Impressions of a Huddle

3 Dec 2021

by Najeeb Khan, SEF ’14

Najeeb Khan SEF '14This is another installment from our series of articles in the CSI Facebook Takeover Week

It’s 6am on October 20th and I’m wide awake as soon as the alarm rings. Thoughts of my presentation come flooding into my mind immediately, even before I even get out of bed. As I get ready, I keep rehearsing the presentation I prepared the night before. Having presented once before in June, I know what to expect: the judges, the build up and the familiar faces of SSE Ontario.

However, my venture has changed since the last time. I have made some revenue, but my direction has changed and my goal is to explain two ideas in one 4 minute pitch. As I approach downtown in the subway, I find out there is a delay causing a slower than normal commute time. Having known my schedule previously, I know that I am the last to present, a welcome relief from the last time, when I was first.

The setting is similar but different. Same city. Same Building. Same elevators, but a completely different office. This one is filled with the white, purple and pink hues of RSA. As I step out of the elevators, I’m greeted by the warm SSE Ontario staff; Missy at the front ready with all the name badges organized on the table in front of her.

Stepping inside the office, I see the gorgeous skyline and lake Ontario in the distance, some of my peers on the couches to my left in the waiting area. Having familiar faces in the room, with some of their mentors and some new huddle coaches, puts me at ease, especially when there is breakfast on the table.

Talking with my peers, I realize that some are nervous, some are relaxed and some like me, having definite goals they want to get out of this huddle (impressing a previous huddle judge led to a follow-up meeting to discuss a serious business transaction). Although my venture has tweaked, I wanted to do the same and this time. I had one judge out of all that I wanted to impress and that was Paul. Paul is part of the local angel network and he would be a great person to get to know better after my pitch.

As I enter into my group’s huddle room, I try find Paul’s face in the room (using the huddle package with the judges’ bios as my guide). I sit at the back and watch as the first of my peers takes the stage. With all the slides cued up, Sun Drews presents “A Good Death” – educating society about the process of death. One by one, my fellow students pitch their venture, each for only 4 minutes, followed by the judges comments. The judges comments are both insightful and very actionable. As the day progresses, I start to take notes and adjust a few of my slides to account for all the judges comments.

After about six presentations we break for lunch,  during which participate in a video interview for the Huddle session. Upon coming back into the room, I see my mentor Jeff Forrest enter the office. As the lunch ends, and with coffee shop style noise in the background, Jeff and I discuss the strategy and the goal of my pitch. He mentions that I should be ready for any questions, including discussing any financials. Prepped and ready, I head back into the room and wait my turn. With my presentation next in line, I mentally rehearse my pitch in the room of the room. As Bryan finishes his pitch, I quickly open up my platform demo to test out the analytics page. As the judges comments start to wind down, I go over my pitch one last time, and then suddenly, it’s time.

I walk up to the podium and connect my laptop to the projector, remembering to smile and have eye contact with the judges. I look at my learning mentor, Chryssa who gives me the nod to begin, and it starts. I begin to talk about the challenges in the fundraising industry and the opportunities, and I see the judges, Naki, Ken, Sean and Paul nodding their heads in approval. Then I show the Chaara.org platform, the social network connecting charities and donors, and move into the analytics page. This is where they begin to grasp the idea. As I see Chryssa giving me the 30 second countdown, I quickly talk about the ‘friendraising’ element of my pitch and wind it up. All done and now I brace myself for the comments.

Naki goes first, she mentions that having worked in fundraising she can see the useful application of my platform and really likes it. Sean and Ken make great suggestions about choosing a focus for B2B and B2C. Paul likes the GIS element and asks what my biggest challenge is. I say it’s funding, to which he replies “I might be able to guide you on that” – exactly what I need to hear. To which Chryssa said, “this is the perfect time to end on the high note”.

With my pitch done, I go talk to the judges informally to arrange follow-up for after the weekend. As I leave the room, I talk with my mentor Jeff about my pitch and the rest of my peers to hear how their pitches had gone, and am delighted to find out they all had good experiences. It was smiles all around, a fitting end!

Since writing this story, Najeeb has started another great venture, 1 For Hunger, which makes dining out a whole lot more meaningful. Check it out at http://1for.com/