I was initially reluctant to enter Tech2gether’s pitch competition.
I didn’t believe my concept was appropriate to present at the area’s largest technology and entrepreneurship conference, held during Delaware Innovation Week. I’m developing a project called “Creative Minds,” an initiative to teach entrepreneurial skills to Wilmington’s youth so they can create solutions to problems facing their communities. I also want the project to connect those kids with mentors in the community who are leaders in entrepreneurship and technology.
Tech2gether wasn’t my first pitch competition. In October, I participated in one called “Poe’s Pitch Party,” which was held at the Venture Development Center (VDC) at the University of Delaware, where I’m a student. It was an event open to our university’s entrepreneurial community and provided a platform for 19 student teams to present their innovative ideas in front of small crowd — at least when compared to that of the attendance at Tech2gether. I had a lot of fun pitching at that event because I was so excited to share my project with my peers, but preparing for the Tech2gether pitch was a little different. It was honestly one of the most stressful experiences of my life.
I edited my pitch several times leading up to the day of the event, and the night before, I actually stayed up until around 5:00 am (bad idea) attempting to fine tune the pitch and make sure it appealed to the audience. There was a considerable difference preparing for a five-minute pitch as opposed to the 90-second pitches I was accustomed to at the VDC. After sleeping for fewer than two hours, I woke up, rehearsed once or twice and headed out to the venue.
When I got to World Cafe Live, I was stressed out of my mind and reality was setting in. I checked out the stage setup and it was so much larger than I anticipated, I may have had a slight anxiety attack. I quickly took my notes to the closest bathroom and rehearsed out loud in front of the mirror, awkwardly silencing myself when someone would open the door.
When it came time to line up with the rest of the presenters I was relieved to see another team of students from the Horn Program, Ryan Webber and Zachary Goldstein, pitching their microwavable bowl concept. As the second team got off the stage and handed me the microphone, I mustered all the courage I had and set out to give what I believed would be the most important pitch of my life.
As I started my pitch, I felt the nervousness taking over and I fumbled my opening lines. After that, I completely lost track of my script and began freestyling the rest of the pitch. At one point, I started talking about my little brother who inspires me to continue to dream and innovate. The audience really seemed to enjoy that part.
The judges weren’t as intimidating as I had anticipated, and they even asked questions that allowed me to describe my personal path of pursuing entrepreneurship as a career. I wasn’t particularly proud of my delivery but was reassured by many people in the crowd who enjoyed the storytelling aspect. A few students even approached me afterwards asking how they could assist in my endeavors.
I’m glad I took advantage of the opportunity, and even though I didn’t win, I gained a lot of community support, which is exactly what I set out to do. I’m excited to see what Silk, the winning team from Drexel University, will do in the future and I’m so grateful that students were provided this incredible opportunity to present our concepts to such an awesome community.