I like business plan competitions. I participate in several as a judge, and I recommend them to entrepreneurs working on high-end startups that might be interesting to investors. You know who you are. You need a real shot at high growth, a credible management team, and commitment to an exit strategy. You can win real money and value in services. Rice University and University of Texas sponsor contests with prizes worth more than half a million dollars. Forbes does a $100,000 contest. There are several whose first prizes are more than $100,000.
You also get valuable experience. You pitch your business, develop and present a formal business plan, and get real feedback from judges who normally have real business experience themselves, as entrepreneurs, investors, or both.
Most of these contests limit themselves to students, but some are regional, and some are open to all.
Lora Kolody has a good list of business plan competitions published last month on the New York Times website. You can also find them with a good web search (for example, on Google search for “business plan competition“). Our Palo Alto Software website at paloalto.com has a page about business plan competitions.