I recently competed in a very interesting, educational and fun contest called Venture Idol. I wrote a article about the experience which was published recently in Inside Indiana Business, a daily newsletter on events of interest.
The following is the full version of the article.
Until next time – all the best!
A Venture Idol experience
By Roland Bydlon – Director of Marketing, ParaPRO LLC
Many of us have heard the term “elevator pitch”. You get on an elevator with Bill Gates and you proceed to explain your company’s big idea or reason for existence before he gets off in 60 seconds or less. Think you can do it? I had the opportunity recently to make that pitch in a public forum. The event was the Indiana Venture Idol competition and the audience was over 200 investors and business owners tasked with evaluating and voting for a winner.
I survived the first round and made it to the finals but unfortunately ParaPRO did not win the $10,000 grand prize. What I did “win” was renewed confidence in our message, invaluable exposure for our company and, most importantly, renewed faith in the ability of teamwork to create a result that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Life teaches us that successful businesses are built by people that are passionate about what they do. Research has found that in the best companies the owners, and individuals in sales and marketing, customer service, even the back office are able to distinctly communicate what their company does and how their job fits in with investors, customers, vendors and other employees.
Venture Idol was hosted by the Venture Club of Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). It was advertised as a unique, exciting competition that enables young entrepreneurial companies to compete for a $10,000 grand prize – plus the chance to showcase their innovation, market opportunity, and passion before a live audience of leading Angels, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Venture Idol was designed to allow Indiana companies to shine in front of a national audience.
The risk was you could also fail in front of a national audience.
As part of process for getting participants ready for the competition Bruce Kidd and the IEDC paired each entrant with a coach to initially critique the presentation on a one on one basis and then provided a forum where individuals could “dry run” their presentations in a friendly, controlled environment.
When I found out ParaPRO had been selected to compete. I wrote my 60 second and 5 minute presentations. Participants would present an expanded 5 minute presentation if they made it past the initial round. I practiced it numerous times, on my own. Even gave it to my dog, Sadie as we walked around the neighborhood. She was very appreciative. I was confident and ready.
My coach stopped by for our initial meeting. I gave my pitch. He told me I had a great speech. Too bad it was 3 minutes long. My 5 minute talk came in at about 10. My slides were confusing. My talk was missing the mark.
I went back to the drawing board simplified, rewrote, and practiced – now it was on to present to a group of 6 observers most from different backgrounds than health care.
ParaPRO is developing a product to treat head lice. A key benefit we hope to prove is that the product will kill lice and eggs. Parents will no longer have to comb out nits. I went into my story about nits and combing and time and frustration.
One of my coaches commented, after telling me I was way over the time limit, why don’t you just say that ParaPRO will eliminate nitpicking! BINGO! Here was an interesting way to summarize a benefit and get audience participation in a very short period of time. I was comfortable, had a tested message and had weathered the storm. Now I was ready.
The actual event was fun. I enjoyed having the opportunity to spread the word about our product, our company and how we were creating value in Indiana. It was a great day.
It never would have happened without a few individuals (you know who you are) that had the time and the patience to coach a passionate and nervous individual (me) to concisely tell a story that I knew very well but did not have the experience “performing”.
The event was a win for ParaPRO, a win for the attendees and a win for Indiana.
Here are my take aways from the experience:
- Develop a message
- Practice it in front of smart people
- Listen to their feedback
- Take risks, spread the word about what you do
- Have fun & enjoy the ride
The following are some selected lines from a poem I copied many years ago and have carried with me (author unknown)
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To reach out is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To try is to risk failure.
But the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The one who risks nothing, does nothing and has nothing.
Only the one who risks is free.
Roland J. Bydlon is Director of Marketing at ParaPRO LLC. ParaPRO is a privately held, specialty pharmaceutical company. Their first product, a promising new medicine for the treatment of head lice, is currently under review by the FDA. More information can be found at ParaPRO website