Neuro Nexus 2020: Pitch Day Recap

Neuro Nexus 2020: Pitch Day Recap
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Last Saturday was our kickoff event for Neuro Nexus 2020, where Challenge Champions and Innovators completed the team formation period of the event. Out of 40+ challenges submitted, 30 were chosen, with their pitches streamed live in the morning and made available to over 300 of the accepted Innovators. (You can view the playlist here)

We expected a strong showing from the major cities of Alberta (and we got it!) but were blown away to see that Innovators were dialing in from 35 cities in 7 countries across the world. You can see more details on the distribution of their education in the figure below, with the majority coming from Engineering and Computer Science, and the remainder from Neuroscience, Psychology, Medical focused degrees, and more.

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After a short break for lunch, we provided an opening message from the orgnaizers, and also heard from Jennifer Dotchin, Executive Director at Campus Alberta Neuroscience (our presenting sponsor), and from our Sr. Programming Director & Host; Pauline De Jesus, for instructions on how this virtual team formation would occur (new for us via Airmeet!).

We dove right in, with over 300 participants in the event (including organizers). In the week prior, Innovators had been viewing the posted pitch videos on our Challenge Directory, asking questions in our Slack channel, and filling out a questionnaire on their top picks. We used that information to generate a priority schedule for the next few time slots. This turned out to be key in coordinating the needed discussions between prospective team members and the champions, and while there were some hiccups (with people finding the wrong tables, connection issues, etc), it was the strongest portion of the event.

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Airmeet currently allows 8 people per table. This allowed for 1 challenge champion, 1 Neuro Nexus facilitator, and up to 6 team members at any one time. To ensure Innovators all had an opportunity to speak to the Challenge Champions they were interested in, we opened up the schedule to a speed-networking style event, with members clicking on virtual ‘Tables’ to join a videoconference as spots became available. Champions (and their volunteers) were taking notes during this time on the questions asked, names, and skill sets of the Innovators.
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Similar to the high-energy live events we’ve put on in the past, this was a bit of a mad dash which lasted until we took a break for the deliberation period to begin. Champions made their top picks on a live spreadsheet, to the watchful eye of the Innovators, and the final round of team formation came to a close with Innovators going to their assigned table, or joining any table with a spot remaining to make their last case to join the team.

We learned a number of lessons during the event.

  • Getting between motivated Innovators and an empty seat at their chosen challenge is a losing game! Often the tables would fill up and we’d need to make special announcements to allow an organizer back in.
  • Taking notes during rapid networking sessions is difficult! Having an assigned note-taker helps the process considerably.
  • The mad dash at the end could have been streamlined by having Innovators & Champions ranking their picks as they went, with another round of structured networking at the end based on those results.

While some of the teams are still filling any remaining gaps by direct communication in Slack, we’re doing all we can to help support them over the next intensive 6-weeks. This includes coordinating over 8 workshops from a range of topics which can be attended by any member of our community. If you have skills you’d like to contribute, we’d love for you to sign up as a mentor which would give you access to those as well. This usually entails an hour or so a week of answering emailed questions, videoconferencing, or making an introduction for a team who’s requested mentorship in your domain.

Over the next 6 weeks, the teams will have developed their prototype. We can’t wait for you to join us on November 30th at our Demo Day to see the results of their work and their 1-minute fast pitches as they compete to win a portion of over $80K in awards, and go out into the growing neurotech community as graduates with all the support we can offer them.

The event will be open to the public, be sure to register (or sign up for our newsletter to be reminded) so we can see you there.

Cheers
Jeremy Braun & Hailey Cuddihey
Senior Engagement Co-Directors, Neuro Nexus 2020