Anyone who has watched Dragon’s Den will be familiar with idea of business pitching. An entrepreneur with a great idea stands in front of some investors and has a couple of minutes to explain why they should be given money for their business. While this makes for good TV it is also a common way for startups to get money in real life. There are dozens of investment funds and groups who run public pitching sessions while many private investors will also expect a formal pitch before handing out any cash.
Like with Dragon’s Den, real life investors will expect a pitch to be short, to the point and to really sell them on how the business is going to make a profit and what it’s potential for growth is. Innovate UK have put together a nice video which covers some of the key elements to consider when preparing to pitch your startup idea.
5 Top Pitching Events to Enter
The F6S website has a list of London based organisations and events where startups can pitch their ideas. Some of these are specifically focussed on technology startups but there are also a number of national pitch events and competitions open to all kinds of businesses. Some of the more high profile pitch events are:
1) Angels Den are probably the closest real world pitching opportunities to Dragon’s Den. They run regular pitch events to match startups with real world angel investors. Some of their events have a theme such as property or finance startups while others are more general. Startups who are interested in pitching at one of these events can attend a free Business Funding Clinic for general funding advice before deciding if pitching is the best route for them. The free Business Funding Clinics are held all over the UK with regular events in London, Leeds, Derby, Dorset, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.
2) Voom is a new pitching competition from Virgin Media (it was known as Pitch to Rich in the past). It is promising a prize of £1 million split between six businesses along with a range of opportunities from the Virgin business empire. There are catagories for both brand new startups and small businesses looking to grow. To enter you just need to upload a 90 second video onto the Voom website.
3) The Pitch is, not surprisingly, a pitching competition. It has been going since 2008 and is one the biggest such competitions in the UK. Although there is no cash prize The Pitch provides sales, marketing, finance, technology, legal and HR support alongside pitch training. The Pitch competition also has a strong media presence so anyone who gets through to the finals, or wins it, is guaranteed some good media exposure for their business.
4) Varsity Pitch is a pitching competition for students and recent graduates run by the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs. It has some big name sponsors including TATA, Microsoft, Lloyds Bank and The Guardian. Startups run by students or recent graduates can enter by uploading a 60 second pitch video and have the chance to win £10,000 for their business.
5) Innov8 Award is a global business pitching competition with a £50,000 cash prize (you also get free office space, access to consultants, software and lots more). It involves 100 startups pitching in an elimination style competition over two days until an eventual winner is picked in front of a live audience. As well as being great publicity for new startup business all of the 100 startups who make it to the live competition stage are guaranteed a meeting with a VC.
Even if you don’t end up winning the final prize, putting a pitch together for your business and presenting it can be a really good thing for startups to do. Alongside the publicity that normally comes with pitching competitions it is an excellent way to really narrow down your business idea to its most important elements. Being able to completely explain what your business is, why it is amazing and how it will grow inside of 90 seconds is a great way to focus onto the business fundamentals.
Who are Innovate UK?
Innovate UK are the British government’s innovation agency. They are focussed on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who can use new science and technology to drive economic growth. They invest in big technology projects like jet engines and oil drilling systems, but they also invest in projects from startups and very small business. For startups who want to test out an innovative new idea or technology Innovate UK can provide funds for feasibility studies of up to £150,000.
Innovate UK also run funding competitions for specific topics and industries. An example of one of their current competitions is “Digital innovation in the sharing economy” in which they are offering 6 businesses up to £30,000 each to encourage innovation around the themes of “trust, tourism and travel, opening up new sectors, home improvement, construction, and data and analytics.”. Other competitions they have running at the moment cover businesses working on hearing loss, synthetic biology and low carbon propulsion systems.