Stepping Up to the Hot Seat

Students make their pitch on the Hot Seat at the Summer Venture Program.

One by one on a Wednesday afternoon, Summer Venture Program (SVP) entrepreneurs took their place in front of a classroom of peers.

With a slideshow presentation behind them, the entrepreneurs pitched their products. Some shared personal stories to relate to the audience, while others disclosed powerful statistics to make their point more compelling.

This pitch practice featured a special guest: MassChallenge CEO Siobhan Dullea. She was there to listen and provide feedback as entrepreneurs prepared for the upcoming Summer Venture Showcase.

“They really appreciated her comments and advice, considering she has been so involved in the Boston startup ecosystem,” said Antonette Ho, associate director of entrepreneur programs for the Blank Center.

The Blank Center makes pitch practice a key component of SVP. First launched in 2010, the Hot Seat, a signature experience of SVP, is a chance for entrepreneurs to practice pitching and receive real-time feedback. All SVP participants go on the Hot Seat at least once during the summer.

Before taking the metaphorical stage, entrepreneurs must identify their role-playing audience, frequently as investors or customers.

After their pitch, the group provides the entrepreneur with feedback not on the business model, but how engaging and persuasive the entrepreneur was in their pitch. A group then works with the entrepreneur to fine tune their pitch ahead of the showcase.

Ho said the purpose of the Hot Seat is for participants to receive honest feedback.

“SVP is not for credit,” Ho said. “The exercise really helps them hone in on their skill set as a presenter and communicator.”

“Because there’s no grade attached to it, a lot of people when providing feedback are more honest.”

The Summer Venture Showcase is the culmination of the annual program. For 10 weeks, 13 teams of undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurs from Babson College, F.W. Olin College of Engineering, and Wellesley College have developed their ventures, from consumer products to services and tech, while receiving expert advice and access to top resources along the way.

Posted in Community, Entrepreneurial Leadership

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