As we walked down the stairs to the hall for Start-up 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; a mixture of 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 start-ups. Next up was Kevin, a representative of Griffin Works, the organizers of the global Start-up 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 like us who had developed the idea before entering the competition, even we found it challenging to define our idea in 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 we thought were available. It was a daunting task when the first mentor refused to evaluate the idea because our chart was incomplete and said would come back later to a fuller idea. The second mentor did not understand what the idea was.
This response made us see the hard truth, that with months of developing our idea, we had become so attuned to it that we were unable to explain it to someone unfamiliar with our purpose. So, before approaching any new mentors, we sat down again and developed our story.
Writing down the points helped us 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. On the first day, in those five hours, we only got to meet 5 of the 34 mentors and when we left the hall we were uneasy but determined to do better the next day.
The first day was strenuous but there was no time to loose so 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 start-ups mixed, with only the colour of their tags to distinguish them. Like the day before, we found ourselves a wall and got to finding mentors. On the second day, the start-ups had come up with a system (started by a genius in their own right) of handing their start-up name and table number on a sticky note to the mentor that they had not met yesterday and wanted to present their idea to. 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 start-up 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 start-ups 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 start-ups 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 Start-up Cup, we gained many instrumental tips that will guide us on our entrepreneurial journey to success. Competitions like these are what motivate individuals to venture into new adventures and take a leap of faith.
We will stay tuned to see the success of our new found friends as they continue their expedition and hopefully win the final cup.