The class is called Entrepreneurs in Journalism. The requirement of the class at UMass is that everyone in the room has to have a dream. An idea that they want to turn into something big. They meet on the 7th floor of the big UMass library at an early hour. This isn’t one of those 1:20 classes where kids are sleepy and attention wanders. That meant a lot to me as I took the floor in front of them yesterday.
As I usually do, I began with the ‘go round’ where I asked each of the students about their project. But, I said, I want to hear just the ‘elevator pitch,’ the succinct description in just a few sentences that would convince someone to invest. Their pitches were practiced…it was clear that this wasn’t the first time they’d done this.
Apps were described, and websites that mashed together travel and social media. One guy had a idea to show all of the best wave breaks on people’s smartphones and get them out surfing at the right moments. Another student wanted to knit together the community of farmers, strengthening their communications and using the power of the networks to preserve their way of life and encourage young people to take up farming. A third student wanted to give people ways to overcome shyness and use games to be more social and make friends.
I threw out questions, challenging them on the all important ‘monetization’ and after all had presented, I told them a short version of my story. I gave them advice on the power of face to face pitches…and how it diminished down when phones, letters emails and then social media were used. At the end, I got the ultimate reward as I stood waiting for the elevator. Two kids bounded out of the room and approached me. “I want to work for you!” one said. The other wanted to talk more about his idea.
I was energized for the rest of the day…their enthusiasm was contagious!