GlobalTiC (國際創新創業發展協會, is a non-profit organization that every year organizes an International business plan competition called the Talentrepreneur Award. This year (August 18-21) they had teams from twelve countries flying in to Taiwan to compete against each other and Taiwanese teams.

It was the 8th time they organize this competition and it was the 5th time I had the chance to attend as one of their mentors and judges. It is interesting to see all the start-ups from around the world and see how they are solving problems, some of them quite local, some with global applications.

It started out on Monday with the teams spending several hours practicing their pitches over and over to different mentors to get as much diverse feedback as possible.

The mentors are also an International bunch with people coming from countries like Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, Peru, India, USA, Japan, Indonesia and of course Taiwan (is it ok if I count myself in the Taiwan group for this purpose?).

Tuesday was filled with seminars and panel discussions on topics like fund raising and running social enterprises.

On Wednesday all teams pitched their companies to the judges. The judges were divided up in two groups and each group listened to and gave scores to 12 start-ups. Each team had 15 minutes to make their case and 5 minutes for Q&A.

Personally I listened to Group A

Some random thoughts that occurred to me while listening to all these pitches:

Time your presentation. Several teams used so much time talking about their product they did not have enough time talking about their company, team, market, financials etc.
Spell-check! Why would you travel far to present your company without making sure you get the spelling correct? Incorrect language distracts people from the message.
Design – it helps a lot when the team have hired a designer to make the presentation look good. Well worth the cash in my opinion. And keep the words to a minimum. I really do not like it when it seems like the spoken presentation and the slides have nothing to do with each other.
Many of the teams rushed over the financial information and often the slides were so full with numbers that no judge could pick up on important information like market size, margins and return on investments.
Marketing and sales plans were very often completely lacking. Reaching customers takes a lot of time and money. Tell us how you will make it happen.
Teams – we want to know who you are and why we should believe you have the strength and ability to make your company a success.
What do you need help with? Most pitch events are about raising money. If so you should say how much you are currently looking for. Maybe you need other support or advice? State that as well.
Q&A – if you are presenting in a second language it can be tough to understand the questions (I know, I have the same problem!). But if you try to anticipate all questions you can practice that as well.
Let me mention some teams specifically:

You know how crazy some people look when they use a bluetooth phone headset and look like they are talking to themselves? Taiwanese AirSig is a company that will make people look even crazier. Instead of unlocking your phone using a password or a shape, they let you “write” a password by waving your phone in the air. I can just imagine being in a bank or somewhere crowded and the looks I would get after I have energetically waved the phone around a few times.

Paper Shoot makes a very inexpensive digital camera that is designed such that you can buy many paper covers for it to fit your mood or creative touch. Retailing for USD29, the idea is to replace the single-use film cameras that are still sold in many gift shops for those selfie emergencies when you have forgotten your phone. Or, it could be an inexpensive first camera for kids. Or perhaps a give-away for a wedding to capture as many angles as possible.

Sanamakina from Peru is trying to solve two problems at once. 1. Small farms are producing high quality organic produce but get very little for it in terms of money. 2. City dwellers get fatter and unhealthier by the minute due to the crap we put in our bodies. Their solution is to set up a distribution/production chain that stretches from the far away farms to vending machines sporting healthy choices in the cities. They are soon to reach 70+ machines in Peru and it will be interesting to see if they can take the model to other countries as well.

The overall winner turned out to be Ilumexico ( from…you guessed it, Mexico!

Ilumexico is a social enterprise that is bringing light to the countryside that still do not have electricity.

A family borrows (usually) USD350 to buy a kit made up of a solar panel, a battery and two LED lights. The family can now stop buying the candles they have been buying. They get better, stronger light so the day becomes longer and you actually read at night. Most families pay pack the loan within a year. It takes about 3 years to break even on the purchase vis-à-vis the candle costs and then they have basically free electricity for another 17 years or so.

To date they have sold about 3000 kits and are now moving into other countries as well.

Ilumexico won not just because they have a nice cause but also because they have executed their plan well, presented well, and covered all the main points the judges were scoring on.

Personally I can understand those families really need the solar power and look forward to when we here in Taipei start taking advantage of the power of the sun as well.