We often think about pitches, pitch events, and the act of pitching happening to improve the pitch.
But, through co-convening nearly two dozen events culminating in 1-5 minute social enterprise startup pitches, I can firmly say there is tremendous, overlooked value in listening to pitches.
Impactathon #21 – Pacific Northwest (PNW)
A few weeks ago marked the 21st convening of Innov8social’s signature event and the first one in the Pacific Northwest. We call it Impactathon® and its various forms bring people together to identify issues and brainstorm business solutions.
This Impactathon MINI – Quick Pitch Edition, hosted by Startup253 at TractionSpace in Tacoma, Washington, had a special goal. To support participants’ creative thinking and quick pitching. Many participants were active entrepreneurs, angel investors, and ecosystem-builders accustomed to sharing and listening to pitches. And, some were newer to putting thought to idea and pitching with an ‘ask’.
The Goal: Pitch Something New
Considering the wisdom in the room, we added an element to this unique Impactathon: pitch something new.
Through a guided mini workshop, participants five-minute sprint rounds to help brainstorm issues, converge ideas, map out solutions, and identify what they might need, have, and ask for from the judges at the event.
As founders, we sometimes experience periods of stagnation in pitching. We repeat phrases to explain our work, not because they convey it more clearly or persuasively, but because they are familiar, memorized, and part of our rote flow for the pitch.
So, this goal and exercise gave permission– a mandate, even– to come up with ideas that were brainstormed in just a few minutes, and to which participants might feel able to openly and boldly pitch– with little at stake, and little actual sweat and financial equity to the idea. It was a call to reconnect with the fun and sense of ‘play’ in brainstorming and pitching. With the idea of putting us back in the playground sandbox, so that when participants revisited their actual, hard-fought ideas and enterprises, they may infuse their usual pitches with new perspective.
What Actually Happened: Learning Through Listening
These were the things we hoped for when designing this Impactathon Mini. And, from the enthusiastic feedback, I hope we supported that. However, after listening to over twenty pitches, I was most struck by what we learned by listening.
There was a pitch that shared a personal search for social connection through an idea for an app to connect fellow individuals interested in attending the same concerts, events, and new restaurants. There was pitch that shared the challenges of having a loved one on the autistic spectrum and ideating ways to introduce potential stressors of group interaction through VR. There was a pitch about the new lens of the need for wearable tech that can alert wearers about sudden spikes to blood pressure gained through a lived experience of a recent stroke. There was a pitch passionately articulating the challenges of being a single parent and a founder trying to network and connect with the entrepreneurship ecosystem with that lens.
The solutions were innovative and bold, but the stories are what have stayed with me. I always encourage Impactathoners to identify and seek to solve problems that they can validate, that they may have some insight into. By sharing, it may have released or opened something for the Impactathoners, and it definitely did for me as a listener. I was put in the shoes of another’s experience to relate to the issue faced.
With these seasoned entrepreneurs, I was struck that they used this time to do exactly that, in some of the most personal ways. If (and when : ) I become an investor, I would like to ask founding teams what they are vulnerable about, what they might be healing from. Even if not comfortably shared in discussion, the questions themselves are catalyzing. I believe sharing our stories and truths make us more human, relatable. Rather than detracting from our acumen as founders, can help us pinpoint the greater ‘why’ and provide a pathway to invite others to engage with our work in deeply authentic ways.
Prizes were handed out to teams to recognize great ideas, compelling pitches, and entertaining solutions, including:
You can view more photos from Impactathon 21 Mini : Quick Pitch Edition.
First and foremost, thanks to every person who pitched. For some it was a fun, easy, breezy opportunity to share. For others, they leaned into courage in stepping on to the podium. Your voices were heard and your ideas can continue to impact others through being shared.
I am grateful to Ston Nguyen and Startup253 team, Richard Fichera and TractionSpace, and Karina Martija-Harris (she/her/hers) and Maritime Blue for being part of the event and serving as judges.
It was wonderful and very special to have Innov8social team member Klara Hermesz join her first live event.
And, the event happened at the After Party following a vibrant day of panels and discussions at the South Sound Tech Conference held at the University of Washington Tacoma and co-hosted by the Economic Development Board of Pierce County. Thank you to the teams at both institutions for creating an inclusive space that flowed through in the post-event gathering.
Impactathon is a registered trademark of Innov8social.
👋 I’m Neetal Parekh, the founder of Innov8social, author of 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, and convener of Impactathon®. Innov8social works with individuals, companies, and institutions to help build ecosystems for social impact through designing convenings, content, and communication strategies. You can follow us at @innov8social and @impactathon.