A Glimpse Into A Start-Up Conference: Our Experience As A Judge

14 September 2021

HR

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Earlier this summer, Ingrid, our Senior Manager of Business Product Delivery from the Digital Team, was invited to be a judge at Pitchora, a start-up competition. The aim of this competition was to select and award 3 finalists with great Start-up Booster Prizes, including access to a 6-month incubator, seed funding and exposure to a great network of other start-ups and sponsors.

10 startups pitched their projects to a panel of esteemed judges, who all brought their expertise and years of business experience to identify and select the winners with the most innovative idea.

Ingrid shares her experience and learnings from participating in an event like Pitchora, what she enjoyed the most and her style as a judge.

‘I had the pleasure of participating in Pitchora by being part of the jury which evaluated the participant start-ups and I had the difficult task of voting for the top three participants. It was a very exciting experience on a number of aspects; firstly, I learnt a lot by listening to all founders making their pitch to the jury, presenting their idea, target market, business plan, model and timelines, and then how they answered all the questions the jury had. Secondly because it was an opportunity to work, interact and learn from people working in different industries and having different backgrounds, all with a vast experience in their different domains.

What I enjoyed the most was seeing and evaluating different business ideas, in fields as diverse as food and beverage, tourism, engineering, agriculture, finance, architecture and more. Even though each idea was trying to solve hugely diverse problems and unique challenges, the process for transforming the idea into a tangible product is very similar across all industries.

As a judge, a set of criteria were used to evaluate the different ideas. One of the most important criteria was the people, the founders, and how passionate they were about their idea. After all, these are the ones driving the success of the start-up ultimately, therefore their willingness to invest their time and their own savings to work on their idea, was one of the key factors in the evaluation criteria.

Market fit or understanding what problem the start-up is trying to solve, is another crucial factor in the process. It is futile to have a product or solution unless there is a clear need for that solution in the market. It is also very difficult to try to address a very huge market from the get-go, hence it is important for a start-up to fully understand their target market and how they plan to reach out to potential customers to sell their product or solution. Understanding the market also has a deep repercussion on the business model and how the start-up plans to monetize its idea.

Another factor was the product itself. Products which were already at MVP (minimum viable product) stage or had a clear MVP plan and timelines, got more points than ideas which were still on paper.

In an age of digital disruption, use of technology was also another key factor in the selection criteria. How can use of technology disrupt existing markets or facilitate the provision of service to consumers? Another factor was the environmental impact and the possible reduction of carbon emissions.

Reflecting about what attracted me the most to the ideas and products, I can confidently say that all ideas were extremely valuable and well thought out. You could see that the founders had done a very thorough job of understanding the market and designing a solution which fits the needs. Some were at a more advanced stage than others, already having a subscriber base trying out their product. I was particularly impressed by the start-ups who had already thought through all the hurdles which they had to face and had come up with potential solutions to overcome the drawbacks.

What I learnt out of this experience is that the market need is more important than the idea. An idea without a market is not worth much, irrespective of how new or innovative it might be. On the other hand, an idea which already exists elsewhere or gives a different twist to a current product or solution and has a clear target market is more valuable. I also learnt that hard work, passion, humility and a degree of stubbornness are crucial aspects, when it comes to building a start-up, especially as you test the product in the market and need to be willing to change and amend as you assess the customers’ feedback.

My last reflection is that this experience was definitely beneficial for my career growth, not only because it provided me with an opportunity to network and learn from industry leaders coming from different walks of life, but also to appreciate the entire process which a start-up must go through from idea incubation to MVP to market launch, and all the processes which one has to think about when starting a new business.

It was refreshing to see so many young people with a lot of passion, and readiness to invest their time and money in an idea they believe in. Being a judge certainly was no easy task!’

GO is passionate about innovation and technology, and two years we set up a sister company, GO Ventures, to help immerse in the startup scene and invest in many of the great ideas there are out there.

We can’t wait to hear yours and be part of your journey. Have a look at our website goventures.com.mt and contact us. Apart from financial support, we offer a mentorship program that supports startups to succeed. Meet the people involved in GO Ventures to better understand their expertise, skills and the level of support we offer. What a better way to fully understand what’s it like to work with us, read the testimonials of the startups we have already on board.

Let us help your great ideas grow!

Learn more about the winners of Pitchora in the following links: https://www.pitchora.com/ and https://www.linkedin.com/company/pitchora/.

Have a look at our careers page and get in touch with us if you want to take your career to the next step by joining Ingrid’s and our One GO Team!

For GO products and services, visit our official website or get in touch with our experts online or by visiting any of our GO outlets.

About the Author and the Team

Ingrid is an engineer by profession specializing in telecommunications, with many years of experience in various areas of telecoms. She heads the Project Management function within GO through a team of experienced Product Owners and Project Managers.

As a team, they are responsible for delivering key projects across all functions and business units within the company, using agile methodologies to deliver value rapidly to the market.