SVP Partner and Fast Pitch Seattle founder Will Poole was nominated as a 2013 Integral Fellow by the Microsoft Alumni Foundation. Named among the finalists, Will was honored for his work on Fast Pitch, leveraging the concept from its nonprofit origins in Los Angeles and adding two new innovations: a youth track and a “for-profit” track.
The following video and story was originally posted by the Microsoft Alumni Foundation.
Building Fast Pitch Seattle
I joined Social Venture Partners (SVP) at its founding in 1997 but did nothing directly with the organization. For the following 11 years, my involvement was providing financial support and having many dinner conversations with my wife, Janet, who was an active member. I had no idea how integral this organization would be to our future.
I became involved with SVP when I retired from Microsoft in 2008 by working on social media and recruitment strategies for SVP and mentoring innovators in the SVP community. At the same time, I increased my involvement with local entrepreneurial activities, regularly attending Zino and Alliance of Angels investment forum meetings, judging business plan competitions at the University of Washington and Seattle University, and mentoring local entrepreneurs, in both social impact and traditional technology sectors.
In November 2010, I attended a workshop at the annual SVP International Conference. Here the most engaged partners from the SVP network discuss problems in our communities and learn about effective solutions. A group from Los Angeles spoke of a new program they started called Social Innovation Fast Pitch (SIFP). In television terms, SIFP is where American Idol meets Shark Tank for social sector organizations. The Los Angeles team described how transformative the program had been for its participants, whether they won a prize or not, due to the training, mentoring, and community connections established through the program.
I immediately saw the value of SIFP and worked to bring the program to Seattle. Other SVP Seattle partners agreed that SIFP Seattle needed to be established. In early 2011, I scoured my network of angel investing groups and others running business plan competitions. In each discussion, although the concept of SIFP resonated well, no organization wanted to host it. Instead, I repeatedly was told, ”why doesn’t SVP produce SIFP, and our organization will support you.” I heard this same response five times.
I decided to take up the challenge and create SIFP Seattle with support from a number of other SVP partners. This was the first time I had attempted to run any effort with almost entirely volunteer support. While I had managed teams of up to 3,000 people while running the Windows desktop business at Microsoft, I had no idea of how challenging (and rewarding) it would be to recruit and manage a team of over 100 volunteers who made SIFP 2011 possible. But we did it. This year we’re running our third program, now called SVP Fast Pitch, helping to grow another inspiring group of for-profit and nonprofit innovators, engaging over a hundred volunteers, and distributing more than $250,000 in grants and investments.