When Jehan first mentioned the idea of pitching for funding this time last year so that we could give away a small amount of funding to the bright and creative talent of Pakistan (stay hungry, stay foolish ala Steve Jobs) we never thought we would come so far.
This weekend as we went back and forth between the judges picking our individual top fives and then the collective top four I kept on thinking about the effort and heart put into each of the 48 shortlisted presentations we had received and viewed. With a few exceptions everyone had done such a great job of pitching their concept and their idea that we had to review some presentations three to four time before we could make up our mind if they belonged in the final four or not.
As requested here is the overall criterion judges looked through to decide if you were a good candidate for immediate funding, if you needed a little bit more work or if your pitch had to be redone completely.
One word of advice before you move forward and read what I have to say. If you were invited to submit a YouTube pitch to the [email protected] Social Innovation Fund that implies that your idea already had merit. We liked it. We wanted to hear more about it. Our first round was as liberal a cut as possible and we realize that sometime it is difficult to communicate your passion and your drive in a pdf document which is why we opted for the YouTube route.
We have been now participating at the ASOCIO and APICTA ICT Awards for more than 8 years. As we have worked together to create and improve the judging criterion for the Asia Pacific ICT Awards we have learnt a great deal from our colleagues at the ASOCIO, APICT and Ex-Co committee meetings. When the time came to think about the scoring guidelines for the [email protected] Innovation Fund we relied heavily on the lessons learnt from our involvement in the Asia Pacific ICT Awards.
Here is what we looked at as judges when evaluating each application:
- The concept
- Problem statement
- Understanding and comprehension of solution
- Interaction with end-user or primary beneficiary
(If you made it the YouTube round you made it past (1) above. If you made it to the shortlist you made it past all four).
- Lives that will be reached
- Lives that have already been reached
- Quality, nature and timeline of impact on the lives being reached
(So you may reach out and touch 2 million lives but how long will that impact or intervention last)
- Work done so far in terms of research, business or operating model
- Feet on the ground / Prototype / Process
- Time to launch based on ground work completed to-date.
- Cash required to launch
- Version 1.0 deliverable
(How far have you come in taking your understanding of the problem and converting it into a solution design. How much more time would you need to do a version 1.0 of your suggested solution. Not necessarily technology but actually rolling it out so that you can start touching lives)
- Past track record
- Field experience
(What else have you done in the past or recently that shows you can deliver or that you have background in this space)
Fit with theme
- Fit with Social Innovation Fund and [email protected] long term objectives
(How can you or will you change lives with your idea).
Armed with this if you now look at the winners here is what I had to say as a judge on Idea, Impact, Traction, Team and Fit
I liked the concept and the problem statement (using social media to connect blood donors with patients), the impact (200,000 plus reachable individuals, 2000 donors delivered), the traction (feet already on the ground, network already seeded, now moving to a second round of improvement that can improve the efficiency of the network), The team (met Farhan thrice in different setting and checked references), Fit (Technology, Social Innovation). While there were atleast four more nominations in the same category (blood donation with a variation), we shortlisted one more for a second round and a more detailed evaluation based on the above assessment.
In the using technology to bring skilled workers and small farmers and growers into the mainstream there were four entries that stood out. Beopar, Qeemat, E-Agri-Village and Online Shoes. The Online shoes plan scored the highest in terms of a credible, shortest time to market idea that would (we hope) quickly reach launch. More importantly we felt that Online shoes if successful could serve as a blueprint for others that would follow later. Qeemat, Beopar and E-Agri-Village had some very powerful synergies and we wanted to bring these three teams together to see if we can create a more powerful and stronger solution and roll it out in the second round rather than fund them as is.
In terms of presenting and showcasing work already done and on the ground no other plan came close to Alif Laila. As judges we had a few suggestions about their funding plan and the usage of proceeds but we were all unanimous in saying yes. It was the first plan that got funded on our list.
“Audible” for Urdu
There was some contention on the role “Audible for Urdu” would play. Our reason and motivation for funding this team was the library of downloadable Urdu content this team would create which could then be used to supplement education and learning efforts using cell phone handsets and cheap Tablets. In the [email protected] roadmap as well as the ICT Policy document we speak about encouraging and creating localized Urdu content that can be leveraged with other [email protected] initiatives in the education field. One team that came close to this idea with a different twist was Darul-Tarjuma that we liked (was on our YouTube shortlist) but didn’t address questions around copyright and translation issues.
There were many teams that had the right idea. But were missing core elements in their pitch; these elements included:
- The team didn’t have the relevant field experience or background. Couldn’t translate their understanding of the problem into a credible implementation plan.
- Didn’t focus on the right deliverable – implementation. More than one team focused on creating a problem statement document or report with the initial funding or grant. Which they would then use to decide a future course of action.
- The idea wasn’t at a stage where US$10,000 could help them get to version 1.0 or launch.
- Alternatively the team wasn’t doing enough with the US$10,000. The deliverable they were suggesting could be produced for much less.
- Hadn’t done enough ground work or field work to lend credibility to their action plan.
- The fit with overall objectives of the Social Innovation Fund was not strong enough.
- Spend too much time on the world as it was and didn’t spend enough time on the world as it would be when they were done with it.
- Couldn’t differentiate how their product or solution or idea was different from a similar concept or idea that was already around and available.
Our hope is that as we move forward with the next round of application, the winners and their pitches as well as the mentoring sessions planned over the next two months will help our teams address some of these issues and gaps. The money is here and the roadmap is well defined. Please work with us to get your ideas funded and help change the lives of 200 million people.
I know I am going to get a lot of flack with my focus on implementation. There is a reason why I push for it. When we together wrote the first draft for the proposal that ultimately got funded we made three promises to our investors. Each idea that we pick will use the grant we release to reach launch and make a difference. Each idea that we fund will get to a stage where it will become a role model for others. Each idea that we push and promote will show that you can change the world with US$10,000.