Rabat: StartUp Weekend, Part 1 — The Pitchers

StartUp Weekend is one of the key activities that our host organization StartUp Maroc runs. We were able to see it all come together this weekend. I’ll cover the event in this post and in two subsequent ones.

The event started Friday night at 6 PM. One hundred and ninety participants were there over the course of the weekend, and most of those were in the auditorium for the kickoff, packed into a meeting hall which may have had 120 seats. Young people were on the floor and were taking every open spot in the aisles.

Photo by Lyly Luong

It was great to see our work from the week before make it into the introductory comments. Lyly created a slide highlighting the activities in the StartUp Maroc portfolio. The founders loved it and used it to highlight how this event, StartUp Weekend, is an important first step in the entrepreneur’s Success Journey, by educating, ideating and helping validate their ideas.

After introductions, sixty-two of the participants, ranging from 11 to 49, took their place in line to deliver an initial pitch. In 60 seconds, each pitcher tried to convince the judges and the audience to invest in their idea. Just like in Presales, they are encouraged to “Start with the Why” and the business problem.

Their ideas included the following:

  • A solar powered umbrella
  • A device that cleans dirty solar panels
  • An artisan clay refrigerator for use in hotels
  • An intelligent beehive
  • A collapsible, refrigerated, solar powered storage facility for vegetables

Most of the pitchers were young, either in school or recent graduates. By my rough count, at least 10 were women. The youngest pitcher (shown below), was only 11 years old! (He made it to the next round, by the way.)

Pitchers had 1 minute to sell the audience on their ideas. Abdullar Chebli (right) was the young pitcher at age 11.
Many women were among the pitchers.

I wrote last week about the importance of confidence in creating a StartUp culture. These pitchers on Friday displayed boundless confidence, creativity and energy. They delivered pitches that sold ideas, but also themselves as project leads and managers.

The audience voted with Monopoly money, investing their currency in the ideas they believed in. A panel of judges also picked their own slate of winners. Lyly, Bruno and I were invited to sit on the judges’ panel and vote on those we felt should move forward. Most of the pitches were in French, but we still could identify those ideas that were unique, and those that were delivered well.

Between the judges and the audience, nineteen pitches are allowed to advance forward. The next step for these pitchers, now Project Managers, is to create effective, well rounded teams, made of technical skills, but also design and business skills.

Once the teams formed, the real work begins. We came back on Saturday to see the teams begin to work. I’ll cover Day 2 of StartUp Weekend in my next post.

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