When it comes to judge a start up, not only for their Good Idea but on their Attitude to deliver it!

Hultprice Regional Islamabad

All the judges of Islamabad Regionals with the winning team in Islamabad

This past week, I had an honor to serve as one of the judges on the panel of www.HultPrize.org regional sessions held in Islamabad. This year the event attracted more than 50 start-ups from top universities of the region competing with a zeal to qualify for an accelerator session in Boston, USA. All the qualified teams from the world would have to make a final pitch in Boston with a hope to win One Million US Dollars from UN. The theme for this year’s pitch was to assess the positive impact on climate with every dollar earned through the business.
As a judge, it’s an overwhelming experience to not only witness brilliant ideas, but equally get an opportunity to look at the prototypes — be it through a creative mobile app they had developed to illustrate their enterprise solutions or an actual physical device that participants had built demonstrating climate impacts through their business reach out plans well envisaged touching millions of consumers.

Overall the atmosphere in judges hall rooms were tense, enthusiastic, competitive and one could easily feel the passion of participants vividly manifesting their zeal and determination to qualify the regionals to move on to an accelerator session in Boston.

Team Presentation – Positive Notes:

Climate Impact: It’s clear that all the teams wanted to ensure that their slide deck’s illustrations on climate impact is well covered and conveyed to the judges
Team Work: Everyone knew they were being judged as a team than an individual with just an idea; therefore, all gelled together as a team giving opportunity to all team members to speak in front of judges
Seeing is Believing: Those who came with developed prototypes shared the samples with judges ensuring we get a taste of look and feel.
Scalability: One of the criterion(s) was to judge the scalability of idea reaching out millions, and every slide deck had these skyscrapers tabulated in a beautiful sequential manner confirming idea’s richness both in terms of reach and profitability.

Some key points which could have been covered in more lucid manner for better impact

Idea’s Uniqueness:  All team’s participating in the competition, undoubtedly came up with brilliant ideas, however, in general more effort was required to convey the essence of their innovation. It’s understandably obvious how overwhelmed each one of them were, considering they had limited six(6) minutes pitch to cover the most about their product/service, its impact on climate and scalability.

Quick tip: One must try not to let any such opportunity go into a futile where they have been selected to pitch in front of the judges for their idea’s uniqueness and how this distinguishes them from all others and everyone else in the world.  Henceforth, an utmost importance should be given to highlight uniqueness of your product and service and it’s global impact.  Apparently, most of the teams remained focused in regional context than looking at a Global Impact, which is where they are eventually going to compete in an accelerator.

Can Do Attitude: One of the key boolean criterion(s) given to the judges were to evaluate if they can actually deliver as a team; that is what we call a “Can Do Attitude“. Once again, the passion and determination which was demonstrated on the stage looked only good by being fair to each of their team members; that is, all of them seem to be focused to give opportunity to each member to speak not realizing  time constraints and how judges were evaluating their coordination, self-confidence and right attitude with positive spark to believe in their own self and their product than just  merely scoring on the basis  of  each members participation on the stage in those six (6) minutes.

Quick Tip: The utmost important factor is to create positive vibes through their body gestures and eye contact  whilst even standing silent on the stage than being engulfed by the fumes of nervousness.

It was heartening to experience how negative attitude of some of the team members were affecting the positive atmosphere of others on the stage and how it ended up demolishing an earlier higher pitch raised by some members in such a positive, eloquent and loud manner, but when the same member handed over the audio-mic to another docile team member, it immediately turned down the loud momentum, energy and charisma in the air being carried out by his/her predecessor within few seconds.  Such glitches kept judges bewildered and they lost their glued connection resulting in an obvious verdict declaring them a Can’t Do team.

Time Management: Time indeed is of essence, and every team member might be an important member, but if he/she lacked the required confidence to convey the message with same zeal and passion required to win judges attention, one might as well quickly touch upon his important contribution but not necessarily hand over the audio-mic to him/her in those crucial moments where creating hype and conveying the readiness, impact and uniqueness of your  idea /product/service is more important in a limited time than ensuring participation of each member.

Practice Makes Permanent: It was clear the team which won the regional’s, must have had spent lot of time practicing what they’re supposed to deliver. Again, conveying the essence of your crux in six(6) minutes required calculation and practicing every second of it without wasting any time. Teams who fundamentally understood the thin line difference that generating Good Idea itself won’t make us land in Boston, but rather a demonstrated passion of a Good Idea with a Can Do attitude will – clearly kept on ticking all the right checks in judges evaluation sheet than those who remained merely dependent on their Good Idea, yet delivered the pitch with a Can’t Do attitude.

Overall the event was quite a success – it rejuvenated the belief that youth need all the support from platforms like Hult and UN to generate brilliant ideas and one could easily witness how such an event enticed teams all over the region to participate in this event which was indeed well organized by the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad

As they say, all revolutions were once just a thought in someone’s mind…

Special Note of Thanks to the organizers of regional summit Islamabad :

Project Head and host: Mr. Ahmer Rafi
Lead Facilitator(s): Mr. Aashir Malik, Zyanya, Bere, Husnain Naeem 
Hult Prize foundation global team – Charlemagne Quinitio, Vice President global operations of Hult Prize foundation who was supposed to come in this summit but due to corona, was unable to come.
Head of Corporate Relations : Andrea García


Ali Jafri
Writer is a  Country Head of YP2G –  Your Passport 2 Grow – which is helping youth to develop a positive attitude
Ali can be reached at ali@yp2grow.com