D eep in the heart of an incubator was where the 2015 annual MIT Enterprise Forum’s Whiteboard Challenge was hosted. Almost as nerve wracking as being on Shark Tank, a group of 10 select competitors take the stage and have 5 minutes and a whiteboard to present their idea. That’s it. No powerpoints, no notecards, just 3 judges from a place known to be an internationally recognized institution for technology and innovation.

Luckily, I had practiced and knew this like the front of my hand (yeah I was that ready, don’t even mention the back). I spoke and drew a parallel line down the board, showing the audience a world with Tweetsense versus the chaos the polling industry would be in without it.

The pitch was only 4 minutes long-30 seconds less than I had practiced. Oh no! I forgot something critical didn’t I? Maybe I forgot to mention how we don’t require thousands of people? Or was it the money we save? Or maybe the analytics that could put Gallup out of business? No, what had I left out?

The other pitches were brilliant. I still remember some of those ideas today. I could only sit there in anticipation.

Then they started announcing the winners. Honestly, we were just honored to participate. As long as I wasn’t the worst right?

Third place:

 

 

Maestro

Shoot, that guy has an MBA and is from UChicago. Well good game.

Second place:

 

Noninvasive Diagnostic Imaging

Yep, that guy is a doctor from Northwestern, I wonder who could top that?

First place…

 

 

 

Tweetsense

Holy wow It’s been a while and I’m still surprised that I won after reading this. I know I worked hard on the product and the fact that it worked was what mattered, but this really meant I had what it took to not just be a developer at a company but the founder of my own startup.

And that’s really where it all started to go uphill. We got some partners to help us, I met my cofounder and we even got some seed funding. These events truly catalyzed everything to the product and clients we have today and I couldn’t be happier with the success of our company.

But looking back, I realized that it wasn’t the actual competition which allowed this, but rather the profound effect it had on me as a person. Who knows, if I hadn’t won, maybe I wouldn’t have had the guts to work on Tweetsense that summer and instead would have looked for an attractive software engineering internship that every Computer Science student dreams about. But if there’s anything that me or this company knows it’s that you don’t move forward by doing what everyone else is doing.

That’s it. No powerpoints, no notecards, just

3 judges from a place known to be an internationally

recognized institution for technology and innovation.

Special thanks to Jim Gerry, Carl Heine and Neel Bhat for being some of the best mentors a high school student could have!

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