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Why wasn’t my business in the SMART 100?


Every year, we receive a handful of requests from disappointed business owners seeking a reason why their innovation didn’t make it into the SMART 100.

Sometimes, providing an answer is difficult — because tracking down the most appropriate judge can be surprisingly hard and often the reasons are complex and numerous. Furthermore, it’s a universal truth that providing quality constructive feedback is as hard to deliver as it is to receive.

This year, we’ve decided to take the most efficient and least painful approach and attempt to answer this question by way of blog, by providing four of the most common reasons why any particular innovation didn’t make the cut.

1. You entered a business and not an innovation

The SMART 100 was developed to recognise and promote innovations — not the businesses behind them.

A disproportionate number of entries this year did the opposite. They waxed lyrical about the businesses that created, funded or licensed an innovation or failed to mention an innovation altogether, focusing exclusively on the innovative nature of the organisation and/or its highly innovative revenue model.

While these are traits that should be acknowledged and rewarded, the SMART 100 is about products and services — not organisations.

If this sounds like you, we suggest that you enter our Cool Company Awards later in the year. The first among Anthill’s award programs, the ‘Cools’ were indeed created to recognise cool businesses — organisations that are doing things differently to defy convention and bring about change.

In fact, we suggest that you file away your SMART 100 application for later use. You just never know when it might come in handy.

2. The innovation was not as ‘unique’ as you might think

Every year, there are one or two categories of product or service that are highly popular among entrants.

In other words, an innovation described as ‘highly unique’ is often submitted within minutes of a competitive innovation with surprisingly similar qualities. (By the way, something can be ‘unique’ or ‘not unique’. It can never be ‘highly unique’.)

Last year, over twenty entrants submitted a marketplace/directory/community for… well… just about any industry you can name. This year, cloud-based dashboards were similarly common. Most are designed to help organisations manage their bookkeeping, finances, staff timesheets, payroll etc. Once again, these dashboards were largely designed to assist a particular industry.

While most of these businesses were impressive and their IP was clearly well-conceived, their sheer number naturally undermined their ability to rank highly on an index designed to promote innovation.

While your innovation may be unique to your marketplace, it may not have been perceived as so innovative to our judges.

Being innovative is hard. So, ask yourself, is your innovation unique? Or just unique to your industry?

3. You’re not the market leader you might think you are

Another common factor likely to undermine the strength of an entry occurs when a market leading innovation has a competitor hot on its tail.

You may have launched something new and possibly revolutionary but, whether you knew it or not, you are not alone!

This is surprisingly common. An industry leader that has previously enjoyed recognition enters and then is surprised when it does not make the cut. Comfortable in its position as pioneer, it fails to acknowledge that also-rans have robbed it of its status as original.

This also occurs when two organisations stumble on an exciting innovation simultaneously. Each believes that it alone has re-written the rule book, but each undermines the others’ capacity to shine.

Once again, if this sounds like you, we recommend that you store away your application and enter the ‘Cools’ in August.

4. You just weren’t convincing

Demonstrating the innovative qualities of a product or service is hard. And innovators are often not accomplished in the art of self-promotion.

Entries that are hard to understand are almost impossible to appreciate. If you are not much of a wordsmith, and feel that your application was unfairly excluded, we suggest that you seek help with your entry next year.

The SMART 100 is about recognising commercially focused innovations, and the ability to articulate and promote the benefits of an innovation are, therefore, considered by judges alongside more traditional judging criteria.

The polar alternative is the entry which presents the innovation with bombastic claims and exaggerated assumptions. We love tall-poppies at Anthill, so we applaud those who can spruik their qualities. But claims must also be realistic and believable.

And don’t forget, we’re just a media organisation after all

Lastly, let me just say, I know personally that any answer is likely to dishearten.

I too have entered Anthill into awards and seen companies that I have thought less deserving take home the coveted gong.

And I know the amount of time effort that many people put into their SMART 100 applications.

For that, we thank you. We appreciate your passion and we hope that you don’t let our views make you feel discouraged.

Great entrepreneurs don’t get put off by hurdles or rejections.

As fellow entrepreneurs, we encourage you to think, “F*#k you, Anthill. What the hell do you know? You are wrong and I’m going to show you.”

And we hope that next year you do just that. And remember, there’s always the Cool Company Awards.