Vision, Mission, Action, Traction: Professor Julian Lange on the B.E.T.A. Challenge
With the B.E.T.A. (Babson Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®) Challenge Finale just days away, we took the opportunity to explore why and how action became the cornerstone of the competition. To help us understand the evolution of the B.E.T.A. Challenge, we turned to Associate Entrepreneurship Professor Julian Lange, who, in his words, has been involved “since the beginning.” He advised Babson’s original business plan competitions and helped to shape the B.E.T.A. Challenge into what it is today.
In its very early history, the B.E.T.A. Challenge consisted of a number of traditional business plan competitions for graduate and undergraduate students. Notably, Babson was the first academic institution to introduce a business plan competition. Professor Lange explained that the goal behind these competitions was to encourage students to identify and work on the key elements of a business plan.
Deliberations were always tough, especially when the judges’ opinions differed. But, a common denominator emerged. As Professor Lange described, the judges continually asked, “What have you done? What things have you undertaken to move your plan to a business?”
At the same time, trends were evolving in startup ecosystems to support a dynamic, action-based perspective. What investors were looking for was changing. “They don’t want a long plan… they want the high points; they don’t want to slog through the details,” noted Professor Lange.
And here at Babson, Professor Lange and others were working on research that paralleled this focus on action. He, along with Professor Emeritus Bill Bygrave and Senior Lecturer Ed Marram, published the award-winning paper “Human Assets and Entrepreneurial Performance: A Study of Companies Started by Business School Graduates” in 2012, which connected experience and success. Entrepreneurs who tend to be successful are those who have taken and are taking practical actions towards implementing their plans.
With the addition of faculty support, the momentum gathered and the leap was made from business plan competitions to what we know as the B.E.T.A. Challenge in 2012. Now in its eighth year, the competition recognizes major milestones Babson businesses have achieved by taking action. The entrepreneurs annually compete for grand prizes of $20,000, as well as donations of services in kind.
For the entrepreneurs preparing to compete this week in the B.E.TA. Challenge Finale, Professor Lange, no stranger to entrepreneurship himself as the co-founder of VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet, had some advice. He urged them to share their achievements and plans: “What have you accomplished? What have you done to move the business forward? What are the main actions that you have taken to move the business forward? What are the next steps for the business?” No matter how you say it, there’s one point that matters: Action.
Another tip from Professor Lange: Be clear about the call to action. Think about how you want to engage the audience. Are you looking for a business partner? A team member? An investor or advisor? Engage the audience with your ask, and don’t forget to share how to get in touch with you. In sharing what you’ve done, what you will do, and finally what you want the audience to do, action will come to the forefront.
From business plan competition to business competition, the B.E.T.A. Challenge embodies action – and so do the finalists competing. Register for the finale now to watch them pitch this Thursday, April 11.