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Have a Business Idea? Make it Happen, says Greater Good Challenge Judge Ali Beba, Ph.D.

Through his foundation, Ali Beba, Ph.D. led the launch of The Greater Good Challenge business pitch competition and will serve as a judge. The competition is hosted by the Career Design Lab and made possible with support from the Beba Foundation and Turkish Philanthropy Funds

Professor Ali Beba is an internationally-renowned expert in entrepreneurship, research, and teaching who has advised organizations like P&G, World Bank and the United Nations. With a career spanning more than 35 years, Professor Beba specializes in designing and launching entrepreneurship programs and funding, including the "One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition" at Hong Kong Science and Technology University and the Goldman Sachs Foundation's "10,000 Women Entrepreneurs" program in Turkey. 

He recently shared the inspiration behind his latest pitch competition, how COVID-19 changed the plan and why he believes SPS students and alumni can deliver solutions for crises and major world events in the future.

What inspired you to create the Greater Good Challenge?

We had already been planning to run a business pitch competition in 2020. But when the COVID-19 pandemic and its related challenges emerged, we decided to work with the Columbia University School of Professional Studies to transform our business pitch contest into something bigger and more impactful.

We identified three universal areas of need based on the significant shortcomings of this global crisis: health technology, sustainability and supply chain, logistics & coordination. We hope and believe some of the ideas that will emerge from this contest will get us ready for the next big world event.

As social entrepreneurs, we want to help bring ideas to life that will not only make money but also provide meaningful solutions for our global society in the face of large, unpredictable crises."   

This is the kind of situation that led to the creation of the Beba Innovation and Entrepreneurship Foundation in 2018. Our mission is to create passion, ignite enthusiasm, and to prepare the mindsets of innovative young entrepreneurs. Our goal is to assist innovative youth and aspiring women entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into applications, commercial products and/or services for global markets.

How are SPS students uniquely positioned to problem-solve in our current crisis?

With 17 Master's degrees and a very diverse student base, SPS provides a unique opportunity for problem solvers to focus on their specific interest areas. Innovation is at the core of SPS' culture and all current students or alumni are a part of that culture. SPS students are problem solvers, they are curious and current, they go to school in NYC⁠—the capital of the world⁠—and they are innovators. They are well equipped to deal with the problems the current and future crises will bring. This is why we are very excited to see their ideas come September 18th.   

SPS students are problem solvers, they are curious and current... they are innovators."

Your motto is “Make it happen.” What are the universal qualities of a strong and practical business pitch?

Yes, we really do believe taking action and flawless execution are critical success factors for entrepreneurs. If you have a good idea, you should move forward with it because if you don't, someone else will. The following are the most important universal qualities of strong business pitches:

  1. Understand your target audience and tailor your pitch to meet their needs and motivations.
  2. Know your subject matter very well. Facts and figures are important, but it’s not the only criteria. You must present in a manner that generates expertise and confidence.
  3. A good pitch is succinct. Focus and momentum are your friends. For example, finalists in the Greater Good Challenge will each only have 3 minutes for their pitches.
  4. Focus on the benefits, know your unique selling proposition and have a hook to get your audience engaged; take things to the next step.
  5. Highlight the underlying business model and explain it in a clear, concise manner. This is where you show your audience you have more than just an idea; you have a viable business opportunity. 
  6. Make the ask very clear. What exactly is it that you want from your audience?
Learn more about the Greater Good Challenge, including important dates and details on how to enter.