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Are The Red Herring Awards "The Frat" Of Startup Awards?

It must be fishing season again, my inbox is filled with press releases about all the startups that all simultaneously won the Red Herring award. Out of the 100 in Europe, we have 12 winners from Finland, 8 from Sweden, 3 from Norway, and 5 from Denmark.

I'm not going to tell any entrepreneurs how to live their life, but I'm going to lay it out as I see it. A startup's journey doesn't necessarily come with a lot of external affirmation, so winning an award with some name recognition, and having a recognizable logo to display on your website is all good and well. And maybe it gives you some sort of legitimacy to potential customers.

But still, it's an award you need to pay €2,900 to be eligible for, which feels more like you're paying for a certificate. I suppose the mathematics for these startups come down to a gamble if they can be listed as one of the 100 winners, and then hopefully receive more than €2,900 in PR.

And their PR machine is good. I got a nice professional list of all the winners located in our region, and everyone knows the Red Herring name. But something about it rubs me the wrong way. If anything it's so borderline into scam territory that I wonder why it's made out to be such a "thing."

I think the closest thing you can compare the Red Herring awards to is the Fraternity and Sorority concept at universities in the States. Everyone that's in a Frat loves being in one, and says it opens them up to new connections. Meanwhile everyone on the outside shakes their heads, and calls it essentially paying for friends. This dynamic seems apparent in Mike Butcher's number of interviews asking Euopean entrepreneurs how they felt about the awards.

I'm clearly on the outside, and to me the weirdest aspect about the awards is in the name itself... irrelevancy is right there in the name, which doesn't help its cause.

Maybe I'm biased because we give out awards every now and then, such as at our Arctic15 conference. But to us it was a natural decision to give away tickets to our competing startups, considering we were inviting them to our conference. And as far as press releases to the broader tech press goes, I don't think any really care about startup awards, unless they're they ones giving out the awards.

So show me numbers, show me traction, and we'll write about it - but I really don't care what anyone says about your product unless it's your customers or a VC that are validating your company with their own money.

So all you winners and past winners, or every startup that got an email invite to the competition and conference, what do you think about it? Is the juice worth the €2,900?

Fishing on the baltic sea image by shutterstock

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