What are Flash Pitch Sessions?
Across the RC class, aspiring entrepreneurs were given 60 seconds to pitch their ideas. Twenty-five brave souls went into sections and pitched to their peers. The RC audience voted and the winner was accelerated to the finals for the pitch competition at the HBS e-conference. Congrats Momchil Filev for taking the prize.
Where did the idea come from?
Last year I participated in the MIT 100k Pitch competition and it was invigorating. I had an idea, but had not been forced to clearly and quickly sell my concept in 60 seconds to an audience. I left the event with connections, feedback, and renewed sense of excitement. The event pushed me from analysis to action.
I am humbled by my classmates every day. We have so much talent in one place. I met plenty of people with ideas, but many hesitant for fear of others stealing concepts or because ‘they were not ready’; many stuck in analysis. This was me last year. After my first pitch experience, I realized pitching, getting feedback, and tweaking is a form of iterating. I needed to start iterating to find the idea that would be a viable business. Not to mention, the audience provided free feedback from smart people and who were happy to connect me to others willing to help.
After a month of speaking to peers, I thought a pitch competition would push us all one more step forward to making our ideas become real. In one lunch a few classmates (Khaled Jafar, Prita Kumar, and Amaris Singer) and I fleshed out the concept to bring pitches into sections. The goal was to engage as many first years as possible as participants, fans, future entrepreneurs, partners, and even investors. After testing the idea with Section I, we moved forward.
Why pitch sessions? Why are they important for RCs now?
At the end of a session I saw two entrepreneurs who just heard each other pitch talk about their similarities and discuss ways to work together. That’s EXACTLY what this is about. At a time when companies are ascending on campus in droves with banners, PowerPoint presentations, and wine creating a clear pathway to employment: coffee chat, resume drop, interview, offer; those with a different calling are looking for direction and community.
For start-ups the journey is not certain or simple. While their peers attend case prep sessions and CPD workshops together, entrepreneurial students are pulling together the pieces from pitch sessions, local start-up events (e.g. at the iLab and at the NERD center), and class; drawing the map as they navigate it, many solo. Seeing my peers putting themselves out there, sharing their ideas, and giving it their all for something they believe in inspires me to keep going. I wanted to see more of that at HBS. I wanted to be inspired by peers, not just by the case. As an RC in our first semester, soul searching for our next earth shaking experience, it is the perfect time to challenge each other to act on the brilliant ideas we have and inspire others in the process.
Last year I spent the summer working out of the iLab on USAdelante, a start-up to increase the number of underrepresented college graduates. It was not lucrative; I ran on savings and fellowships. Times were tough and sometimes lonely; I put in 60-70 hours per week consistently and parted ways with two business partners that were both close friends. I got rejected from 11 different programs and competitions. But in 12 weeks I interviewed team members, managed two interns, engaged in product development, product design, and user testing, got accepted to an incubator, and learned that I am by best when working with a partner. Priceless. Not sure if there is any internship that would have pushed me to my limits in such a way. I learned I love it.
Surrounded by the drum of corporate events and presentations, I traded the sessions in suits, open bars, cordial handshakes, and three course meals for faded jeans, quirky personas, and pizza. It’s awesome, it’s real, it’s me. Maybe it’s you too? Maybe no company out there will do so you will just have to make one. Maybe you just want a taste. What do you have to lose? One summer? You will still graduate with an HBS MBA. And next year the open bars and suits will still be there. I promise.