

Plan # 3: "Reviews" Website for Senior Caregivers.

Cliff Ennico

Cliff Ennico's "Succeeding in Your Business" column offers straightforward small business advice and tips

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