As we walked down the stairs to the hall for Startup Cup, the atmosphere started to change. Standing in line at the registration desk, one could hear the distinct sound of chatter seeping out of the hall from the slightly ajar doors. The excitement was real, the day had finally come. With our slightly accelerated heartbeat we accepted the entry tags and files without a second glance, the room was calling us.
Inside, the room was filled with people, all shapes and sizes, talking about master plan. We could see faces like ours, nervous and excited unable to grasp the full extent of our achievement and faces filled with confidence and pride.
Soon, the hall emptied to silence as the Executive Director of The Indus Entrepreneurs Zeeshan congratulated the victorious on being shortlisted from an extensive pool of 430 startups. Next up was Kevin, a representative of Griffin Works, the organizers of the global Startup Cup, from the Silicon Valley, excited to unlock the potential of Pakistani youth. His speech finally brought our attention back to the huge chart and cookbook we got at registration and explained how we will be using these for the next two days. Along with that he highlighted the importance of relatives and friends to kick start your business, as he said “…your rich uncle that has some extra cash, bootstrap with it!” without any further ado, we were given sticky notes and markers and off we all scattered to find a wall where we could hang our recipe to success.
The first half of the day went by discussing the idea for the business and how to categorize everything on the chart. For people who had developed the idea before entering the competition, we found much more difficult to define our idea in the simple terms. Nonetheless it had to be done to reach the next stage, at this point I should highlight that the hall was filled with 34 mentors with the sole purpose of guiding and evaluating the idea being presented by us. Moreover, the mentors came from different fields and industries with years of experience. All of a sudden, the ideation seemed like a ‘piece of cake’.
Slowly we built up our courage and one by one started approaching the mentors who were available. It was a daunting task for the first mentor refused to evaluate the idea as our chart was incomplete and would come back later to a fuller idea. The second mentor did not understand what the idea was.
With two almost rejections it made us see the hard truth, with the months of developing the idea, we had become so attuned to it that we were unable to explain it to someone unfamiliar with our purpose. So, before approaching new mentors, we sat down again and developed our story.
Writing down the points helped streamline the idea and each of us divided our parts so that all of us would get a chance to present. Each moment served to build our team and improve the idea. In the 5 hours of first day we only got to meet 5 of the 34 mentors and we left the hall with unease and desire to do better the next day.
With some much needed rest from the straining first day, we sat down to strategize for the second and last day to make an impact. We completed our research and fortified our idea with stats and figures from the internet.
The last day started with the mentors and startups mixed, with only the color of their tags to distinguish them. Same as the last day, we found ourselves a wall and got to finding mentors. By the second day, the startups had come up with a system (started by a genius in their own right) of giving their startup name and table number on a sticky note to the mentor they had not met yesterday. The mentors would then use those sticky notes to plan their routes for the next mentoring session. Many mentors were seen flying from one corner of the room to the other to reach the startup next in line.
Each mentor added to the idea and helped improve it to something bigger and better but alas there weren’t enough hours to meet them all and the mentoring came to a close. The mentors left to evaluate while the startups gathered with their new found friends to discuss the events of the last two days. With a nerve-wracking wait of an hour the final verdict was out. 25 of the 71 startups had made it to the next stage and everyone else had gained invaluable insights.
Although we weren’t of the lucky 25 that would be continuing their journey in the 5th edition of the Startup Cup, we gained many invaluable insights that will guide us on our entrepreneurial journey to success. Competitions like these are what motivate individuals to venture into new adventures and try something new. We will stay tuned to see the success of our new found friends as they continue their expedition and hopefully win the final cup.