My Experience Leading the Pitch Workshop with Aaref Hilaly, Sequoia Capital

Sapna Desai, Girls Innovate! Teen Committee


When I first heard about the Startup Series I was unsure about what it really was. What exactly would I be doing? But before I had time to question it, my mom had already signed me up. The first two events which I had attended were great. I learned a lot from the guest speakers and had a blast working on my idea of a shoe rental service, while enjoying the snacks provided by Cornerstone. By the end of each session, I knew exactly how to improve my business. What I did not know was that I would be asked to help plan the third event: a pitch workshop.

Serena and I, both of us members of the Girls Innovate! Teen Committee and Project Leaders for the event, split up the tasks in order to be prepared for the big day. At this point, Girls Innovate! had done two events at Cornerstone already, so we had a pretty good idea of how things would go, but there were some new things that we hadn’t done before.

One of the ideas that we came up with was Pitch Charades. The game went basically like this. All of the mentors who had signed up for the event would have to get into small groups. Each group was given a well known company to create a pitch for. Then the girls would have to try and figure out the company, writing down their guesses in an envelope. That really got the pitch workshop rolling.

But what really made this event great was our wonderful guest speaker, Aaref Hilaly. He is a partner at Sequoia Capital who works with enterprise and mobile companies. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, a Masters degree in Economics from McGill, and a BA degree from Oxford. The first part of Mr. Hilaly’s presentation was on Pitch Structure. What he spoke about was very interesting and personally, I learned a lot from it on how to set up my pitch to effectively communicate my idea.

After the first part, all of the girls broke into mentoring sessions. A website-creating tool called Strikingly was available to anyone who thought it would be useful. I was fortunate to get a mentor named Jim, who was a pitch coach himself. He led us through the creation of our pitch, from start to finish, giving us valuable advice and teaching us the best way to get the audience’s attention.

The second part of his presentation was on the delivery of a pitch. After the girls were done practicing and felt comfortable enough, it was time to go up in front of the audience and do it for real. The pitches were interesting, and the ideas were innovative, solving problems that were commonly faced by the girls. All in all, it was an amazing experience for everyone. The girls participating received feedback from Aaref on how they could improve and grow in the future. Once the event started to wrap up, and the girls began to leave, Serena and I were very fortunate to get the opportunity to do a podcast interview with Mr. Hilaly. It was short, but he shared with us valuable advice.

Helping to organize this Girls Innovate! event was memorable and I learned so much from this experience. I’m glad and thankful to have been a part of planning it. The opportunities that Girls Innovate! creates for girls in the community are unlike any other and introduce innovation in their lives. I really look forward to more events in the future.

Teen Committee Project Leaders - Serena Wang and Sapna Desai

Teen Committee Project Leaders – Serena Wang and Sapna Desai