Perfecting the Pitch: Georgetown Student Learns the Secret to Successful Startups with a QSTP Scholarship

Sep 9, 2019

Entrepreneurship, many will tell you, is an idea or product that provides a solution to a problem. And with the world’s problems accelerating at an unsustainable pace - from climate change to education access to poverty - startups have been hailed worldwide as the answer to many of them. 

But what Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) senior Abdulqudus Sanni will tell you, entrepreneurship is also a mindset, an unshakable attitude that can turn any obstacle into a learning opportunity, and a launchpad for future success. 

This was one of the lessons the International Economics major took away from his recent participation in the European Innovation Academy (EIA) in Portugal, one of the largest entrepreneurship study abroad programs in Europe, and which opened this year with an address from Portugal’s President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. 

He was one of only three recipients of the Qatar Science and Technology Park’s (QSTP) scholarships for the EIA program this year. Georgetown also awarded him a travel grant through a university fund that supports students’ co-curricular development through participation in meaningful conferences, workshops, and training opportunities.

Abdulqudus, like two of his brothers, left his native Nigeria to enroll in one of the top tier universities offered at Education City. “I realized that a solid foundation in economic principles would give me a unique advantage in the business career I wanted, and help me understand what drives human behavior in the global marketplace. When I read about the EIA program on the QSTP website, I knew right away I wanted to apply.”

Abdulqudus flew to the conference in Portugal already committed to a business idea for a mobile payment app for the Qatar market, but he quickly realized that the team format of the program would require flexibility. “As an entrepreneur, it’s not always easy to put your big idea aside to make room for other opinions. But GU-Q taught me how much community matters, and that you can’t do everything by yourself.”

Working together, Abdulqudus and his four teammates came up with an idea for a mental health and wellness workplace management app and spent the next 15 days refining their business plan. “The intensive research practice I’ve had in my studies really helped us when it came to data and data analytics. GU-Q also helped hone my public speaking skills. That came into play with the customer validation process, where we had to pitch our product to working businesses. It doesn’t matter how good your solution is if you can’t convince someone to buy it.”

The team made it to the semifinal round, but failed to clinch the top prize. “We may not have launched a multi-million dollar company that day, but we found the gift of each other, and learned how unique perspectives and community in diversity, a foundational Georgetown value, play a substantial role in the success of any endeavor.” 

With plans to pursue a Master’s degree in business after college, Abdulqudus says he’s learned that experiential learning often teaches the strongest lesson. “One of the investors we pitched to wasn’t just interested in the app for his business, he liked our energy and how we worked together. He told us that the team is more important than the idea. Ideas change, but people remain. I’ll always remember that.”

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