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House of Genius: A Unique Startup Experience

Written by Ahva Sadeghi on June 29, 2018
3 min read

This week, CEO Ahva Sadeghi attended House of Genius in Phoenix, Arizona. It was an opportunity to connect with other members of the Phoenix startup community and ask a panel one pressing question we had to get their insights. Read about her experience and key takeaways below.
Last month, Symba was invited to attend House of Genius Phoenix by their City Director Caitlin Waters. Caitlin reached out via Twitter and we were more than excited to attend this event. House of Genius, located in many cities around the world including Seattle, San Francisco, Madrid, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, seeks to bring diverse groups of people together “to focus their collective creativity and experience to explore, discuss and solve important problems of entrepreneurship.” During a House of Genius session, two to three entrepreneurs present their businesses and each pose an important question they want answered. The rest of the group serves as a panel to offer feedback for and answers to this important question.

My team and I prepared for the event as the month went by, and this Wednesday, I presented in front of an audience, with some of Phoenix’s brightest startup community members in attendance. One of the most interesting aspects of the event was that panelists were not allowed to disclose their backgrounds and occupations until the end of the event. This added a touch of mystery to the event. House of Genius does this so that ideas flow freely without bias, filtering, or ego.

House of Genius was unlike any other startup experience that I have had the opportunity to participate in. The event kicked off with an opening keynote and was followed by my presentation and Nisreen Mandviwala’s. Nisreen is the CoFounder of Helix Technologies, which is making the Hyperloop a reality in Arizona. Their mission is to “revolutionize transportation, support economic growth, and promote connected communities.”

House of Genius

We each had one hour of the event dedicated to our startup. During the first five minutes, I pitched Symba and posed our ask to the audience: “What recommendations do you have for a strong market adoption and go-to-market strategy?”

Afterwards, the audience had about 10 to 15 minutes to ask any questions they had about the presentation or the business. Following the Q&A session, the 20 panelists around the table shared their detailed feedback on the entire presentation and responded to my question.

While Symba has conducted hundreds of interviews and focus groups with our target audience and potential customers, this was the first time we had received feedback and insights from a group of individuals from various sectors. Here are our key takeaways from House of Genius:

1. Never underestimate the power of feedback from anyone. People tend to gravitate towards advice given by experts in their field. This can lead to the same advice over and over again, with little new insight. Wednesday evening, I received some great ideas that were extremely creative and out-of-the-box from people who were not necessarily experts in our field. It was insightful to see how others approached our ask. Alex Crompton, Singapore Director of Entrepreneur First states, “one of our company values is ‘push each other to greatness’. Feedback is how you push.” Paige Sourcie on the House of Genius team shares that one of the many reasons House of Genius really is genius is because it promotes “candid, actionable feedback” and encourages everyone to be honest but respectful.

2. Get feedback from a diverse group of people. Everyone brings a unique perspective and approach to problems depending on their background and experiences. House of Genius did an incredible job at making sure there was a diverse group present. This was essential to the creative thinking that ensued. HoG ensures diversity by enforcing anonymity and while they build their community through referrals, panels are hand-selected to ensure people can’t pair off with others they already know.

3. Encourage yourself to try out unique opportunities that might feel unfamiliar and even a little bizarre. As an entrepreneur, you have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You’re always operating in the unknown. House of Genius was a unique experience, especially when I had to answer questions from all different types of audience members. The questions were different from those usually asked at other startup events, so I always have to be on my toes and ready to answer anything.

I was truly grateful for the opportunity to present at House of Genius and become even more engaged in the Phoenix start up community. I met so many leaders in the community from diverse backgrounds including policy experts, nonprofit leaders, high school teachers, and YouTube stars. It was a four hour event where these incredible individuals volunteered their time to help startups like ours move forward and brainstorm their strategy and plan for growth.

Symba looks forward to getting even more involved in the Phoenix start up community and beyond by engaging in more events and supporting other fellow entrepreneurs!

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Ahva Sadeghi

Ahva is the CEO and Co-Founder of Symba. She is a passionate social entrepreneur, and was recently named Forbes 30 Under 30 and a Global Entrepreneur Scholar by the US Department of State. Ahva completed her graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science where she served as President of the Human Rights Students Committee and received the John Lewis Fellow with Humanity in Action.

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