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  • Writer's pictureNirjhar Bala

Together23 Experience

This is a short series to blog about my experience, as a Schulich - MBA India Cohort student in the #Together23 program.

A brilliant initiative from the Schulich School of Business - York University and Startup India, #Together23 gave the Schulich India cohort an excellent opportunity to step into the world of #entrepreneurship! The whole program was embedded with our first entrepreneurial course, - #MGMT6905 - "Bringing Business Ideas to Life", masterfully co-instructed by Chris Carder and Shray Kumar Bhatnagar.

The entire program was essentially divided into 2 parts.

Part 1 - Preparing and Equipping

The course duration of #MGMT6905 carried the responsibility to equip the students of Schulich India, with the knowledge, tools, and technologies, that will turn out to be crucial in helping budding student entrepreneurs in India. Apart from the thorough coursework inside the classroom, we attended several guest lectures delivered by global industry experts to understand the approach to pitching, venture capital, funding, scaling, prototyping, pivoting, and mentoring. We also got the opportunity to experience the startup ecosystem in person, through a very insightful visit to T-Hub - the world’s largest innovation center! The complete curriculum was meticulously designed to give us the right blend of classroom concepts and interactive real-world applications, which were essential to the role we students were going to play in the next part.

Part 2- Practicing and Supporting

Towards the conclusion of the course work for #MGMT6905, we were paired with our start-up teams, along with experienced entrepreneurial mentors to support the entire team. This is where students from Schulich put their learnings to use and consult the top 21 student entrepreneur teams, to make compelling pitches for their start-ups. Over a duration of 3 weeks, we collaborated with the start-up teams to understand and improve their problem statements, target persona, solution prototypes, and monetizing strategy. While we were expected to identify areas of improvement to strengthen the pitch, we were also supported by immensely experienced serial entrepreneurs, who served as mentors and helped us out of tricky situations and added finesse to our execution. Finally, we helped the student-led start-ups deliver their semi-final pitch-deck, and video pitch for #Together23. The top 6 out of the 21 participating teams were then further coached by industry experts, to prepare for their final live pitches in front of the awesome #Together23 judges panel!

There were generous cash awards, mentorship, and a number of enabling rewards for the winning startups. However, the intangible benefits of immense learning, access to a global network of entrepreneurs and VCs, and recognition from industry leaders were invaluable.

The Schulich team of I, Bhasker Bhargava Sayala, and ARCHANA JHA, were paired to support an awesome startup called WalkingPal, founded by Junaid Ahmed. Junaid started his entrepreneurial journey with a vision to bring people closer, in person, over the idea of walking together! In the age where we are more connected over social media and yet disconnected from social interaction in real life, the idea to bring people closer and have in-person social interactions over a walk moved us.

The Touch-base!

We had a great introductory call with Junaid, where he was happy to "walk us ;)" through his journey with WalkingPal and all that he had achieved with his team. When we first saw the WalkingPal pitch, we were pleasantly surprised to see how the very young entrepreneur was able to put together such a high-quality pitch, which was a superb representation of all the work that went into building the start-up. However, thanks to our prep in Part-1, we were able to find a few areas for improvement that would take the pitch to the next level.

First Mentorship Session!

The WalkingPal team would have been absolutely incomplete without our awesome mentors, Vlad Sherbatov and Hadi Curtay, who brought in tremendous experience in entrepreneurship to support us through our transformational journey. In our first mentorship session, we were delighted to find that our very experienced mentors boiled down their feedback to the same areas that we students from Schulich had identified. In the immediate next moment, we were left in awe of the curated recommendations our mentors made to exquisitely address the areas of improvement. This was a great validation of our learning from #MGMT6905 and made us appreciate the practical coursework impeccably designed by Chris Carder and Shray Kumar Bhatnagar. At the same time, this was a profound realization of the miles we had to walk and the unparalleled learning one can only get through - doing!

Throughout the program, the entire team found several such moments that helped us learn through doing. While we could not make it to the top 6 finalists, we sure did take away an amazing experience, and an ambition to learn and do more!

I wish to extend hearty congratulations to the winners of #Together23, Team Stimuler founded by @Akshay Akash, and Team Udaan founded by Anupriy and Prisha! At the same time massive kudos to the rest of the teams for actively competing and making #Together23 a great success.

Before I wrap, I would like to give a sincere shoutout to Junaid Ahmed, for being such a sport in taking constructive feedback, for taking on the daunting task of pivoting, and for setting benchmarks in building relationships and being an awesome mentee! Do check out WalkingPal, and support our friend!

Feel free to reach out to know more about the awesome #Together23 program.

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