A New Member, and One Final Push to the End

As I referenced in my last post, we lost one of our group members during our second week at the European Innovation Academy. After being with us for over a week and contributing a lot of useful information to our group, he simply vanished without a word of where he was going or why he left, leaving the rest of us to finish his part of the project. That all changed on the first day of week three, when I was contacted by another student from the University of Alabama, who joined me and 22 other UA students to participate in the program. He was the CEO of his former group – essentially their group leader – who had been ostracized by his fellow group members for electing to remove an unproductive member of their team, a power afforded to all individuals chosen to be their group’s CEO. His team members didn’t like the fact that he removed this person without asking them first, so he came to me asking if he could join my team. Knowing his work ethic and skillset, I agreed and successfully convinced the rest of my team to let him on board.

In the few days he was with us, I believe he did more work than any of us had done individually for the past two weeks. His work ethic and “strong” personality motivated us to work as hard as we could for the remainder of the program, and thanks to his leadership we were able to make the cut to present our project to the investors that awaited us on the final day of the program. Unfortunately, our final pitch to the investors was, frankly, a disaster. We had decided to allow one of the quietest members of our group to present our project as he had a “winning smile” and, admittedly, a fair amount of charisma. What he lacked, however, was experience; when he went up to pitch our business idea to the investors, he stuttered, froze for several seconds at a time, and forgot several critical portions of the script. He had forgotten so much of what he was supposed to say that at one point I personally had to step in to try to “save” the pitch, but it was all for not. I knew that we weren’t going to make the top ten groups as soon as I heard one of the investors ask us what our business idea was. Take this, dear reader, as a lesson from someone who has gone through this program when I say that, should you decide to participate in this program, make sure the person you chose to pitch has had experience pitching and giving presentations. It’s easy to think that the most charismatic person on the team would be a good presenter, but being able to pitch requires more than a good smile, it requires, practice, confidence, and a thorough understanding of what the project is all about.

All in all, I enjoyed my time in Portugal, and in the European Innovation Academy. While I wish we had done a better job with our final pitch, I did learn a lot from the program. I learned about team dynamics, leadership, and some of the more obtuse parts of business that I’ve yet to learn about at UA, such as intellectual property regulations, trademarks, and marketing strategies. I also formed new friendships with people from around the globe and cultivated new knowledge on how to survive living in a foreign country all on my own. Though it saddens me that the program is now over and I must return to my normal life, the experiences I had in Portugal will never leave me, and I’m a better person because of them.