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The Secret Behind Winning The Singularity University Global Impact Competition

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It is about persevering and never giving up. Any woman can do it if she cares about something.

By Priszcilla Várnagy (Co-Founder & CEO, Be-novative)

How can we improve the lives of at least 1 million people and the standard of living — health, education, and security — in the next 3 years through the use of any kind of exponentially improving technology in the Central Eastern Europe & Southern Eastern Europe region?

This was the question raised by Singularity University, lead by Rob Nail and jointly founded by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis and Dr. Ray Kurzweil based at the NASA Research Park campus in the heart of Silicon Valley. I represented the Be-novative team and won the competition and the scholarship.

Why we applied at all: we need shared goals, they give us the power

First, I thought we might not even have a chance. But it proved to be true: we will conquer real-life challenges with creativity, with lots of preparation, support, motivation and being truthful. They say I was a tough woman. I think it isn’t about being tough. It is about persevering and never giving up. Any woman can do it if she cares about something.

When we arrived to the Bay Area first in September 2011 to test the concept behind our gamified global brainstorming platform, the people we met right in the first two weeks suggested that we should get connected to Peter H. Diamandis and Xprize because of our similar missions – to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity, addressing the world’s Grand Challenges by creating large-scale competitions. Thanks to Rob Nail, CEO, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis and Dr. Ray Kurzweil founders, Singularity University is bringing together the world’s next generation of leaders to create solutions with the use of technologies for the benefit of humanity.

We want to inspire people from all around the world to harness their intellectual capital, motivations and playfulness to shape the world around them the way they like it. These goals are the ones for which even the difficulties worth it. It was less about the prize and the recognition than about getting connected and learning from the greatest minds of the world and more about finding cooperation and investors to our startup who share the same values.

We need challenges, because they bring about the best we can be

To run a startup is extremely difficult, I could never imagine it without trying to spend 10x times the resources we had to build. We had all the plans needed, we still reached a psychological and financial bottom once. And when we reached it, it was not the end. There was always one step forward to make. And one more. The only way to proceed was to take even bigger challenges on. Challenges will grow us to be the best we can be by growing up to its requirements. Put in all, but go on many paths. Ladies can concentrate on many things at the same time anyways by nature, let’s use this, then!

We need support – and prepare, prepare, prepare

The Global Impact Competition CEE & SEE was a big challenge where the best presenters and technologies met at the same time. It was extremely challenging. It had two rounds: we got the news on April 19 that I, Priszcilla Várnagy, could represent Be-novative at the Finals, and there was 2 weeks to prepare.

I wanted to make it for my team and was willing to put all my effort in making a clear and engaging presentation with the help of the best mentors of the region: David Trayford (Wow Media Kft.), Patrick McCullough (Filmmakers-Ink) and the TEDxDanubia team. I started to put together the presentation and presented it half-way at the headquarters of TEDxDanubia in Budapest.

The feedback made me turn up the gear x3 times. They told me it is not sharp, not engaging enough, and they listed some of the ways in which we could make it work better.

So beside my daily work I watched over 25 TED talks, presentations of Steve Jobs, rewrote my entire presentation 4 times, we improved the video with the voice over narration by Scott Young, draw most of the figures by hand in paint, and practised it almost the whole day before with Istvan – changing the structure again… I slept 4 hours.

Patrick and David helped a lot with stressing out the importance of stories, creating the feeling I wanted to have for the audience and most of all: being myself, being natural and leave everything else behind. Patrick and David were there with their advices for me whenever I needed them during the two weeks and it changed me as a presenter in two weeks. I wanted to show the potential Be-novative has. The one we feel in our team for a long time.

When I was sitting there at the table for the finalists, just before presenting, I said I will be myself showing what I know, because I did all I could and this gives me enough reason to be confident and relaxed. I knew that whatever will happen, this will bring us forward.

Showing our own motives

There were a few pieces of advice running in my head a few minutes before presenting: “We are looking for the next generation leader”, “Have fun, have a conversation with the audience”, “remember, there is no one who would know more about your project than you do”, “If you are nervous, tense your muscles and then relax all of them.”

I said we created the huge potential in Be-novative to change the life of billions, and I know it is not about one single invention, “it is about empowering people with the control of their continuous development: to know what they want and have the connections to how they want it.”

I will just try to open up and show what motivates me. That is all. So I walked to the stage.

Inspiring each other

It was definitely a teamwork. I felt like a channel: my message went through to the audience, we were talking. It was not just the words, but the Be-novative feeling of exponential growth and possibilities. It was the most inspiring thing to see the same feeling in people’s eyes that I had for over a year since we started.

When I heard the result, I was hyper and even hours later I hardly could sleep at night – we have just started, this is the beginning. We are going forward and will keep on doing our best to inspire the globe that conquering real-life challenges is possible.

We will revolutionize bottom-up innovation and continue our journey at the Graduate Studies Program of Singularity University at the NASA Research Park campus this summer as a Global Impact CEE & SEE winner!

So I try to show you all, ladies, it worth to try. You will never know how many people you will inspire on your way to do something for their dreams. Just go on…

This post was originally posted at Be-novative’s blog.

Priszcilla VarnagyAbout the guest blogger: Priszcilla Varnagy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Be-novative. She has a background in organizational and educational psychology and expertise in the innovation field. During her masters studies, she held experiments experiments about creativity in education with which she won 2nd place at a National Conference of Young Researchers in 2007 and wrote a project proposal to enhance open innovation in education with New Technologies. Follow her on Twitter at @vpriszcilla.