By Sara Ellington
While the tagline for a Big iDea Pitch yesterday afternoon was “less searching, more discovery” with 15 very different pitches in two hours, the deliberation was quite the opposite. It seems only natural the contest started with a student’s idea of a gun attachment that would change the sound of the gun’s firing – allowing for officers to differentiate between their own guns and others – as well as initiate the demand for a perfect pitch in the presentations to come.
Defined as “an idea that has the potential to make a big impact on society” according to SMU’s Big iDeas website, students have just 90 seconds to intrigue a panel of judges enough to believe in the importance of that big impact. Two-and-a-half minutes of judge Q&A follow in order to get more details on the project, which often included the standard “How is this different from an existing program?”
If the time constraints and foreseeable industry competitors were not sufficient, the pressure of competing against 15 other passionate presenters – of which eight contenders win – to gain the $1,000 prize definitely was. Without the funds for any major action to get concepts off the ground, the majority of pitches were still in the planning stages, meaning that one grant of seed money could potentially be the difference between an up-and-coming program and an old idea collecting dust in a few years.
However, based off of the determined presentations, the latter may not even be a possibility for any candidate. Beyond the quality of the pitch, the judges also needed to get a grasp on the character and talent of each innovator to ensure their chosen winners have the qualities necessary to turn a complex thought into a prototype or pilot in three months time. By continually pressing, “What is your background in this?” the audience and judges soon learned many students have been developing these projects for years.
From a young man who was bullied growing up desiring to create an anonymous social media app geared towards positivity and encouragement, to a dancer who is seeking acceptance of all body shapes through a leotard business, to a swimmer turned engineer who wants to revolutionize training with LED lights along swimming pool lanes, the event was not short of energy and entrepreneurship.
As another presenter said about Dallas, “It’s not that there’s too little to do, it’s that there’s too much.” With so many shining Big iDeas, it’s difficult to tell which ones are chosen to make the Dallas skyline a little brighter.