Day 11:

1 March 2017

““Wow. This is it. The Big Day.”
My cousin tells me that’s usually what the bride/groom feels like on the morning of their wedding day. I wasn’t getting married, but those were exact thoughts when I woke up.

Sofia and I hurriedly got ready in our business professional attire, and packed all the cables and technology we needed for the day. We met the rest of the team (read: Chris and Revant) outside and the four of us climbed into the shuttle that would take us, for the last time this trip, to the Canadian University of Dubai. It was Pitch Competition Day.

On the way, we quietly discussed the things that required our attention before we stood on stage in the Red Theatre, pitching StackFarm to a panel of esteemed judges. “Finish the powerpoint! We need to practice the presentation! Have we timed it?! Do you have ue cards ready?! We still need to calculate some numbers in our business model!” The adrenaline was already kicking in, and we still had four hours before we presented.

This is when I realized; in this era of globalization, multiculturalism and competition, mastering a specific set of skills is what distinguishes an individual. In the RGIC Class of 2017, the StackFarm team was arguably the most diverse; culturally, academically and in our personal skillsets. Side Note: this was also probably the reason we had the most, as I like to put it, ‘collaborative tension’!

Needless to say, critical thinking, confidence, effective communication skills, teamwork and creativity all played an integral role in bringing our pitch together in this final stretch. Special shout out to our CUD student, Amruta, who was of great assistance in this process.

I took a short break around noon to play table tennis with Abdullah. He patiently taught me new techniques and we worked up a nice sweat (in hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to play in a nicely ironed blazer and slacks).

Two hours prior to the pitch, we had the opportunity to practice our presentation with a former lawyer and professor at CUD. She grilled us on key facts and maintained that although she thought the product and business model were decent, our presentation skills needed a lot of work. We quickly made changes to our scripts to simplify the technical concepts, and clarify the business proposition. As with any pitch, we started and ended with our strongest speakers – in this case, Chris and I.

It was time.

We headed to the theatre, where there was a fluttering excitement amongst the crowd. I overheard some Ryerson students answering questions posed by CUD Media Relations, such as “In one word, how do you feel? What is your company? What is your product?”

StackFarm is comparatively a quieter team, so we weren’t a part of most of the social media. I tried answering the questions for myself, in vain. I couldn’t decide upon one word. I didn’t know how I felt. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel.

I had my answer only when we walked up on stage, and I looked out into the audience.

Grateful. That was my word. I felt grateful to be up there. I felt grateful for this opportunity, and for every person who supported me (directly and indirectly!) in my journey.

We pitched. When it was at last my turn, I made the spontaneous decision not to recite what I had prepared, lest we were time-cut. I spoke two sentences.

“The future for agriculture is water and space conservative, clean, and cost-friendly. The future of agriculture is StackFarm. Thank You.” [insert applause here]

The judges followed up with questions, which I took the liberty of answering. And that was it. We walked off stage and watched the remaining (fantastic) pitches.

While the judges convened, we spoke to the distinguished guests in the audience for their feedback. Things to remember for next time:
simplify, simplify, simplify!
use images liberally in the pitch deck
predict the types of questions that will be asked, and prepare answers supported by slides in the pitch deck
have just the right amount of confidence!

StackFarm was the winner of Ryerson Global Innovations Challenge 2017. We are honored to have been a part of a venture that showcased a complete synergy of Ryerson University and Canadian University of Dubai. Monetarily, we won $5000, but the new experiences, mentorship & insights received, networks we built, opportunities for learning, & friendships formed in the past two weeks in the United Arab Emirates are much more valuable.

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank every person, organization and institution (both in Canada and in the UAE!) that supported us in our growth, and in bringing our social innovation to life! And a very special thank you to my parents, for your continual love, blessings and guidance.

To RGIC, Class of 2017: I absolutely was honored to spend a very memorable, transformative two weeks in the United Arab Emirates with you. Thank you for your friendship, your stories, and for everything you taught me. Cheers to new endeavours!”

– Lakshmi Menon

Stay tuned with StackFarm, through our Instagram/Facebook (@StackFarmCanada) pages because this is only just the beginning.

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