The setting was a small conference room at the Marriot in the year that was 2006. We had heard Ken Morse was making a brief stopover in town on his way to Isloo and Nida my MIT sister had managed to pick up four invitations from the MIT Club in Karachi.
We were a very young firm with some idea of where we wanted to be and reasonably comfortable with where we were. Not exactly fat and happy, but on our way there. We had no idea how this first meeting with Ken was going to change our lives.
Ken walked in and spoke for about 50 minutes on entrepreneurship and then broke for lunch. It wasn’t a long session but he did enough to make an impression and I envied the team at Mobilink that would get to spend two days with him. The highlight was Ken ability to get the entrepreneurs within the group an offer for 40 lunches each if we ever went broke.
So when Ken came back in March to run the workshop he had run in Isloo, we showed up in strength. Five members of the team from Alchemy spent two days with Ken, Bill Aulet and David Specter getting a reality check. We thought we were masters of our universe but it took Ken just under 3 minutes to show how sorry a shape we were in. It took him another 30 seconds to show the world of opportunity that exists if we could only get our act together.
And did he do it with class. There are very few teachers, academic or otherwise, that can move an audience. There are even fewer who can touch a life. Rarer still are those, who can challenge destiny. Ken did all three.
In July 2007, Ken and Bill came back. This time they had a plan.
It wasn’t enough to do just workshops and fan the fire inside, it was now time to help us break through.
One part process, one part mentoring, one part inspiration, the MIT EF Business Acceleration Plan or BAP would take a handful of companies and help them challenge destiny.
Now remember in July 2007 we were still a small firm. Our two days with the MITEF team had shown us what was possible but we still couldn’t dare dream the dreams Ken had shared. Could we take ourselves higher?
There were questions of eligibility, confidentiality of plans and numbers, sharing strategy with strangers. Would opening ourselves be worth the benefits BAP would bring?
Opening up is always an issue, especially when you also have competition waiting in the wings and on the sidelines. But with hindsight, the caliber of the mentor group and the quality of the advice that we received and the value the BAP processes created for us, opening up was a very small price to pay. It was a steal.
Our first one on one session was with a veteran of the valley who after listening to our pitch for 15 minutes simply said. I get it. He then helped us over the next 3 hours and 2 weeks to get our pitch together.
A pitch is a funny thing. Till you share it with an outsider, you think you are God’s gift to mankind. Then the outsider says “So what?” Which is what happened… First Ghulam Nourie and then Umair Khan pulled the so what on us.
Both, ultimately, got the gist of what we were trying to sell, but their take was that it had to be a lot more polished, concise and short.
I still remember when Umair described that a pitch had to be like a 007 (James bond movie). First 10 minutes an exciting action sequence and a great score to keep you at your seat’s edge and then you can bore them to death. Just before they dropped off to sleep, you’d bring Q in with an exciting gadget and a good looking car and wake them up.
He then said turning banking risk and regulation software into a James Bond flick will be a lot of work, but if you could do it, you would do very well.
The MIT BAP didn’t stop there.
When was the last time someone you respect a great deal gave you a thumbs up. Son, you are doing a great job and you will go far. Let me know when you need a helping hand, I would be more than happy to do what I can. Do you remember the warm glow that comes from this recognition and appreciation?
When was the last time this group of elders included the MD of the MIT Entrepreneurial Labs, the ex CFO of IBM (global), the head of a 400 million US$ Financial services consulting practice and multiple VC’s and serial entrepreneurs?
The MIT BAP didn’t just stop with fixing our pitch. It also gave us the perfect audience and the confidence to go in front of them and win.
All they asked in return was to dream dreams beyond our dreams.
For more on MITEF BAP, please see their website and Jawwad post’s on MITEF BAP