These young innovators took part in a four-day “boot camp” before the conference with a faculty of experts. Later each innovator gave a five-minute “pitch” to the 600 or so people who paid thousands of dollars each to attend the event – an audience that includes executives from the worlds of venture capital and technology. The pitches will live on at the PopTech.org website, where videos of conference speakers attract thousands of viewers.
The young social innovators made remarkable progress during the boot camp, says faculty member Cheryl Heller, CEO of Heller Communication Design in New York. She advised the group on how to create an effective brand. With today’s economy uncertain, creating an effective pitch becomes even more important. “An entrepreneur’s ability to quickly explain what it is they’re doing and why it’s important is priceless,” she says.
“They have to have a story about the rigor with which they’ve thought through their model so that people who give them money know that they’re going to get an impact,” he says. “And they have to have a personal story about why they’re so passionate about it because people have to walk away believing in something and being willing to help that individual.”
Among the young PopTech social innovators polishing their pitches were Chip Ransler and Manoj Sinha, cofounders of Husk Power Systems in Charlottesville, Va. The business partners, who met while attending graduate school at the University of Virginia, have built five mini-electric power plants in remote villages in India. The plants use discarded husks from locally grown rice as fuel. The two hope to have 20 miniplants online by next summer.