Startups pitching in front of a jury. Questions often shameful.
The last time I attended a pitching event in front of a jury was on July 5th at Impact Hub for the ACCELERATE 2030 by UNDP and Impact Hub Geneve. In 17 countries the best startups are selected to attend a 9-month online acceleration program. Big names support this initiative and 2016 was their first trial. We see this kind of programs popping up more and more and it gives a good idea about the local start-ups in developing countries. There is no doubt that every initiative is a good one as we need more support for social and sustainable projects.
Through Sandrine Ramboux, the founder of C@rma I got in contact with another team she is part off, Jana. Great project and I was happy I could help on the pitch and learned some new people like Sezer Arslan, who is a great entrepreneur and a friend in the meantime. When the pitching was going on (in Turkish mainly) I got a little upset by the jury. Most of them I know, and they are all ok, as professionally active in the startup scene. Unfortunately, I heard some questions that made my hair go straight up.
Apart from the fact that I think it is useful to pitch in English, as it is an international program, I struggled with the selection of the startups and the questions. Some startups I saw are actually no startups at all and some can not read nor talk English. The program was very well described so it was clear what type of start-ups could join, but it looked like anybody could join.
Secondly, the questions often showed some jury members had no idea what was presented. No wonder as I saw somebody checking his Facebook page during the presentations. To top it off, some start-ups pitched through Skype, some even without a presentation. If you, as a startup want to join an international program, the least is a presentation and BE THERE. It is a small effort as it is a local pitch event.
So here some quick guidelines for jury members:
- Understand the goal of the startup pitch.
- Present yourself to the audience and explain your speciality.
- Ask relevant questions. If you have nothing to say, please be quiet.
- Don’t do a statement that underlines how smart you are, do that in the intro.
- If you want to give overall advice, keep it short, relevant and to the point.
- Use a system with points and criteria. It makes the time to decide shorter.
- Explain at least for number 3, 2, and 1 the motivation of the decision.
- Be nice, understanding, empathic. We don’t need bullies in this environment.
- It is good to understand methods like Business Canvas. It helps in asking the right questions like business case, product/market fit, competition etc.
A jury has always a big responsibility in my opinion. You can make or break teams. Always a learning for them, I have no problem with that as such. In cases like Turkiye (or any other place), a jury selects a team that will go to an international accelerator or another program. The jury selects teams that will represent a country at the same time. I am not a nationalist, on the contrary, but countries like Turkiye can use every positive PR possible. So sending good teams is crucial in that sense. It makes investors and other key-players eager to consider your country to detect talent and invest. A jury has a responsibility, just as well as the startups and the organisation.
Finally some good soul music and a lady that is one of the first disco icons! You can’t judge a book by the cover from Patti Labelle says it all for me. You will probably better remember here from Lady Marmalade Enjoy here :-D
Kolay gelsin arkadaşlar (may the work be my light in Turkish).