A new award recognizing innovative e-commerce solutions hopes to motivate "fresh and unusual" ideas.
Posted Oct 25, 2007
Art Technology Group (ATG), a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of Web marketing and e-commerce software solutions, yesterday announced a $60,000 contest for innovative business plans. The company's e-Commerce Ingenuity Business Plan Competition will judge entrants on "the inventiveness and creativity of their proposals, as well as on long-term business viability and likelihood of execution." The winner will be awarded $50,000 and another "People's Choice" award for $10,000 will be given based on votes posted on ATG's online blog.
Applicants must fulfill three specific requirements. They must:
ATG maintains that the competition is as wide open as possible with no geographic or industry-specific contraints.
Though not sure how fierce the competition will be, Cliff Conneighton, senior vice president of marketing at ATG, says he's confident that interest will be high. "We didn't specify whether it's about technology innovation or e-tailing innovation. It's just innovation in e-commerce," Conneighton says. Nevertheless, he does single out a handful of factors likely to draw the judges' attention: "We're looking for ideas that are fresh or unusual, but that have a real likelihood to succeed. A winning plan could include a proposal for a new technology offering that attracts specific customer segments or drives loyalty, or an unusual way of displaying products on the Web, or another kind of new, promising e-commerce solution."
The timing of the competition's launch is no accident, Conneighton says. "E-commerce is getting really exciting," he says; ATG hopes the award will create much-needed visibility in the marketplace. "There's a lot of innovation that's out there," he observes -- from both young and established companies that are trying to break out new ideas. Conneighton also recognizes that many innovations simply need an extra boost to get their heads above water. ATG was inspired to promote the efforts of these developing companies and in turn, "get some of these ideas to blossom," Conneighton says. "We're kicking off this contest with an open mind and we're very eager to see what participants might come up with."
- utilize e-commerce as a "business-critical component";
- be individuals or teams of e-commerce entrepreneurs; and
- be seed or early-stage companies -- in other words, generating annual revenue under $100,000.
Conneighton also acknowledges that the competition will naturally function as a marketing tool for ATG to maintain its position in the industry. As a leader in the e-commerce market, he says, ATG has the responsibility to encourage continued growth in that market. "It's not all going to come out of our own labs. It's going to come from lots of places; but we believe that [a] rising tide lifts all boats and we'll get lifted along with it if we foster innovation in the industry," he says.
The award is hardly on the order of the MacArthur Foundation's so-called "genius" grants or a Nobel, but some believe that, for companies at this stage of development and in this age of cutting-edge technologies, awards of this size can make all the difference. "Looking at the award that's received by the company, it's not a whole lot of money to start a business," says Tom McFadyen, president of McFadyen Consulting and an ATG partner. "But in today's Web 2.0 world, there's so many things you can do with mashups, [software-as-a-service], and other services that are provided at a pretty low cost. You can certainly do a lot with a little amount of money."
The financial aspect is only one part of the benefit, McFadyen says. "Not only will the money help but the feedback the companies will get and the publicity will be of great value."
Although ATG is not yet able to reveal who the judges will be, Conneighton promises that there will only be no more than one ATG employee; the rest of the panel will comprise various industry and financial analysts. Entries can be submitted through January 30, 2008, and final awards will be presented April 27-30, 2008, in Boston at ATG's annual user conference, ATG Insight Live 2008.
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