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SPARKS:2001 V1/Q2

That "Something Special"

by Don Kelly, Chief Executive Officer

The nervous entrepreneur from Bakersfield stepped behind a lectern mere steps from the toes of the California-based venture capitalists. She drew a deep breath, checked her watch, and launched her presentation. It would last only eight minutes; add two more for questions, if there were any. Brief as it would be, this was her chance to pitch for venture capital funds. She was clearly ready. Organized, focused, practiced, she punched her points, she knew her "stuff." The venture capitalists' questions revealed more than a little interest. They liked her "stuff."

"Well done, Bakersfield."

But her success wasn't due as much to diligent preparation, poise and delivery, as it was to something entirely different. Her competitors, after all, were just as prepared, just as good or better on their feet, when the drilling questions came. Rather, it was something special that the venture panel saw in her presentation, and it made all the difference.

As I sat among the guests observing the presentations, I couldn't help but reflect upon similar occasions where I'd witnessed that "something special." In March, it was my pleasure to observe the judging session when students competed in Brussels at the 27th European JSHS Program, and again in April as finalists gathered at the JSHS National in Orlando. Worlds apart, yet familiar scenes: the lectern, the panel, the nervous presenter with an eye on the clock and a story to tell of original research and inventions. Poised, practiced, focused. Yet, even among presenters so young, there was a captivating quality that set some of them apart.
I saw it; the judges saw it.

That something special was a spark of passion - a discernible gleam in their eyes that signals they believe mightily in what they are presenting - a quality that isn't always present, but is always a winner.

Copyright 2002 Academy of Applied Science