…although not quite a prize-winner, I got a lot of invaluable feedback. Here is the pitch setting – front of the stage in the amphitheater. This is one of the other contestants, I unfortunately don’t remember his name and he had no card, but he is creating a text-based product reference system in India. “Hey, who sells the best rice-hulling machine?” and texts come back from folks who have commented about rice-hulling in the past. To be able to do this without the internet, through SMS. Third place, this guy. Shucks for me.
There was a session, directly following the presentations where the judges’ panel spent an hour and a half talking with all of us about our pitches. The nugget for me: give us one realizable model, not too many options, and show us how it will generate cash flow and how we recoup our investment. It’s either for-profit or not. That was good to hear. In a slightly defensive mode, I talked about how I could have said “I want to create a real estate investment trust that pursues a specific product for a specific end user, the social benefit professional, and using innovative technology and group process facilitation, create lifestyle value for that end user” – they said “Why didn’t you say that during your pitch!” I was good to feel chagrinned, to smirk at myself, to think: okay fine, I will do so much better next time.” It was also awesome to actually experience the rush of making the pitch – the adrenaline and heartbeating – just like my old days in theater, but with more at stake. I could get used to that high.
It was good to hear the feedback on other issues for the other pitch-ers. Each came with such a different idea, so many different angles to social enterprise. Each had different issues to improve on. The judges agreed none of us had the basic revenue model figured out. SkinXM (I think that was the name but it’s not coming up in searches) of Steven Palmer (an iPhone melanoma detection app) had regulatory issues, Helen Adeosun didn’t have an income model for her child-care sharing network but her presentation was so dang good she got second place. Sam (not sure his last name) was notably very passionate about “We MAKE Change” which will rate companies’ products, right on a vendor like Amazon’s page, on how much evil (child labor, toxic sludge etc.) goes into them, but a couple of the judges thought it was anger…and we had an animated discussion about the power of anger. Sam was chagrinned too. It’s tough to get your idea out there and take anti-aircraft artillery shots to the fuselage…Megan Marcus had a great idea to help Teachers Refresh – to use teacher training to give more sociological and neurologically appropriate tools to connect emotionally to students – which is an age-old way of helping people learn.
The ForSE2011 Pitch Contest winner was Katie Smyth of Saathi (which is co-organized by a prominent TiE Boston member, just sayin’) which will create very affordable and effective sanitary pads for the 200M women in India (and beyond) who stop going to school or lose work because they lack sanitation for their monthly cycles. The Saathi team has the technology arranged, the machines to produce the pads, and connections with local communities to try to start distributing. The judges loved it – one, Subu Kota (The Boston Group) was ready to buy one of the pad-making machines and take Katy to India on his next trip next month. It was cool to see these quite successful judges light up for an idea. I look forward to lighting up some VC’s in the near future with one of my ideas!