Words by Hollie Gordon, Founder of Milaana
What an incredible opportunity. Milaana has been on a pretty amazing journey since we were first just an idea in Mid 2013. This week however has really taken things to the next level. Last November, we were humbled to win the Education Category in Sydney for the 1776 Challenge Cup amidst a group amazing local enterprises.
(You can click here for 1 minute pitch in Sydney which got us through to the finals there).
Our prize was the chance to participate in the Global Finals in DC! So this week I was flown to Washington DC to compete in the global semi-finals with Education startups from around the world!
At 1776, they believe startups can change the world and they’re building the global community to provide the intellectual, social, and financial capital to help them make that a reality.
Through the Challenge Cup they put the spotlight of enterprises that they’ve selected from around the world and talk about critical issues and exciting ideas effecting our industries.
“The Challenge Festival is a week of events convening the people with the best ideas for global impact in education, energy & sustainability, health, and transportation & cities.”
To be included in this group has been humbling and surreal. But we had to work for it – enjoying the nerves and unknown of a pitch competition and judge interviews! The week long event focuses on a different category each day, hosting a conference during the day and then each evening, having the 20 startups from each category giving their 2 minute pitches, choosing the winners and then a gala event every night.
So, on Monday night after what was in reality 5 months build up, i awaited my turn and then took to the stage for our 2 minutes to pitch Milaana and our vision!
Here is a taste of what I had to say on behalf of the team
- In the next decade the number of university students will almost double to 262 million.
- Many see this an escalating employment crisis.
- Milaana, sees an army of skilled volunteers!
- Or as we call them: Impact Interns, who can support the innovative but under-resourced projects of the community sector.
I talked about Matt, our first success story and briefly covered how Milaana connects students like him with community projects and what they can gain. I shared the local market opportunity as well as our next focus – Latin America.
Then, the Grand Vision:
A Global Tribe of Social Leaders
We had some questions from the judges and then after a grand total of just 4 minutes in the glaring spotlight, seriously, completely blinding lights! it was all over!
Heart still racing, I went and laughed with the after startups about this ‘what is life’ kind of experience and felt a great sense of relief. It’s amazing how much energy and brainspace preparing for 2 minutes of your life can take!
The quality of the teams was incredible with some already earning millions!!! and we didn’t make it through the next round but we have got so much from this experience. We’ve been able to share Milaana’s story with people from around the world, connect with great mentors and learn about what is happening at the forefront of innovation regarding some of the most challenging areas.
One of the most incredible things has been hearing and meeting amazing entrepreneurs from around the world working on some seriously cool ideas and growing kick-arse businesses. With over 80 startups coming from around the world in a hectic week of events, conferences and pitches we havnt been able to meet everyone but here are some of our favourites.
If all this wasn’t enough, on Monday night after the pitch we went to an event at the Australian Embassy!
It’s been a week full of amazing encounters and we are so grateful for this experience. Not only we do owe a huge thanks to 1776 and their sponsors for making it all possible but also, to you! Its you, our people, our team, our users, our supporters that we owe these amazing opportunities to. Without you, we are just a nice idea and a url. You bring us to life and carry us forward.
It’s not all over yet. This week they have been picking finalists from each category who will compete on Saturday. All the startups (80 in total!!!) will be doing a 45 second pitch for – crowd favourite as well including us so i can’t hang up the hat just yet. While this is deemed as a ‘competition’, set to determine ‘a winner’, the reality is that every single startup is ‘winning’ by making meaningful contributions to their communities and creating great organisations. Behind the flash and novelty of a ‘pitch’ is vision, hard work and many amazing people to bring it all together.
Thank you all for your support to date and going forward. Next steps for us are working to create the best possible product for students and community organisations, building our capacity as an organization and then, growing our reach to create more success stories and more impact in Australia and around the world!