OK, so we can all agree that Knight is ready to take an evolutionary step, right? It’s time for the thing to hold itself, and its winners, a little more accountable.
Not every project is going to be a success. But reading through the responses, it’s not clear to me that there’s a working definition of what Knight Challenge success is. And couching everything as an “experiment” — both the projects and the Challenge itself allows that lack of accountability to continue. Call something an experiment and the stakes are removed — it’s a success just for being conducted.
So how do you increase accountability? Incubators like YC and TechStars, which have a leg up because they fund for-profit endeavors with a clear-cut barometer for success, offer a model that Knight could adapt. Some chief differences:
- The incubators give away far less money.
- They offer a fixed amount, which lets ideas be judged more easily against each other and discourages pie-in-the-sky endeavors. With only $18k, your project needs to be simple and executable.
- The incubators focus as much on the founders as on the idea — if you don’t have the skills and passion to make your project a success, you’re likely not getting funded.
- Post-selection, the incubators offer far more hands-on support.
- That hands-on support often leads to the initial idea evolving and improving.
The incubators have this in common with Knight: they’re making a bet. The question is how hard you work to improve your odds. And doing that work is tough if you haven’t defined what a win really looks like.