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The second Churchill Enterprise 'Pitch to Win' competition took place on Thursday 30 January, generously sponsored by the Federation of Shenzhen Commerce. The aim of the competition is to encourage Churchillians to develop their pitching skills and it led on from the ‘Learn to Pitch Perfectly’ workshop held for current students and alumni 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 Harry Bullivant (U05), Dr Steve Churchhouse (G85), Dr Philip Hilton (U67), Valerie Jolliffe (U73) and Alan Platt (U93).
Ten high-quality pitches were delivered in quick-fire succession by current students and the panel selected one winner and made two Highly Commended awards.
The panel applauded the high quality presentations with Dr Steve Churchhouse (G85) noting that all the participants should feel very encouraged, and competition chair Harry Bullivant (U05) reflected on the value of providing this type of opportunity for College members:
The competition delivered another enjoyable evening of inspiring business ideas and well delivered pitches. It is always great to bring together a diverse range of College members and create lasting links to progress exciting ideas based on science, engineering and society. Many thanks are also owed to my fellow judges for their insightful questions and time.
Harry Bullivant (U05)
The eventual winner was current PhD Engineering student Susannah Evans (U&G12) who was awarded a prize of £600. Susannah’s winning pitch was for ‘Hide Biotech’, the company she has confounded to transform industrial by-products into a leather substitute material composed of the same protein that makes up most of the dry mass of leather. Susannah explained that this material will require less water to produce and lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to genuine leather, whilst reducing cutting waste as it will be formed in a regular shape, unlike animal hides. Susannah, who is currently working with her co-founder Yudi Ding to develop their leather substitute in the lab, plans to turn their idea into a reality and sell the material they develop to existing businesses that use leather. She was hugely grateful to have won the competition and praised the valuable opportunity it provided to fine-tune her pitching skills:
Although I had previously pitched the idea, it was a two minute, much shorter version. Extending the pitch to five minutes made me consider what elements of the idea were the most important to communicate and what I should add in to enhance the story. On top of this, I firmly believe that a large part of improving your pitching skills is down to practice. Time practising alone in my room is completely different to having an audience sat before you and this competition gave me that audience. This competition is a great way to incentivise competitors to dedicate time to their communication skills which can so often be neglected, yet communication is such an important skill in all aspects of life.
Susannah Evans ((U&G12)
Two Highly Commended awards of £100 each were also presented to current students; Walther Traberg-Christensen (G18) and Kazufumi Iwazawa (G19). MFin student Kazufumi was commended for ‘Artistar’ pitch, a contemporary artist management company which promotes artists actively through social media and helps them connect with people who look for artwork by emerging artists. Walther, who is studying for a PhD in Biotechnology, was commended for his pitch to deliver the next generation of personalised cancer therapies using ‘Smart Exosomes’, natural nanocarriers engineered to specifically target tumour cells. Reflecting on his award, Walther was clear about the benefit of taking part and also greatly valued the opportunity it gave him to further develop his presentation skills and receive feedback on the ideas he presented.
The Pitch to win competition is a great way to practice your pitch and present your ideas to a panel of business-minded judges. It forces you to distil and shape your ideas, and create a story from a business perspective. Winning one of the prizes was a great pleasure; it reaffirmed my passion for entrepreneurship and motived me to continue pursing research commercialisation.
Walther Traberg-Christensen (G18)
The event also welcomed spectators who also enjoyed the opportunity to network with the participants with some complimentary pizza and drinks after the event had ended, which also proved to be of value to those pitching!
The College would like to extend its sincere thanks to the judging panel for their time and expertise and to the Federation of Shenzhen Commerce, represented by Dr Li Peng and Ruhan Zu from Varsity Academy Limited, for so generously sponsoring the event. View pictures of the event here: