I work for KGV College in Southport which is a beacon 6<sup>th</sup> form college. I am the Director of IT and have been for the last 8 years. I have taught a little whilst at KGV, but I was the only finalist who wasn’t a teacher by trade.
I only learned of the existence of ed-Invent shortly before the Manchester heats. I was alerted to it by William Jenkins from @TechStories who I had been talking to about education startups. I had already dipped my toe in the water by making and selling an exam product to schools and colleges which surprisingly had been successful enough to pay for a family holiday for the last 3 years. Even though it was a very small-scale operation, it had been a real buzz to have created something from scratch, spend very little money on it and have it in use in 300+ schools and colleges. I was keen to do it again.
I arrived at The Monastery in Manchester with no real idea about what the day would bring. I hadn’t arrived with any ideas (I wasn’t sure whether I needed to) and I was hoping for inspiration! Fortunately Richard was listing some areas to consider, mentioned video and I thought of the problem I faced with my college PE department filling my storage with HD videos of BTEC students playing sport. I started thinking about it and came up with an idea which I called Cold Storage. I had the chance to do a little internet research and couldn’t find an equivalent service.
I really am not the most comfortable of presenters, but I must have been fairly convincing as I was chosen as the winner. Clips of my presentation were uploaded on to the ed-Invent website and they made me cringe. Lots of fiddling with the wedding ring and looking nervous, plenty of room for improvement!
In between the heats and the final I discovered that both Amazon and Google had low-priced products very similar to the concept I had pitched. Initially this was very deflating, but then I took another look at the idea, reworked it and found I could provide a better solution for education. Then it was just a case of waiting for the big weekend.
Once again, it was an event where I didn’t really know what to expect. We all met up over dinner on the Friday night and details started to emerge. The aim of the weekend was to pitch your idea to a small panel of judges on the Sunday afternoon. The pitch was a mere 3 minutes and I was concerned that 1½ days to prepare seemed like overkill. I had arrived with quite detailed costings which I quickly realised were not what was required. It was more about getting your idea over quickly and concisely whilst demonstrating your passion and commitment to the idea.
I shouldn’t have worried about the timing as I needed every minute of that 1½ days! Saturday and Sunday consisted of spending short amount of times with a procession of talented and enthusiastic mentors. My experience was that every mentor I spoke to added something to the mix and pushed me ever closer to the finished presentation.
As the time to pitch grew closer, it was time to rehearse. I was either just presenting to myself and the stopwatch on my mobile phone or to a mentor. I must have practised it 50 times. I had decided to have a single PowerPoint slide as a backdrop to my presentation with key points fading in and out and I would present close to the judges referring to a flipchart twice during the presentation. Disappointingly, I did not feel confident enough to present without the use of notes. I had a lot of information to get across in 3 minutes and I was worried about corpsing and missing out vital info that would mean the whole presentation would not make sense. I was very confident about my idea and the written material I had created, but felt the weak link in the chain was me!
I was 2<sup>nd</sup> on and, thanks to the 50 rehearsals, the presentation went without a hitch and to time. I was able to field the judges’ questions and my feeling was that they ‘got’ the idea and saw the potential. This was testament to the work of the mentors as I normally had to explain the idea twice before it was fully understood and the mentors’ suggestions helped me clarify the message and trim it to fit inside 3 minutes.
As I sat down to watch the rest of the presentations, I felt very calm. It was clear that everyone’s presentations were going to be very high quality, but it didn’t matter at that stage. My feelings were that it had gone as well as it could have and no matter what happened next, I could leave feeling satisfied with my own performance. I had already decided that I was going to proceed with the idea.
After the judges had deliberated, they chose a deserved winner in Derek who delivered a brilliant pitch on an innovative fitness app. I was lucky enough to be named runner up and received the £1000 prize. I can honestly say that the money was the least valuable thing that I took away from the weekend, but on the flip side, it was much easier to come home after abandoning the family for 3 days with something to show for it!