Grading Entrepreneurial Jedi – May the force be with you…
My first pitch in front of Ken Morse was a total disaster. The second was no better. The third was a painful write off. By the time I finally won the MIT Sloan white polo shirt from him ten months later, I had given up counting.
The reason why I wanted to get this out in the open is because there four kids out there today who are possibly searching for clues about my place of residence and employment so that they can arrange an individual, personalized session with me to give me some feedback about my approach to sharing feedback… J
But I will give them this. Of the pitches and pitchers that I have seen recently (excluding all of my EMBA students) these guys had done a good job preparing themselves. They kept their cool as the judges on the panel waded un-invited all over their ideas, interrupted their conversations, made rude gestures and comments, turned condescending and did everything in our power to put them off. When it comes to scoring points for smiling in the face of adversity they all did well.
However when it came to getting my recommendation – only one kid out of five made the cut!
Here is his profile.
He showed up late. But he really looked like an engineering student who had lost his way to his lab.
Jehan and Zia agreed to extend the grace period given the tension in the city and the issues with public transports everyone had been facing since this morning.
He immediately got onto the wrong side of the only electrical engineer in the room by stating that I am an Electronics Engineer, not a mechanical engineer.
But was able to rescue himself later by admitting to working with lathe machines over the last two years.
When Imran asked him about giving up life and living like a hermit in a 10 x 10 cubicle in Islamabad for four months and the heat of Gujranwala for another four he didn’t even blink and said yes, so full points for commitment.
He knew what he was talking about and could back himself up with solid research conducted over the last two years.
He also knew what he wanted. A handful of specialized components, access to a workshop and molding facilities and a space to lock himself in till he emerged with a working prototype
Listened to the questions that were asked and answered them with the answers that should have been given, not the answers that had been rehearsed
But most importantly he didn’t care about the money. He cared about the design, its efficiency and its power to change the world.
And he did all of the above with such grace, clarity and humility that if I had a million dollars I would have written him a check there and then.
And he would have returned it.
I am not kidding you.
This 24 year old from NED was absolutely positively real and he made my day. I wish I could connect him with Faisal Khan from Mehran University (the equally astonishing and amazing whiz kid from Jamshoro) and the two of them could change our world in a heartbeat.
So for those of you who will have the unfortunate fate of crossing my path while pitching please remember the following:
- Listen to the question
- Answer the question
- We will question your commitment and your willingness to sacrifice “what” to see your idea grow from a concept to a commercial viable product
- Think through your sales and distribution – no one is going to sell for you and let you eat the results of their efforts
- Your concept is worthless without a customer who is willing to pay the price that allows you to take something home at the end of the day. Tell me about your customer and why would he be willing to buy “this” from you?
- Show me how you see him, reach him, convert him and keep him.
- There is no such thing as doing it part time till I start selling more units than Cisco. I will throw you out of the room.
- The only way to get respect from this lot of judges is to light the fire under our chairs by reminding us how crazy we were when we were your age. The only way to remind us is to turn into a mirror that shows us the same passion, balls and madness that we went through when we first started our companies. The only way to turn into the mirror is to find the reason why you really want to do this and why should I care about your reasons.
- In the end it takes one crazy geek to find another. If you are not a certified lunatic you should not be in the room.