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Live from RE’11: In the Dragon’s Den

Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel with Alistair Mavin, Sam Phillips, and Peter Jones and participate in a Dragon’s Den-style competition.  The Brainchild of Jane Celeland-Huang and Daniela Damian, the interactive panel was created in order to foster communication between researchers and practitioners, but also to help focus researchers on the practical viability and profitability of their ideas.  This sort of interaction and emphasis appears to really be picking up steam in requirements conferences, as evidenced by the types of panels, workshops, and sessions present in this year’s REFSQ and the past two IEEE RE conferences. The session was 90 minutes total, but moved really quickly due to the high level of interaction and multiple brief sessions.

The Format

  • Round 1:  Contestants give a 4-minute presentation to “sell” their ideas to the Dragon’s Den.  The Panel has 3 minutes to ask questions and poke holes in their ideas.
  • Round 2:  The Contestants describe why their idea is ready to come to the market—i.e., why should industry adopt their tool or idea? Again, we critique the evidence provided and determine whether it does, in fact, demonstrate market viability.
  • Round 3:  Contestants request a budget to implement their idea.  Panelists ask for a cut of the action!


  • In order to ensure the technology being presented was “transferable” to industry, judges were selected from people actively working in the requirements space.  Alistair, Peter, Sam, and I were responsible for quizzing the researchers and determining marketing viability.  The room is also equipped with a “clap-o-meter” to measure audience response and applause.  Judges eliminated the 4 contestants to a final 2, and the audience clap-o-meter determines the winner.

The Contestants

The contestants were all requirements engineers researchers, many of which had previously worked in industry, and they demonstrated early prototypes and implementations of tools such as:

  • A tool which helps build social networks of stakeholders and identifies relationships and potential issues between stakeholders.  The tool actually semi-automates stakeholder identification by sending emails to potential stakeholders on a project, and allows them to suggest other stakeholders.  It also had a catchy name—“StakeSource”.
  • An engine which examines requirements being entered into a tool and provides “suggestions” of related requirements—much in the same way that Google search suggests search terms.
  • A modeling tool which maps the development and flow of information across a company’s organization.

And the Winner is…

All of the contestants did a great job of thinking under pressure, but Soo Ling Lim and StakeSource was the winner in the final showdown, and it was a well-deserved win.  As far as I’m concerned, she did the best job of articulating the business value that could be gained through stakeholder identification and relationship definition.  Her laminated handout describing her product was also a nice touch J.  So, congratulations to Soo Ling and StakeSource! Soo Ling was presented it with a “check” for 160,000 Euro to bring her idea to fruition. The “check” was not real, but it drove home the point that in requirements research and technology, real money is at stake!  Thank you to Jane and Daniela for allowing me to participate, and to my fellow panelists for making this one of the best sessions of RE ’11.


  1. Ready, Set, Transfer Winner « Soo Ling Lim - April 23, 2012

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