Andrew Drinkwater

A few weeks ago I put myself in the hot seat and presented Plaid Analytics pitch to about 80 founders and venture catalyst Diraj Perkash Goel. The idea was to learn from the experience of Diraj and others in the audience, while being a little bit vulnerable and talking about areas where we think we could stand to improve at Plaid. 

I’ve been reflecting on the experience, and I’m glad I participated. Here’s why:

🟣 Learning from others.

I got complimented for having a great pitch, but I also learned that I could tighten up some of my key messaging around the work plaid is doing in enrolment planning really and truly matters for leadership in universities and colleges. 

🟣 Get out of the higher education bubble.

Within Canadian higher education, everyone has heard about the international study permit changes. In the tech community, many have but they are less familiar with the impacts, such as a $4B projected budget hole on the horizon. Taking the time to explain things to an audience who isn’t in this world every day has helped me think through the core message and simplify the things that just don’t matter. 

🟣 Learning from investors.

As a bootstrapped company, this is rare for us. I’ve long followed Diraj’s work and have been struck by his willingness to dig into issues collaboratively, ask questions, and provide ideas that hadn’t been previously considered. I like how he can surface a parallel example from another industry that is really helpful. It reminds me of the start of my analytics career and applying lessons learned about Tableau at UPS in shipping to problems in higher education. The industry may be different, but we can learn from each other. 

🟣 Networking.

I met others who either work in or aspire to work in the education space. Some had been education agents, some dreamed of starting an edtech, some worked for big consulting firms. But all had interesting questions and shared their own experiences, which helped me learn about more sides of the market we all serve. 

It wasn’t without challenges. I was a bit nervous - I haven’t presented to a live audience that big since I was a student recruiter. Issues with the microphone that alternated me between sounding like Barry White and Mickey Mouse sometimes distracted me. I wondered how my pitch would sound compared to other professional entrepreneurs. But I practiced, thought about the things I really wanted to mention, and went up there to talk about our vision and dreams and why those mattered enough that we all left good jobs in universities and colleges to pursue helping make enrolment planning faster, more transparent, and more accurate than what is done today. 

I’m grateful to our hosts at Convergence, the Vancouver Tech Journal, and GetFresh Ventures for putting on a great event. 

If you’re on the fence about participating, I’d encourage you to give it a go. I really enjoyed it and hope I can join again and give back to other founders in the hot seat.