#HECCampus #Entrepreneurship #BuildYourPath
I ran my hand through my hair and took a deep breath, as my eyes surveyed the room in front of me. The judges occupied the first row, and included, among other senior executives, the head of Climate and Energy at UN Environment. Meanwhile, the seats behind the judges were filled with 35 wide-eyed entrepreneurs, likely brewing in a concoction of excitement and expectation, just as I was. I quickly ran through everything I had to say in my head, where I planned to slow down or pause for emphasis, and reminded myself to spread my gaze across the entire audience as I was presenting. A small kick of adrenaline later, I cleared my throat, wiped my brow, and began to tell my story.
Pitching at Hult Prize competition
The Hult Prize is a social entrepreneurship competition that challenges young people to make a real difference in the world through business, and this year at HEC, there was a preliminary round conducted on campus. The competition gave us the opportunity to get to the global finals in New York, where we would be given the chance to present our ideas at the United Nations. Before we could dream of New York though, we had to get through the preliminaries and regional finals. For many of us, the preliminary stage was our first time “pitching”, which in entrepreneurial lingo, is essentially the condensation of a business idea into a concise and cogent presentation that lasts as long as an elevator ride to the 50th floor.
In this year’s edition, we had to pitch ideas aligned with the theme of “Harnessing energy to improve the lives of 10 million people”. We witnessed pitches ranging from repurposing batteries to solutions that would drastically reduce vehicular emissions. The theme was also interpreted in interesting ways by other teams, whose ideas focussed on revolutionizing industries like agriculture and food production.
One of the most unique aspects of this competition is that everyone gets to pitch. As an aspiring entrepreneur, having a stage on which to convince people about my business idea was a dream come true. There was no pre-selection before the pitch round and that ensured that everyone applying from HEC had a chance to get in front of the judges. In just 6 short minutes, my team and I were forced to break down our complex business plan into only its most crucial elements, in order to convince the judges about our business idea. The pitch experience itself was fantastic and while getting feedback from these esteemed judges was invaluable, receiving feedback on our pitch from a group of extremely talented peers, with entrepreneurship in their hearts and minds, was just as valuable. In the end, my team, Biofit Meats, came in 3rd while our wonderful colleagues from Team Kilowatts came 1st and qualified for the London semi-finals. Best of luck to them!
Winning team Team Kilowatts
Re-energized. That’s the way I felt as left the amphitheater after a fantastic evening. The Hult prize experience re-invigorated me to continue to work hard and continue to hustle as I attempt to pursue my dream of changing the way we eat meat.
And this was just Monday.
Listening to inspiring entrepreneur stories
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd talk in a series of joint conferences between HEC Paris & Centrale Supélec, a science and engineering school close to HEC. The conference series was born from an idea to bring aspiring entrepreneurs together to not only hear success stories of entrepreneurs from the two schools but to also provide an environment to meet people with similar entrepreneurial interests and complementary skill sets.
During the two-talk series, I listened to entrepreneurs – old and young – with backgrounds in business and science, narrate their stories of stunning failures and mind-blowing successes. One among them was Christoph Cremer, the founder of real estate rate comparison site meilleurtaux.com. As he talked about his missteps and how he experienced his first big failure when banks refused to deal with meilleurtaux, it resonated with me as the kind of obstacle that my fellow entrepreneurs and I would need to fight our way through if we wanted to succeed.
While these talks were rich with learnings which some would argue could be found in a blog or a book about entrepreneurship, they were placed inside a wrapping of a unique, personal story that reemphasized and reinforced some key learnings for me. For instance, when 5 gifted, smart and successful entrepreneurs tell you that their biggest mistakes revolved around early recruitment, you know that you HAVE to pay attention to early recruitment.
Confidence. That’s what I felt as I walked out of the amphitheater on Tuesday; founded not in my own intrinsic ability but in knowing that I was ever so slightly better prepared to take the rocky road of entrepreneurship.
“Listen to those tales, learn from them, go make your own trails and then remember to come back and tell everyone about your own fails.”
And yes, this was just Tuesday.