Last Friday, I pitched my business in front of more people at once than I ever have before. The National Business and Technology Conference was held on March 8th and 9th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, bringing in 48 entrepreneurship teams from across Canada and hundreds of conference delegates. I entered the entrepreneurship competition to try to raise some money for a larger delivery vehicle, and the whole day was a learning process.
The first round consisted of 10 groups each in four rooms. We had seven minutes to pitch, and one person from each room advanced to the finals. I had some pretty tough competition in my room, including uWaterloo startups DraftingSPACE, Counter Intuitive, and Milao Language!
At dinner that evening, each finalist was announced and had to present immediately in front of all the delegates and a panel of judges! Here are some things I learned from the experience:
1) Find and solve a real problem
One of the speakers mentioned that there are plenty of startups running around trying to solve ‘peanut’ problems. And it’s true! In the short time I’ve been involved in entrepreneurship I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to someone and thought “they’ve just made up a problem to suit that app…” But your case is so much more compelling when you’re solving a significant or persistent problem!
2) Establish credibility right away
Judges will always come into a competition with their own life experiences which lead to biases. But you are the expert in your field, you’ve been researching and planning for a while, after all. If you establish credibility – by explaining that your idea came from working in the specific industry, or from your own special skill set – then their perspectives will shift and they can trust you and listen.
3) Feeling a sense of community as an entrepreneur is a great thing!
I was really surprised when my slide deck went up on the screen for the final round at NBTC. So when I started walking up to the stage, I was extremely nervous. But then I realized there were so many familiar faces in the crowd (it was seriously like a uWaterloo meet-up at NBTC). All day I had been talking to other students from Enterprise Co-op, BET 300 and the MBET program – so I tried to pitch as if I were still speaking to them. I’m actually glad to have this opportunity to opportunity to say – what an amazingly supportive entrepreneurship community Conrad has! It makes this type of event more of a collective learning experience and much less nerve-wracking.