By Hiba Latifee
“You will be going first, Hiba.”
After having won the highly celebrated IEEE WIE’s annual award – The Inspiring Student Member of the Year Award – last summer in 2016, I was all ready to speak at the IEEE WIE’s flagship conference – IEEE WIE International Leadership Conference (IEEE WIE ILC) in San Jose. Little did I know that I will be taking the stage there twice as one of the top 5 entrepreneurs at the conference’s IEEE WIE Startup Pitch Competition.
IEEE WIE ILC − well into its fourth year now – it’s 2017 edition managed to give people like myself – who have their own startups going on – a platform to showcase our solution for the most trivial of problems to potential investors, sponsors and customers alike through this competition.
We were lucky we had an online pitch prep training with The CraneWorks’s Darlene Crane two weeks prior to the event. I found her WebEx session to be extremely easy to comprehend and follow since she took out the time after it to listen to our (many) questions patiently and answering them on point. I reached out to her later on via email to personally thank her and applaud her knowledge and her ability to impart it so …… generously. Even though we didn’t get to meet in-person then, she reviewed my slide-deck and sent an adorably detailed feedback.
Alas, the highly anticipated conference was here.
23 April, Day 2. I knew we’d have plenty of time for rehearsing my pitch before the competition later in the afternoon – we had Ben Larson from the Founder’s Institute conduct the Pitch Bootcamp for us women entrepreneurs, to give us a one-on-one feedback on our pitches.
After lunch – I took the stage and started my pitch by explaining how CycleYaari started as a way for us to commute around our engineering school in Pakistan. How gasping to the classes, that too late and exhausted had us yearning for a means to get from one nook of the college to the other. How it then morphed into a bike-sharing service called CycleYaari for students to avail through its online service portal.
After my pitch had concluded, the Q/A session began with the judges. They started by applauding my pitch, confidence and authenticity. I was happy with the way I handled their innumerable yet pressing questions. I descended the stage amidst applause, empowered and complacent.
Dr. Jin took the first prize home. Many congrats to her and her team! Even though we didn’t win the first prize, what made our day was the fact that we finished very close to the first prize.
All in all, it was a great experience you not just qualify for the final round of the competition this year, but it was even more rewarding to meet other female entrepreneurs from around the world like yourself and feel proud. Thank you IEEE WIE!