By Oon Yeoh
In an era of online social and business networking, the notion of offline events to meet fellow entrepreneurs seems archaic and perhaps even obsolete. But just as commerce cannot be done completely online, neither can networking. There is some value still in the human touch and face-to-face mingling.
That’s where Pitch ‘n’ Win comes in. The brainchild of Ricky Soo, founder of BizPartner, a domain name, web and e-mail hosting solutions provider. It has its origins in a networking concept Ricky tried out in early 2013 called Business Sharing Over Dinner, a monthly event where his clients could come together and speak on IT and business topics.
“It had a great start but the attendance dwindled over time,” says Ricky. In time he had to invite personal friends to fill up the seats. Something obviously had to be tweaked to make the concept work.
He decided to incorporate aspects of gamification into his business networking evens. So, he designed the Pitch ‘n’ Win event model where participants share their business for three minutes each, and then the group vote for the top two presenters, who will then be given 15 minutes each to elaborate on their pitch.
Rebranding it as Pitch ‘n’ Win, Ricky posted the event on Facebook and received an overwhelming response. All eight pitching slots for the event were quickly filled up. The first Pitch ‘n’ Win event was organized as on 13 July, 2013 in Zest Cafe, Bangsar South. Over 20 people attended, eight members pitched their businesses, and two winners were selected.
“The response was very positive,” recalls Ricky. “Everyone learned something new that day. It was a great validation of the Pitch ‘n’ Win model.”
He decided to carry on organizing more of such events. In fact, the idea was so popular, it quickly spawned various offshoots and Pitch ‘n’ Win changed from being event by a company to becoming an entrepreneur’s grassroots movement, something Ricky wholeheartedly welcomes.
Likening Pitch ‘n’ Win to open source software, Ricky encourages individuals and businesses to adopt the event model and to organise their own version for their own group of target participants, in their own style, content and language.
“Anyone who wants to be a Pitch ‘n’ Win event organiser can freely copy the event model and adapt to his or her own needs,” says Ricky. “They just need to abide by certain minimal requirements, such as keeping the pitching and gamification elements. Other than that, organizers can freely innovate to add more value to their events.”
This liberal attitude had allowed Pitch ‘n’ Win to grow remarkably fast. From its origins as a platform for tech-savvy individuals to gather and share ideas, Pitch ‘n’ Win in its various incarnations now caters to all kinds of businesses.
Within three months of its launch, Pitch ‘n’ Win had attracted seven business owners to organize their own Pitch ‘n’ Win events, including those in Bahasa Malaysia (pic) and in Chinese. These organisers include a café owner, a management consultant, a branding guru, an Internet marketing guru, a software company own, a platform owner for social entrepreneurship, and a business trainer.
By the end of 2013, in less than six months, an impressive 25 Pitch ‘n’ Win events were successfully organized.
Although the two core elements in each Pitch ‘n’ Win event are pitching and winning, the event is not really focused on impressing potential investors, but to reach out to a much broader audience, and perhaps contrary to its name, its main purpose is not fund-raising but information sharing.
“First and foremost, Pitch ‘n’ Win is an event platform where all can join, speak up, share about their business and ideas, connect to one another, judge the presentations and vote for the best presenters,” says Ricky. “It’s not very formal, it’s not intimidating. We are all here to learn from one another.”
Best of all, participation is free although members have to pay for their own meals if the event is held in a restaurant or café. “We don’t charge any entrance fee or membership fee,” says Ricky “Everyone can come and go as they wish. It’s really quite open.”
Although he started the concept, Ricky does not control the various offshoots. “Pitch ‘n’ Win events are actually owned by individual event organizers,” he says, adding that he views it less as a franchise and more like a social movement that empowers entrepreneurs to present their ideas to their peers in the business world.
“Sharing and networking is a basic need for entrepreneurs,” he says. “Pitch ‘n’ Win is a means for this need to be satisfied in a structured manner.”
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.