Round two. Out of the many who had participated in the Round One eliminations, only 26 made the cut, and eventually there will be just three winners. So the process of elimination continues and that’s what we did all day June 28 & 29….Round Two eliminations.
Shaun had expressed a desire on the conclusion of Round One, that I stay associated with the program until its logical conclusion, as a Mentor & Judge. Why would I object to this, rather welcomed it as a great opportunity to network and interact with the investment community and a myriad of startups. As they say, learn something new everyday, right?
I’d like to think I’m a pretty busy guy, so rather than labor a recap about what the whole program is all about, I thought I’d provide a link. So do click here.
The instructions then, for Round Two were to judge the twenty-six who made it through the elims out of the two hundred fifty odd who had initially applied. Not only were we to judge but also mentor and that’s a bit of a trick. Only twelve will make the grade this time, and move on to Round Three.
TIE of course provides impeccable facilitation and it wasn’t any different this time around. As it was during Round One, I was in the august company of some pretty serious industry titans, and when this happens, one always comes out richer from the experience.
Even better than the experience of rubbing shoulders with other mentors and judges, was experiencing the presentations made by the entrepreneurs.
In case you’ve read the earlier blog, you will recall that apart from the usual entrepreneurs were a goodly number from the “underserved” category. “Underserved” alluding to entrepreneurs who would normally never get a shot at any kind of VC funding, leave alone an opportunity of being mentored, or for that matter, would find it difficult to get money from the usual avenues.
I was simply delighted to find that almost all entrepreneurs, in particular from the underserved category, had come to Round Two in a state of transformation. Gone was the awkwardness, the shyness, the lack of confidence, or the lack of ability to make a pitch. They now came across as authorities on their subject and in general of their business and appeared in charge. This was evinced from the quality of the pitches, the manner of presentation and the way the most difficult questions /concerns were addressed.
Quite clearly, advise from the mentors gained during the previous interaction, had been heeded, they found value in the advice and had implemented several suggestions and approaches. We saw much progress in terms of business sourced, progress on removing bottlenecks, progress in refining their business model, adding revenue streams and effective use of “bootstrapping” as a means to acquire needed resources.
I came away impressed with a few startups. Almost on top of the list was the one that deals with acquiring, distribution and sale of organic produce directly from the farm to the city, bypassing middlemen, this leaving more money in the hands of the farmer.
The other one was the couple who are imparting skills to women with the single-minded focus of enabling hundreds of women from villages to earn a viable livelihood. They have put around two thousand women through their courses with a success rate of sixty percent! Meaning that they have empowered twelve hundred women to earn a living.
All are worth honorable mention, the for profit social enterprise run by three young girls, the payment ring guy, the flexible storage solution, the seventeen year old guy who has come up with a rather novel fire fighting solution and so on, but the ones I mentioned ahead of the rest are both from the underserved category, therefore the special mention.
At the same time, we did find some of the participants, unable to demonstrate any real progress, who stayed stuck to their way of doing things, and closed to feedback. It is a no brainer then, that as the evaluation progress becomes more stringent, these startups will fall off the shortlist. Perhaps they will find what they are looking for elsewhere, but clearly they are not going to make the cut here.
With twenty-five startups evaluated over two intense days, new connections, newfound knowledge, new friends and plenty to look forward to, as we go into Round 3. Before round three, the twelve startups will receive coaching and mentoring as part of the process, which will help them be more competitive, fine hone their propositions, and gear them up to make it through to the final list of three winners. Plenty more to happen July through to August.
I’m sure the twenty five participants are waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the results, expected to be announced on Junly 4.