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The inaugural Churchill Enterprise 'Pitch to Win' competition took place in the Jock Colville Hall on Monday 29 January. The event was very generously sponsored by MSM Healthcare who provided a £625 prize fund for the best pitches. The aim of the competition was to encourage Churchillians to develop their pitching skills, leading on from the ‘Learn to Pitch Perfectly’ workshop held for current students and alumni back in November.
Open to current students, Junior Research Fellows and alumni, each participant had just five minutes to pitch their idea and grab the attention of the expert judging panel made up of five experienced, entrepreneurial alumni including chair Simon Jones (U85), Alan Platt (U93), Valerie Jolliffe (U73), Ron Sandford (U65), Harry Bullivant (U05), and Churchill Fellow, Professor Tim Minshall, the Dr John C Taylor Professor of Innovation.
The 13 high-quality pitches were each delivered in quick-fire succession by nine current students and four alumni and the panel selected five winners to share the £625 prize fund.
The panel applauded the high quality of the pitches with Simon Jones noting how rewarding it was to hear upcoming generations and alumni alike possessing such creative ideas and having such a passion for them, and Professor Minshall reflected on the importance of providing the opportunity to develop pitching skills in this way:
“It was great to hear such innovative ideas and projects being pitched with such enthusiasm and professionalism. The quality was extremely high, and this made the task of judging very difficult! I’m so glad that Churchill was able to run this event which provided a supportive, not-too-stressful and fun opportunity for students and alumni to practice and develop their pitching skills. Developing effective pitching skills really is so important for all of us, whatever career we choose. I am already looking forward to the next time we run something like this!”
The three main winners were; PhD student Dr Chioma Achi (G17) for her passionate pitch outlining a scheme that aims to bring bring dignity and hope to vesicovaginal fistula patients facing stigma and discrimination, alumna Dr Jacqui Poon (G12) for her pitch outlining a mobile trading platform for smallholder farmers to sell their produce to better markets and increase their household incomes, and PhD student Bang Ming Yong (G15) who demonstrated how using virtual reality as a training tool can teach autistic children to cope with day-to-day challenges and learn new concepts. Runners up prizes were also awarded to current student Nicholas Reyner (U15) for his social media app and PhD student Heba Hamad (G15) for her pitch to develop an environmentally friendly concrete.
All those who took part reflected positively on the experience and each participant was also offered the opportunity to receive a video recording of their pitch together with some personalised feedback
“I thought it would be a fantastic idea to participate and get useful feedback to use throughout my PhD journey and beyond. That decision was worth it! What other situation would be more challenging than pitching in front of six well-experienced industry and academic judges in the panel and a diverse audience? Now it will be much easier for me to talk about my area of research to just any audience by applying these same skills. I thank the college and the organisers for coming up with this wonderful idea and opportunity.”
Dr Chioma Achi (G17)
“The scope and quality of the business ventures being proposed by such a diverse range of Churchill students and alumni was really impressive. I was quite shocked to receive a prize, given the calibre of the competition, but was nonetheless delighted. It has given me useful practice of trying to win over a distinguished audience within a strict time-frame, which I am sure will be a great life skill. It was also really nice to get to speak to some audience members afterwards and share ideas. I'm currently working on the app and growing a team of developers.”
Nicholas Reyner (U15)
The event also welcomed spectators who also enjoyed the opportunity to network with the participants after the event had ended, which also proved to be of value to those pitching!
“I would encourage all Churchill students to participate in next pitch competition, not only because it is an amazing chance to present your idea in a friendly environment, but also because of the social networking and the valuable feedback you get afterwards.”
Heba Hamad (G15)
The College would like to extend its sincere thanks to the judging panel for their time and expertise and to Brian Moyo, the Managing Director of MSM Healthcare for so generously sponsoring the event.