“Burning the midnight oil”

So as part of my role for Pistoia Alliance I run the President’s Challenge. Tonight is the closing day for entries to this year’s challenge, so I thought I’d give you a quick update on how this year is looking and a few of my thoughts about running a startup competition.

It is just gone midnight in the UK and still some entries are just being completed, in fact there were 4 new startups that just registered today!

The thing I’ve learnt about these challenges is that no matter how long I have the competition open for entries, no-one enters until right near the deadline. This is understandable, a startup’s primary efforts have to be around designing, building and promoting their product or idea. However for the organiser of the competition, this fills me with fear every time: “will I get any entries?” “What do I do if I don’t?”

So this is why I’m sitting here putting down my thoughts as I while away the time waiting to see who enters, so, here goes

What I’ve learnt:

  • The deadline is the driver!
  • I will get an entry that has no relation to our competition:
    • Usually it’s one of the first ones; just as I think I’ve got my first startup I get someone proposing a travel booking site for boats! (Yes, I know, our competition is for life science informatics startups! But apparently not everyone reads the entry page..
  • I will always find a startup pitch that wows me
  • I will never cease to be amazed by the number of people wanting to improve the future and their passion

What data do I have?

So this year I looked at the behaviour of the entries so I was prepared for the “don’t worry, they will enter soon”. I checked out the previous competitions I’d run and it was as I suspected:

  • 2/3 or 3/4 of startups don’t register until the last 2 weeks of the competition (I typically leave the entry period open for 2-3 months)
  • 90% of all entries aren’t completed until the last 2 weeks
  • But, this is where my nerves get shredded, 55-65% of them don’t actually complete their entry until the last 2 days!

So this is why I’m sitting here on the closing night watching the competition website to see who enters!

“How’s this year looking?”

It is getting late now, so I’m going to call it a day but, before I go, here’s the latest on this year’s entries. We have an interesting mix appearing on the list, with a nice varied set of technologies. From a quick glance, this year we look to have startups covering:

  • AI
  • Deep Learning
  • Natural language Processing
  • IOT
  • eLNB
  • Cloud based platform for clinical trial
  • Medical Devices

All with a life science remit.

“What happens next?”

In a few hours the entry site will close, the judging then starts to select the five finalists via the startupcompete tool. They will score each entrant based upon:

  • Novelty of the Plan
  • Quality of the Plan
  • Potential impact
  • Potential to benefit Pistoia’s members
  • Quality of the Team

I am always in gratitude to our judges, they come as volunteers from our member companies and it is there expertise and knowledge covering both scientific and informatics fields that makes our selection process a strong one.

We will keep you posted as the finalists are selected, our aim is to announce by the end of next week. (7/8th September).

Good night.


Innovation Lead

Pistoia Alliance