On April 3, just a short seven weeks after the launch of the Student Challenge 2013, the participants and jury gathered at the Cultural Center of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Free University of Amsterdam) for the grand finale of the competition.
Seventy students studying various business-related studies, from Universities around the Netherlands, reviewed 20 BiD Network business plans from entrepreneurs in Liberia, Uganda, Palestine, Zambia and Kosovo among others. Together with their assigned coaches, the groups worked together to provide feedback and recommendations to help the entrepreneurs improve their business plans. BiD Network organized a master class to train the students on ‘business plan’s basic structures’, ‘what investors want’ and ‘pitching’. To put skills learnt from the master class into practice, the students needed to prepare a YouTube pitch video and present the improved business plans to the jury and potential investors.
Five groups were selected as finalists and were asked to pitch during the award ceremony to the selected jury. The jury, consisting of Prof. dr. W.G.M. Holterman (PWC), B. Valk (Rabobank), Prof. dr. H. Verbruggen, Dr. ir. J.C. van Burg (Vrije Universiteit) and Senior Advisor Maria Pontes (BiD Network) selected team #12 as the winner. The judges were impressed by their strong feedback and creative video pitch and said that Team #12 had gone the extra mile to help the entrepreneur.
The winning team reviewed the business plan for Sun Rise Enterprises . Evelyn Kaney, an ambitious entrepreneur in Tanzania launched the renewable energy company in 2010 . The students helped her by sharing their knowledge. “We all have a professional or educational business background which helped us to develop useful and easy-to-adopt changes in the business model which could directly help her to stay competitive as well as to expand” said Fabian Guse.
As well as their feedback on her business model, the students were able to give her a new perspective. “Our entrepreneur was very proud of her business but had already some kind of fixed perspective about the future progress. We wanted to broaden her view and were able to convince her to lower the prices, so that she could be more competitive again” said Dimitri Haussman.
The participating students were motivated to take part in the BiD Student Challenge by the opportunity to support entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Dimitri, a student actively involved in the startup community in Amsterdam, spoke of his eagerness to share his knowledge based on his experience. “Decisive for my participation … was my former, voluntary engagement with BiD Network during the Growing SME Conference in The Hague, November 2012. I was really motivated to learn more about BiD Network and their work. When you think about an entrepreneur or entrepreneurship, you mainly have images of tech start-ups from the Silicon Valley in your mind. But in fact, there are so many opportunities out there especially in less developed countries which can create a real impact.”Fabian Guse, team #12
“What I liked the most was that we worked on a real life case, and that the recommendations we gave were highly appreciated by the entrepreneur and planned to be implemented,” added Katrin Marx about her participation in the challenge.
Even though the winning team ultimately won the vote of the jury, they struggled with different issues throughout the competition, such as understanding the background of the entrepreneur, adapting the business model to the local business context and the cultural environment of Tanzania. Even basic issues such as contacting the entrepreneur were a challenge: “If you are working with an entrepreneur who offers services powered by solar energy in an environment where only 15% of the overall population has an instant access to electricity, of course it is also hard to communicate and to stay in touch as you can’t compare the communication infrastructure with ours” said Fabian.
In the end, the communication with Evelyn gave the group enough inspiration to come up with valuable feedback for her business plan. During their pitch to the jury and peers, the group proved once more that they had a well-thought-out plan for the entrepreneur. By presenting a short and powerful pitch, and by answering all of the jury’s questions the group already stood out. However, it was their video pitch, shown at request of the jury that convinced the entire audience that team # 12 was the deserved winner of the challenge. Watch the video here.
Dimitri shared the insights on the video pitch idea: “Before we created our video we searched for different inspiring movies in similar contexts. With our movie we wanted to capture the big picture about the situation in Africa and how difficult it is for normal people, farmers and entrepreneurs to make use of simple services (according to our societal perspective) as making a phone call and charging ones cellphone. We wanted to bring the whole everyday situation from Africa to our viewers here in Europe and transfer the feelings, emotions – the whole atmosphere. At the end of the video we also wanted to promote the personality of our entrepreneur Evelyn, who really wants to make a difference in her village. We included her current business model as well as our business suggestions and hope that she can use our video to promote her business and get the necessary support she desires.” Fabian added, “The most challenging part about the video was to create an appropriate storyboard. A pitch video needs to tell a consistent story in a relatively short time while simultaneously providing important (business) information for potential investors. After creating the overall story, as Dimitri described it, we started looking for clips, sequences and music to transport and visualize our message.”
Looking back at the challenge, the winning team feels enriched by the experience. Sanja Huyghe says:“Personally, I was really touched by the spirit and the drive of Evelyn. She is dealing with quite difficult circumstances, but that only seems to strengthen her drive to make a success from this business. I am glad that we could give her valuable feedback to support the growth of her business.”
The entire group said ‘yes’ when asked if they would advise fellow students to participate in future editions of the BiD Student Challenge. “It was a great experience and I could actually apply what I learnt during my studies”,says Katrin. “It is nice to work with different minded people and experience new topics that were unknown before. Everyone can contribute and help other entrepreneurs in a very simple way and thus have an impact in their success! The whole project makes a lot of fun and is a personal enrichment.” added Dimitri.
The BiD Student Challenge 2013 was a fourth time collaboration between Aureus, BiD Network sponsored by the Rabobank and Solving Efeso. We would like to thank everyone involved in the organization of this year’s edition, and are very much looking forward to our next cooperation.