When she speaks, there is a magnetic aura that keeps us all hanging onto every word of hers . She has got the charisma of a leader, the gift of gab of a Public Speaker and the magnanimity of an Educator. She is everything an entrepreneur should inculcate in themselves. Meet the Boss Lady who made our Friday, edu-taining ! Here’s Laura Toma, CEO and Founder of GreyMatter and Improbable Agency, who is making the improbable far more probable than ever before. Perplexed?
Wonder what makes her a niche apart? She is a strong advocate of integrating Artificial Intelligence in Education, the one who believes that if robots don’t take over the monotonous drudgery of routine jobs, humans won’t capitalise on the greatest asset- their creativity and ingenuity- which she believes needs a dynamic environment, that robots can’t adjust to. No wonder, her edtech Start-up is fostering a joy for learning and the spirit of leadership in school children, who are all geared up to take the role as future entrepreneurs. And at Techstars Global Startup Weekend 2018, her class on ‘The 7Cs of Persuasive Speaking’, was a must-attend, especially with the tactics for elevator pitches. Allow me, to spill the beans!
If you have not watched the movie, ‘The Hidden Figure’, there is a lot that Women in Tech can learn, and the most crucial is ‘Dare to be first’. Yes, that’s how our class with Laura began, straight from the movie scene where the little girl is not asking, requesting but demanding her right . Since, we also watched an exhaustive collection of start-up pitches where Laura gave individual feedback, asking us to point the mistakes, correcting our misconceptions and then revealing what investors had to say, we got to see things from different perspectives.
Here are a few take-aways from Laura’s workshop, just in case , if you missed out!
- The Art of Storytelling: The human mind is wired to share memories, recall moments and tell tales. And with our dwindling attention spans in today’s age , nothing engages the audience more than a personal anecdote, the trending news, a strong quote,a viral video or a joke! The ‘hook’ should inspire, move or simply, entertain, within the first 30 seconds of the entire speech. Often , the best presentation is not always the most-informative, but the one where the speaker has a chatty-style conversation with the audience, so it’s necessary to drop unnecessary jargon!
- Why Numbers Matter? Okay, you have convinced everyone that your idea is a breakthrough, but if you don’t have any clue about how much is the production cost, the set-up expenses, the advertising and marketing budget, why should investors care? And what if it’s not novel, but it generates a self-sustaining business model, well, that’s at least better. By the way, numbers don’t just matter in the business model, but also when you are highlighting the problem in the first place, because stats are like a ‘call to action’!
- Speak with Passion. Speak with Purpose: If you don’t believe in the value of your product, no one else will! The elevator pitch is very short, so both your verbal and non-verbal gestures should showcase your determination and enthusiasm. Let your personality shine through. Be confident, self-assured , clear and coherent!
- if ( first impression AND last impression)== true, then only will you make a mark! Most of the people spend so much energy in making a strong attention-grabber at the start, that they don’t care much about the end. It’s very important to summarise your leading points using different set of words from before, and to end on a strong statement that the audience is sure to remember , even when the next speaker takes them by a storm.
- Ask the Audience: Often, the best way to get the attention of listeners who are dozing off , is to ask questions, that force them to think . Questions shouldn’t ever have obvious answers, the audience should find it difficult in deciding an answer. Rhetoric, opinionated, and factual questions are some examples. It’s also necessary to leave some time after speeches, for the audience to ask you questions.
- Study Your Audience: Nothing makes someone more nervous, than the thought of unpreparedness. Practice and Rehearse multiple times. But at the same time, it’s necessary to be flexible to change, so study the audience simultaneously, gauge their reaction and adjust your message depending upon your interactions. Your practice and final speeches just can’t be the same!
- Outline the Script : Yes, having a clear flow of ideas, inclusion of necessary transitions between points and practice is a must. Write down the topic, general purpose, specific purpose, central idea, and main points. Show the audience the order of your topics so they have a clear understanding of the objectives you will touch upon.
- What’s the bone of contention? Conflicts, can be a great way to juxtapose differences and similarities, between what you are pitching and what’s already existing. So, before beginning your start-up pitch, it’s best to highlight an issue through narration, making the audience believe that the problem exists, they have been through it and how your idea solves it.
Hmm… So we said this post was about the ‘7Cs of Persuasive Speaking’! Can you quickly identify them from the description below?
Be clear with what you want to convey, so your ideas should have a logical pattern. The next thought should link to the preceding one. It often happens that some people are tempted to use advanced vocabulary and can sound too verbose, which disengages the listener, so being concise is crucial. Further, if your speech is not concrete, then all the hours of research goes a waste. Since,people love pointing out flaws, so ensure to be correct, or else it can be really embarrassing. Honestly, there is nothing worse than someone telling you mid-way, your time’s up, so make sure to complete on time! As a final message, smile throughout and make eye contact, because courtesy goes a really long way.
And guess, how we ended the segment? Imagine if a celebrity or renowned personality that you have always wanted to meet suddenly appeared in front of you, and you had a minute to say whatever you had to, what all can you JAM? Mention in the comments below.
We absolutely admire Laura for teaching us these life lessons. There was so much to take back home!
The best Friday ever!
Aaah,..the long weekend is nearing an end, so is my motivation 😛
Happy National Day, SW Rockstars!
They don’t refer to their favorite cafe! They mean, Techstars Global Startup Weekend. Flummoxed, aren’t you? Let me walk you through.
So,here’s how we spent our Friday on November 16!
If you have been in the Gulf, Fridays have got their own character: halcyon mornings , lackadaisical afternoons and evenings full of shopping sprees and binge watching!
But 16th November was offbeat. After all, if you are part of the first Women Edition of Techstars Startup Weekend and if your venue is Technohub @DTEC, how can a weekend not be worthwhile? Just 9 am, and start-up enthusiasts are already on a roll: revenue models are being planned, the prototypes are being discussed, codes are being debugged and our mentors and coaches have started coming in. Nothing makes mornings better than a refreshing breakfast, all thanks to 21 grams!
Heading over to introduce to you, the Boss Ladies , who sacrificed their social life on weekends to mentor and coach our participants. A huge shout-out to these lovely ladies!
Here’s bringing to you, Hiba Balfaqih, a Life Coach whose real-life experiences are a must to hear for all of you. Because the CEO and
Founder of Startup Factory, UAE that you see today is a visionary, who started off her entrepreneurship journey at just 16. Yes, you heard that right.
We like to call her a ‘People Whisperer’, because with her gift of the gab, she can stir up any conversation with anyone at anytime! Being a professional psychologist and a serial entrepreneur herself, helping business magnates program their mindset for risk-taking, challenges and success is her everyday thing. And with that witty, practical, won’t-take-any-shit from anyone, street-savvy personality, she doesn’t just transform corporate culture but real-life!
Here is what Simran Narang from Team Zuv said, when asked to describe her favourite mentor and what she remembered best about them!
Hiba. Undoubtedly! She was so spot-on with ideas and we were just jaw-dropped. Oh,…. I still remember, that when we were doing the design of our GUI, and since our app was to ensure that drivers don’t get distracted while driving and at the same time, can earn rewards, she asked us to redesign .She wanted us to have a dual theme of Green, to signal ‘Safety’’ and Red, to mean ‘Awareness’, just like the traffic signal lights. And we were just blown away, I mean something so simple, yet it really strikes a chord.
Also, on the final day, we were so nervous during the practice pitch and she was looking at us throughout. When someone smiles at you , it can do magic to your self-esteem, and I think that’s what gave us confidence to win !
Meet Randah Taher. She owns her own Idea Clinic in Dubai, called ‘Sajory’. With her palette of creativity, she paints happiness on a canvas of imagination for individuals, businesses and communities in packages, which she fondly calls ‘IMAGINE-NESS’. With strokes of Design Thinking, shades of Biomimicry, finesse of Innovation, this artist is a Curator, Idea Culturist and Master Facilitator who launched the “Creative Institute for Toronto’s Young Leaders” and the Montreal-based storytelling powerhouse ”My Arabic Story’’. From the snows of Canada to the sands of the Emirates, through the power of storytelling, her ideas have touched lives. And her do-or-die attitude is one that we loved! The Organising Team can’t recall , how many times we asked her for lunch, for water, and all she did, was smile and say, ‘No worries. I just want to focus on why I am here!’
Team Plannect was lucky to have you mentor them. Here is Rishika Thulasi from the team sharing her short and sweet message:
Thank you Randah. We couldn’t have asked for a more supportive mentor than you. Out of curiosity and exploration, we wanted to try out several things, but you made us realise how important it was to just commit to one problem and perfect the solution to its best. You gave it structure and purpose, helping us redefine Plannect. We were truly awestruck with your calm, poise and ingenuity.
Lots of Love
If there is one thing , that we all can learn from Katarina Uherova, Founder of EnRupt,is her ‘disruptive innnovation’ thinking. Amidst all the frenzy of Climate Change and oil prices shaping geopolitical views, is one woman, who rises above all the ‘talk and debate’. She believes that we have seen the Signs, and the Science, and now it’s time for Policy and Action! Founder of Enrupt, she is building the company of the future. How, you ask? With her initiatives to use digital transformation as an asset for cleaner, greener renewable sources, she is making waves. She brings an international perspective on energy needs, stemming from her work across Europe, South East Asia and Middle East . As a female founder, (Non-profit, HQ, Singapore) she is a true-blue champion for women’s rights. With a Global Executive MBA from INSEAD, this entrepreneur is creating partnerships with the start-up ecosystem and the energy industry , to help ideas meet both local and global challenges. As a Public Policy professional, she has worked on the EU’s energy diversification efforts, along with policy work on renewables, energy efficiency and electricity and gas market liberalisation.
Her insights were valuable to our two teams, ‘Team Phaser’ and ‘Team Economical Electricity’ who worked on Smart Homes and Sustainable Energy Development. Apart from them, Sabiha Shaikh from Team Zuv remembers something that struck them in their conversation with Katarina,
With all of us being coders and developers, we weren’t quite sure on how to go about generating revenue. I think as programming enthusiasts we had become so focussed on one aspect that we didn’t pay much attention to finance initially. And that’s when her words really did hit us, ”In Business, if something is not making money, then it’s all just a hobby! ”
Thanks to all her tips on business modelling and revenue generation, we wouldn’t have been able to make this far.
Techstars Global Startup Weekend Dubai 2018 was privileged and honored to have these three Wonder Women as Mentors.
You will be re-meeting other Boss Ladies of the Mentor Tribe Soon!
Thank Goodness It’s Friday!
Dulce Lada is passionate about community building, fostering entrepreneurship, photography and a good cup of tea!
In one word, this woman is a ‘virtuoso’. She is our Co- Facilitator for the first ever Women Edition of Techstars Global Startup Weekend Dubai. As the Marketing Manager of Womena, an investment and media platform focused on increasing diversity, female representation and equity, which amplifies stories of ‘trailblazers’ like herself, and with the Womentum start-up accelerator of Womena , she is creating a niche in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Having facilitated, organized, mentored, and judged in several Startup Weekends in the past, this one is her dream edition! Amidst the frenzy of last-minute checks, she still made it to have a chat with us and here’s sharing her insights. This one’s a MUST-READ!
Q1) What is something startup enthusiasts with prior experience miss out during their preparation for pitches that you believe should be considered?
When pitching your idea, think about who your judges (or potential investors) are. Be prepared with a pitch that speaks their language. Don’t overwhelm them with buzzwords and jargon because you only have a few minutes to impress them. Practice. Practice.
Q2) What are some things that amateur candidates should know to gain an edge over experienced start-up applicants?
Every Startup Weekend event is unique, so even if you are new in the startup scene, you are on equal footing with others.
Be coach-able and ask for feedback. We have mentors coming over the weekend to help you validate, develop and test your startup idea. Don’t be afraid to pivot.
Q3) What is your advice to all the women applicants who are not from the Business, Finance and Technology Sector, but would love to experience this?
Just do it! Startup Weekend is not just for those who are in the business, finance and technology sectors; it is open to anyone who wants to solve a problem. Come and learn new things and be open to new opportunities.
Q4) Any myths about Start-up Competitions that you would like to bust?
“I don’t want to pitch my idea because someone might steal it.” I’ve heard this a lot from people who are new in the startup ecosystem. Little do they know that it’s not about the idea but it’s all about execution and Startup Weekend is an excellent place for you to validate those fresh ideas.
Thanks so much, Dulce 🙂
TGSW Team loves your ever-radiant smile, altruistic spirit and joie de vivre!
Cheers to the Boss Ladies
Techstars Global Startup Weekend Dubai-Women Edition
Imagine walking into a room of 100 women , garbed in purple T-shirts which speak boldly, ‘#bossladies’, the chitter-chatter of creative ideas is sure to give you the heebie-jeebies. And by now, you probably have 15 tabs open that promise to give you tricks for ‘ How to make the most of your Startup Weekend?’ ! We have Been There and Done That! So, Fear Not as we are bring to you a day-specific article from the Techstars Startup Weekend Dubai Organisers themselves!
Reviewing DAY 1 and DAY 2(mid-day) guidelines, which is supposed to be the ‘break-the-ice’ moment.
1) Before you set out on a Headhunting Mission, Know YOURSELF! Are you an Alpha-Leader or a Beta-Follower?
TypeAlpha: You have a plan on how you will capitalize on time and people! You have the panache to make people buy your story, the vision to turn thought to a proof-of-principle concept, have already shelled out a few hours on market trends and target audience, and above all, you have the charisma to direct the team, then go ahead, Ms.Alpha!
Type Beta: You have an idea, which is an epiphany at its best! You don’t know what social, economic or environmental problem it targets in depth, but you believe that once you find your ‘fit’, you can make their ideas outshine. You have the skillset so you can contribute, and you listen more, work hard and speak less. Join the team who already has a plan to which you think you can offer the most!
2) Great Minds DON’T think alike!
Don’t just pair up with someone because you met them first! Network with people, understand their personalities, take cues from verbal and non-verbal gestures, and choose a member who is a ‘master of at least one of these skills’!
- Number-crunching Devotee: can skim through stats like it’s a cakewalk, has the flair for data-interpretation , analysis and visualization. She is the biggest asset when working on your business model, profit maximization plans and is best at realistic estimates!
- Designer(aka Front-end Developer): She has the skill for not just playing with graphics and colors ; but can see through both the user’s and investor’s eyes. How does the user feel using the product? How easy is the GUI? With investors’ tired of seeing numbers , how can you present data in creative ways? Tip: Don’t EVER waste a designer’s expertise for presentation design and basic infographics: DIY using Cava, Piktochart, Visme and Prezi!
- Dauntless Speaker: with diplomacy and wit running in her genes, she can enrapture any audience with a story that speaks to emotions, she can think on her feet when judges ask tough questions. With that aura of confidence, she can make you believe anything!
- Business Fanatic: Techstars, its powered by Google for ENTREPRENEURS, afterall ! You don’t want to be left behind, a finance or business or marketing background on a team is a mandate. No one understands investor jargon than she does. Enough said!
- Techie(aka Back-end Developer): Sure, investors don’t care whether you begged, borrowed or stole the code. But the prototype needs to work! Speak limited tech jargon, existing technologies and services that everyone knows about , will be perfect!
- The Critic: We bet you weren’t prepared for this one. With 54 hours to plan, implement, code and design, you will underestimate a critic’s power. Everyone thinks about the USP, well, someone needs to think of the loopholes. What are the technical, legislative and logistics constraints you need to compromise on? What future challenges does this pose? What are your alternative plans? Judges have an eye for flaws , and having someone who has ‘agreed to disagree’ can be a great way to prepare for questions and formulated answers.
3) Team Work Makes the Dream Work!
As one of the judges at University Edition pointed out, ‘Investors don’t always look for a ground-breaking product or service, many times, they invest in the people which make a great team to work with!’ Be compatible with each other. If you are the Alpha-type, then leave your ego and pride behind, if someone’s idea is more feasible, learn to compromise and work on it.
4) Carpe diem!
Take the opportunity to network with people, you are in a room full of big shots: Directors, CEOs and Tech Experts. Listen to their advice. Show your enthusiasm to know about their journey. Get to know what interests them in their industry, which is why ALWAYS read through their profiles.
But don’t just be ‘opportunistic’! Take coffee breaks and have casual talk beyond ‘work’. You never know, you might be meeting someone who can be your personal life coach, career counsellor or a good friend. Make lasting relationships and beautiful memories!
5) Recharge your startup suitcase!
You are going to embark on a 54-hour journey of creating something new , so be prepared. If you are planning to stay over, make sure you have comfy things: a cozy cabeu, a jacket, eye mask, toiletries, energy bars and definitely all your gadget accessories: power bank, pen drives, chargers and ear phones to avoid distractions!
Phew! That was exhaustive.
Head over to watch live interviews and podcasts in the next sessions!
Techstars Global Startup Weekend Dubai-Women Edition
She has worked at the UN, a dream for many. She has spearheaded three start-ups, with TeachMeNow and GetBee being her greatest breakthroughs. An international speaker, the EXPO 2020 Global Innovator; this stalwart has way too many titles to her name. And guess what, she bagged success as a solo-preneur!
With a strong background in International Relations, she kick-started her career at EU. Little, did she realise that discussing policies and solving politics, wasn’t helping her create the impact, she wanted for the community. The spirit of ‘giving back’ sparked in her. So, without much thought, she started teaching Special Education Needs Students. And in the most unlikely pursuit, did she find her ‘Ahaa’ moment. And then she took the most daring decision, she quit the EU!
Are you ready to Think Startup, Think Global and Think Purple?
Every November, new waves of entrepreneurship are felt in cities across the world at the same time, and DXB is all geared up to welcome the Wonder Women . Over 100 trailblazers; coaches, mentors , participants and volunteers have gathered at DTEC Silicon Oasis. We are part of a Renaissance, albeit 21st century style. For those of you who couldn’t be here, stay tuned to this blog, our Facebook and Instagram Pages. Let’s celebrate the first- ever Women Edition in the Middle East of Techstars Global Startup Weekend!
The energy is palpable. The networking has begun. The Ideas are brimming. As a warm-up, the facilitators, Aya Sadder and Dulce Lada took the audience by a storm with a word-association game, ‘Half-baked’, where participants randomly threw in words, formed teams and had to sell unbelievable ideas to have a good lough. Lovely warm-up! A fun practice at elevator pitches..
TGSW Media Team