Startup Fair by Angie Madara

The startup fair was all about pitching. It was a “rapid fire” introduction to all the fellows’ startups. This session came right after the introductory sessions and therefore, a really good way for each follow to learn a bit more about the other startups participating in the 2020 cohort. The session also provided an opportunity for the fellows to practice presenting their startups in a short, clear and succinct way.

The aim of the session was to provide a platform for all the fellows to practice their ‘elevator pitch’ type presentations through a series of speed dating-esque interactions with the other fellows. The feedback sessions after the pitching, provided an opportunity for all the fellows to learn and quickly iterate their pitches or pitching syle for the next pitch which was at a 4 minute interval.

The setup

The session kicked off with a recap of the week from all the fellows. This gave some fellows a chance to contribute and share any news coming from their startups that week.

Next was the book recommendations, I suggested ‘the Kebra Nagast’ and ”The choice factory”. I picked the first book, the Kebra Negast, because it told a different narrative about Africa. The book highlights the conquest of the Queen of Sheeba, Makeda, over 3000BC where together with her army, she took the Ark of the covenant and other religious artifacts from one of the greatest armies known to man, King Solomon’s army. The portrays Africa in a different light from what we currently see in mainstream media. Africa is portrayed as a mighty force. The second book, the choice factory, delves into the behavioural science aspect of business decisions. The writer highlights different tricks that all entrepreneurs need to have in their arsenal. The book shows different behavioural insights and nudges that influences consumer or user behaviour.

We each had 4 minutes to present our start-up in a way that would convince the ‘investors’ (our fellow fellows) to invest their ‘SLP Pounds’ in our business. Within that timeframe we also took on feedback on the pitch and idea. I prepared a feedback form that would allow the investors to still give feedback even after the pitch was done. The form posed a question and a challenge to meaningfully contribute their ideas, time, networks and other resources in order to help the pitching startup succeed.

There was a challenge logistically speaking as the startups startups were not evenly matched with investors which required me to participate in the pitching. This meant that I had to hand over the running of the class during the pitching exercise to Steven and Wen. Having the startups in two different rooms also posed a logistical challenge in terms of coordination.

I didn’t manage to get any external guests as I was faced with 3 last-minute cancellations. This meant that we had enough time to reflect on everyone’s thoughts and learnings after the session.

Congratulations to Eskimostories and Veronique for winning the product fair. The session saw many startups approaching vero (our role model pitcher) and other more experienced startups for pitching tips.

All the fellows did a great job in presenting their startups with very strong pitching and great stories behind their businesses.

Key learnings

In the future, I’d consider starting the session at least 30-40 minutes earlier if all startups are to pitch, involve an external speaker and reflect on lessons learnt.

It would be nice to have an experienced Angel or VC as an external speaker and a guest judge to share their experiences when it comes to pitching, what compels them to say “Yes” to a pitch and what they have learnt over the years.

As a startup, we have roughly a minute or two to impress an investor and the time is even shorter when the pitch is in written format. We therefore all have to learn to convey the essence of our Startups in 1-2 minutes. Simplicity is the best way to go! We need to learn to deliver our pitches in a short, clear and succinct way.

Feedback is very important. So having this sort of speed-dating setup is great for getting initial feedback from peers and given the number of people you speak to there are always some new questions or nuggets of advice given. The forms were also great because the fellows can go back and reflect on the feedback given by the other fellow.

It would also be nice to have recordings of the pitches posted so that each fellow can go back, see themselves pitch and make adjustments but also it would be great for all the fellows to see what the other fellows are doing. Not all fellows were able to learn what the other was doing.The recordings can also be an opportunity to get more feedback from the fellows who did not get to listen to the pitch during the session. Pitching needs resilience and constant iteration. As a pitcher, it is important to know your audience and adjust your pitch accordingly. Resilience is also important because for every Yes, an entrepreneur get about 20 Nos. Each no is a learning opportunity to fine tune and get back in the game!

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