Looking to get your innovative idea incubated? It is no easy feat getting into a campus incubation cell. Only about 25% of ideas pitched make it in. But there are things you can do to up your chances. First, understand the industry you’re tapping into; research your business proposal; show dedication. Members on selection committees say this is what they look for. How can they tell? Let us count the ways…
Members of the selection committee take notice of how effectively you can explain your vision for your business. “If you’re clear about what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for and why you are doing it, and then clear about how, that is when the quality of your presentation is going to go up,” says professor Kaustav Majumdar, head of start-ups and incubation at Bhavan’s SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR).
Expect members of the vetting committee to quiz you to test if you have done your due diligence. “I have a series of questions that me and my fellow mentors use in first-round vetting. We want to know, essentially, whether the person has done their homework,” Majumdar says.
Deliver a persuasive speech
Effective use of language is vital. “If you have linguistic abilities, it certainly helps you connect with people,” says Majumdar. Having a human-to-human connection while making your pitch helps the selection committee get a better read on you as an individual and what you might be like to work with.
Dress for success
Presentability is of utmost importance, says Pratham Mittal, head of new initiatives at Lovely Professional University (LPU). It is important to make an effort to look professional — avoid loud colours and opt for outfits in neutral colours instead; makes sure your shoes are clean, your hair tidy. “These are small things. But when have you come across a successful entrepreneur to whom these do not apply?” says Mittal.
Don’t argue with the panel about your product. Don’t oversell and claim it’s ‘unique’ or ‘disruptive’ if it’s not. “If you’re arrogant, then you’re not getting selected. You should be curious. Arrogance is a complete put-off” says Mittal.
An enthusiastic young mind eager to get going on their business idea is what the selection committee likes to see. But also an eager young mind looking to learn; a person with the ability to recognise a mistake or a wrong turn and the humility to correct it.
Certain characteristics in student entrepreneurs help the selection committee identify who is fit for the cause. “What we check first and foremost is, how strong is the conviction? That is a very important aspect because entrepreneurship is not a smooth ride. We want to make sure without discouraging the students that he or she is aware of that,” Majumdar says.
A show of willingness to be vulnerable and learn new things can set you apart from other student entrepreneurs. Also, make it clear that you are incubating not for an experience or to test a theory, but that you’re in it for the long haul.
Ultimately, panelists want to know you’ll stay committed to your business even when the going gets tough. “Building a company requires way more than what a 9-to-5 job might. It requires sufficient ability to take risks and face uncertainties,” says Priya Mohan, head of investor relations and communication manager at the IIT-Madras Incubation Cell.
Try, try again
One of the best parts of trying to get your project in an incubation centre on campus is the wealth of resources and guidance available to maximise your chances of getting selected.
Failing to get your projected incubated doesn’t mean the end of the road. Go back to the drawing board, seek advice and prepare better for another try. “Entrepreneurship is not an exact science,” says Majumdar. “None of us really knows what’s going to work or not work. One needs to keep trying; stay at it, keep improving, but never give up.”