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Perfecting the Pitch: Reflections on the YES Elevator Pitch Competition

My time as a professional athlete and math teacher shaped my belief in collaboration and learning as a necessity for progression. I am now a first-year MBA student and a co-founder of Braingrove, and these core values continue to hold true. Braingrove is a social learning web platform, which aims to increase engagement and performance of K-12 students. Earlier this month, I participated in the Yale Entrepreneurial Society Elevator Pitch Competition and placed second among many other great projects. This was only my second competition after a long layoff. It was an honor to share Braingrove’s vision with others, and especially so with fellow classmates in attendance, and with Professor Barry Nalebuff as the judge.

It is safe to say that my pitching ability has progressed, largely because of my experience thus far at School of Management. Since orientation, I have discovered resources that have been helpful in advancing our mission to create a more efficient education system. I was accepted into YEI’s Venture Creation Program early in the fall. Through the program, I have been working with advisors—fellow SOM students—to refine Braingrove’s value proposition and customer discovery. I have also shared my story in larger groups several times with YEI and with the Public Speaking Club at SOM—each time with less anxiety. The feedback I receive has helped me hone in on more appealing elements of Braingrove’s story. One of the biggest improvements to my pitch was my slide deck, which I was able to spruce up with the help of another classmate.

Winners of the YES Elevator Pitch Competition with Professor Barry Nalebuff (at right)

I am also taking courses in marketing, competition, and valuations, and I am able to apply what I learn directly to Braingrove. Having a better understanding of the necessary frameworks I will need to plan and measure our progress will be helpful moving forward.

The best part of the competition was sharing the experience with other SOM entrepreneurs who each have wonderful ideas: Jackson Zhu is building a market for beautiful, premium and sustainable pearls; Katrina Barlow is using real-time energy data to help consumers optimize their power grid usage; and Vichi Jagannathan is providing communities with the ability to invest in their favorite local businesses. As expected, Professor Nalebuff provided very "honest" assessments on our ideas and our presentations, while also highlighting key aspects of our projects that will bring us success.

We each hope to learn, iterate, and someday make a significant social impact with our ventures. It is a new, unpredictable process, and having a community at Yale to support us has been great.