Close to 500 people showed up for the first Hi Tech Hub event in Ramallah on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. The room was packed with students, IT professional, university professors, managers, CEOs, government officials and those interested in the Palestinian tech startup community.
We had two amazing speakers, Wael Manasra and Sami Shalabi, who both traveled from the US to be with us. The crowd loved them and after the meeting, it seemed that the two weren’t only entrepreneurs, but more like celebrities with people surrounding them trying to get a few words in and exchange business cards or emails. The speeches were both fantastic and inspiring and for the most part, I would say that the event was a huge success.
However, I think it’s important to note that nothing is perfect and even the best event can have a few glitches that we can improve for next time. I wanted to start with the areas for improvement and later write another article describing the strong points of the event. In my view, the areas that we could improve are:
1. Sound: the hall was large, there were a lot of people and the speakers weren’t distributed/working properly. The doors were open and there was a lot of sound coming from outside, especially in the back. The speakers were each holding a microphone which I quickly realized wasn’t the best choice. Every movement and the volume would change. If the speaker moved hands or shook his head, the voice would fade. Next time, I think it’s very important that we try to replace the mics with the headpiece mics, it will give people the freedom of both hands as well a constant volume. While we’re at it, there should have also been a clicker for the PowerPoint slides so that the speakers could control their slides without having to go back and forth to the laptop.
2. Organization: While great efforts were made to make sure that everything was planned properly, we started a little late, the pitching section got way out of control. Next time, startups pitching will be told they have two minutes and understand there is a timer in front of them who will hold up cards to show them how much time has passed. Anyone over 2.5 minutes will be disqualified from any prizes. The intent was for the event to be informal, that doesn’t mean it has to be unorganized.
Other comments I heard:
3. The voting wasn’t fair: I don’t really understand it when someone says that the voting wasn’t fair. It was open, democratic and transparent. Anyone could vote for whoever they wanted and everyone was given one vote. Many times it is a popularity contest or those with the greatest supporters win. That’s one of the facts of life, it doesn’t have to be fair because life isn’t fair and most of the time, neither is business. So what can we do about it? We need to do a better job of attracting customers/votes and show them why our product or service deserves their support. The other option for voting was to have a committee evaluate the startups and then we would have an even larger number of people telling us that the voting wasn’t fair.
4. The selection of startups to pitch wasn’t fair: I can understand this point. The only option we had at the moment was to get nominations of startups and ask them to pitch during the event. We will need to find a better criteria for selecting startups, but unfortunately, the time and space are limited, whereas there are a lot of startups that would like the opportunity to pitch their ideas.
5. Better content was needed: I think the content delivered by the two speakers was great, we just needed a better sound system with the crowded room. For the pitching, I think better organization of the event could have cut the pitches into two minutes each like they were supposed to be. I don’t know if that would have solved the problem, but I’ll have to ask more about this point and get more feedback.
I’ll write another article soon to describe what I think are the strong points of the meeting. In all cases, I’d be really happy to get feedback and comments on other things that we can improve.