By Anne Dewvall,
Project Management Support, VentureDash
“Small things don’t always turn into big things, but big things always start out small,” – Emily P. Freeman, author and podcast host.
Freeman’s quote perfectly describes the genesis of VentureDash, a software application for running business competitions. When NetWork Kansas partnered with Moonbase Labs to build this software platform, who would have thought it would become the best way to run a business competition, according to experience and market research.
The partnership to build the software between NetWork Kansas and Moonbase Labs is a simple and true explanation. The more complicated story stems from NetWork Kansas’ reasons to build what is now a beautiful, robust piece of software ready to make its debut in the world.
I am honored to have been on this ride from the very beginning. In a way, VentureDash exists because of the challenges I encountered literally using pen and paper to tabulate scores at entrepreneurship competitions several years ago. In my role growing and overseeing NetWork Kansas’ Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) Series, I ended up doing a lot of things myself, and usually manually. Participation in these competitions grew faster than our staff or capabilities: a good problem to have. Then, even when our staff grew, and Amara Kniep took on more of the responsibility for supporting the YEC Series, two people had headaches instead of one.
Like many entrepreneurs, in the early startup days of our entrepreneurship competition series, for a time we wore 50 hats. I handled registrations for NetWork Kansas’ regional and state competitions through e-mail (mine), uploaded executive summaries through Google Drive, created registration check-in sheets in a word processor, and printed dozens of paper score sheets. On competition day, fingers flew across calculators entering and checking scores. If you attended the state YEC competition NetWork Kansas hosted at Fort Hays State University, Amara quite literally checked you in on a paper sheet, one of several tubs’ worth that she schlepped across Kansas.
So, in a way VentureDash was born because doing all this gave us a tremendous headache - and because NetWork Kansas couldn’t scale support for youth entrepreneurship competitions with Amara manning the calculator, no matter how quickly she can type. But, although that is a true story, it is hardly the full one and I would be neglecting hundreds of people if I ended the story there, including the many YEC competition organizers, judges, and students who endured the exact same headaches. In fact, the real reason VentureDash exists is because so many people shared the same pain points and needed a solution to run business competitions well.
Between then and now, the idea of VentureDash grew up and away from those spreadsheets and into a sturdy software platform NetWork Kansas built on Knack (thanks primarily to Amara and Ted Kriwiel). This platform worked for a few years and, all the while, we made improvements and refinements thanks to ongoing usage and testing by the many YEC Series competitions that used the software.
Eventually we ran into the same problem with what we had built —it just wasn’t robust enough to offer the tools we needed and it wasn’t scalable. This time it was Ted’s fingers begging for some help. This is when NetWork Kansas pursued the bold step of partnering with true developers to build the next generation of software to support business competitions.
After a year of planning, designing, testing, tweaking, and beautifying, VentureDash is ready to debut to the world. It will support NetWork Kansas’ YEC Series, but it is a tool any business competition can use to make their experience better, easier, and keep the focus on the fun part: building businesses and changing communities.
VentureDash is an end-to-end solution for managing business competitions. Set a format, invite participants, manage scoring, and more. All the essential ingredients to build, run, and manage a business competition are included, including tools like a master timeline, scoring rubrics, and helpful templates. Hosts can collect entry fees, gather submissions, judge and score the competition, communicate with participants, and manage everything from a single event to a sprawling series.
VentureDash may not be a “big” thing yet, but it started out small, and for the better part of a decade it has been growing thanks to the input, trial and error, and entrepreneurial process of hundreds of supporters. We are proud to introduce you to the latest member of the NetWork Kansas family: VentureDash. To learn more and to experience VentureDash during a free trial period, sign up for our mailing list at https://goventuredash.com/ and follow us on social media at @goventuredash.