Yesterday, I got the chance to take my sister to the BLAZE BYOB mega auditions at UON towers. I’m a big fan of the show. BYOB is a great platform to empower young entrepreneurs. I set the bar of expectations for the auditions pretty high (given the premise of the show is innovation) and I was excited to learn about the ideas of my peers.

Anyway, we got there (UON) at about noon, very panicky (we had imagined all of Nairobi would be auditioning), but was surprised to find such a low turnout. We got our tickets and got in. Once you bought a ticket, there were no further directions on how to proceed.  An MC would occasionally ask if you’d gone for a pre-screening but it was very easy to miss his announcement (I can count the number of announcements in one hand).

So you had people walking in and sitting in the holding tent with no idea what next/that they were in the wrong tent. It would’ve been better if the volunteers wearing the G.R.I.T t-shirts offered assistance at the entrance.

The next step was filling the questionnaire. And this is where, in my opinion, the whole purpose of the process was lost. My understanding of BLAZE BYOB TV show, was that it was an opportunity for the most innovative young entrepreneurs to get a chance at funding and incubation for the duration of the show. My expectation therefore was; that the questionnaire would’ve had asked leading questions to allow you to give the most comprehensive answers possible about your idea in that time span.

Instead, all one got was about ten questions, three of them being an exploration of what makes you angry, happy and sad. Another question required you to describe your family, two others required you to give a breakdown of your monthly financial requirements and how you fulfilled them. Only two questions asked (quite vaguely), what your idea was about.

Afterwards, you turned in you application. There was the option of getting an extra sheet of paper to expound on your idea, but then, why have a questionnaire? Why not just hand out the sheet of paper and tell applicants to sign the Non Disclosure Agreement, provide their bio data and write about their idea as one would with a composition?

So now, you’ve turned in your application and gone to the holding tent. Here, you had to wait over two hours before you found out whether you’d qualified for the next stage which was the elevator pitch. The waiting was a complete waste of time. As I sat there, I kept wondering why this initial process couldn’t be done online and shortlisted candidates notified via email to come for the elevator pitch?

Wouldn’t that have cast the auditions net further to give a chance to those who couldn’t physically show up for the audition a chance at BYOB? It would’ve also saved a lot of time and resource.

My final bone of contention was how insensitive the MC at the holding tent read out the names of those rejected. His jokes bordered on mockery. He would’ve chosen a better way to lighten the mood and ease the tension if that was what he was for going for.

My conclusion is, BYOB is an awesome idea. It provides opportunities for young people to get funding for our ideas and mentorship in our business. I feel however, that the manner in which the audition was carried out locked out a lot of innovation because of;

  • Accessibility – a fully online process, so that everyone, including those unable to get to UON get a chance to audition. The low turn out was either because the marketing was poor/ a lot people couldn’t make it. Or were they disillusioned from last year’s auditions?
  • The most vague questionnaire I have encountered so far.
  • Volunteers who either didn’t want to help or didn’t know how to help once you got into the audition space
  • The criteria of what it takes to make it on the show and what the judges would look for in the audition wasn’t clear. A clear criteria would’ve provided a great guide while one prepped for the audition.

In terms of content on the show, I feel like KCB Lions Den is more diverse in terms of the entrepreneurs who are featured. I’ve watched some great businesses on Lions den in comparison to some of the contestants who made it to BYOB. I fail to see how, for example, a card design company, plus size fashion line or catering company is innovative. Some however, like an adult education school, were quite interesting but unfortunately a majority were just flat.

In general, the auditions made me realize that BYOB is just another TV show and they are just looking for people who will look good on TV.