Hi-Growth Speed Pitch Challenge 5th Nov 14
Normally when entrepreneurs pitch to investors there is normally only a handful of people in the room. On the 5th of November 2014 though, a Sold-Out event organised by Mary Strachan Operations Director of the Business Forum Scotland saw five companies pitching to nearly 100 people in the gothic atmosphere of the Ghillie Dhu, for a £500 prize sponsored by UBS.
The Forum was founded in 1993 and has for the last 21 years, connected Scotland’s ambitious entrepreneurs with a respected and experienced business audience from which they were traditionally isolated.
Its purpose is to help young ambitious companies flourish by finding answers to tough questions from a wide array of experienced investors, entrepreneurs and other experts, who have perhaps already learned the lessons you need to avoid to reduce unnecessary risk and delay to your business success.
The five entrepreneurs that were invited to pitch to the audience were:
Stefan Raue of Bizvento Mobile Event Apps for Conferences
Ian Le-Bruce of Cappuccino Ads We put the brand in their hand
Cally Russell of Mallzee The personal shopper in your pocket
Ian Russell of 2mee A revolution in personalised entertainment
Jim Cargill of Plansea Planning/scheduling support for the oil industry
Each company was invited by the charismatic Stuart Hendry to bravely take up the challenge and give a 5 minute pitch to the room about their what their business has achieved in the last year, what sets them apart from their competitors and what they are doing differently that will contribute to their success.
They then answered 15 minutes of penetrating questions about their businesses from the expert panel of successful investors:
Paul Atkinson Par Equity
Kathy Greenwood Tri Capital
Jim Hall Kelvin Capital
John Preston Apollo Informal Investments
Eric Young Archangel Informal Investment
First up was Co-Founder and CEO, Stefan Raue and he told us how Bizvento is an integrated software solution enabling professional event organisers to manage their events from a single platform.
Offering mobile content to attendees, and real-time data analytics and management functionality to event organisers, the platform enables sustainable, paperless events, helping to reduce printing and design costs, and thereby providing increased ROIs per event.
Afterwards, Stefan told me that Bizvento’s major achievements over the last 12 months have been:
1. Built major integration customers like
2. Built a strong technical and management team
3. Sponsoring TEDx around scotland
He also said that it is the seamless integration and ease of use that differentiates them from their competitors and that they plan to launch their online platform by the end of the year so that their customers can manage the process all by themselves. Then they will be in a strong position to scale their sales.
Ian LeBruce was up next and he told the audience how Cappaccino Ads prints your company’s message on biodegradable cups and then gives them to independent coffee shops.
Of course, while the customer is enjoying their coffee, they’re also enjoying your message.
Ian told me that Cappaccino Ads’ greatest achievements over the last 12 months have been:
1. Winning lots of awards
2. New Business of the year
3. Winning bigger clients like RBS
4. Building a larger core team
He then said it is their energy and enthusiasm and the fact they are not afraid to fail that separates them from their competitiors and that they plan to streamline their client acquisition strategy so they can get better results with less effort going forwards.
Next to take the stage was Cally Russell CEO and Founder of Mallzee. And he told us about the wonders of their gamefied shopping app with a social twist.
Using your mobile to browse 2 million products from 200 brand retailers and then ask your friends to help you decide whether it is a good fashion choice for you or not.
If the majority give it the thumbs down, then the app blocks you from buying it! Phew, fashion faux pas avoided…
Cally revealed that Mallzee’s greatest achievements over the last 12 months have been:
1. Achieving a full seed round of £1 million
2. Building a new version of their app
3. Hiring new people
He told me that it is their innovation and forward thinking that sets them apart from their competition and that they just do what they do best and they are going to use their high levels of passion to develop their global perspective and enjoy focusing on creating the best thing they can.
Then it was Jim Cargill of Plansea’s turn to impress the audience with the unique solution Plansea offers to the global oil and gas offshore support operations market.
A spin out from the Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen, Plansea enables companies to maximise vessel utilisation and efficiency, reduce contingency planning, achieve the right size of fleet required, minimise time at sea and capitalise on vessel sharing opportunities.
Jim said that Plansea’s greatest achievement over the last 12 months have been:
1. Bringing the software to a point where clients can see what will be delivered.
He went on to tell me that their market research has not identified any competitors and that they will be first to market with this unique solution. Their key objective is to secure funding to fully develop and bring the product to the market.
Finally, it was Ian Russell of 2mee’s turn to impress the room with their ‘Ultra Reality’ system that brings heroes and performers into the environment of ordinary people to entertain, educate and to train via the screen of their smart phones and tablet.
Ian revealed that 2mee’s greatest achievement over the last 12 months has been:
1. To get the augmented television broadcast content system working and that Sky and Al Jazeera are now competing for the contract
Ian said that their nearest competitors Blipper and Zapper only offer video overlays and that 2mee is developing two new digital platforms to further increase fan engagement. They are also making good progress with their crowd funding campaign on Squareknot
After all the entrepreneurs had pitched, Stuart then asked each table of ten people or so to discuss the pitches, grill the presenters and to debate the merits of each companies pitch and then individually vote for their favourite.
And the winner is . . . ?
Cally Russell of Mallzee!
Matt Hoyne of UBS presents Cally with his £500 cheque and a bottle of Champagne!
Cally told me he would be spending his well earned winnings on Mallzee’s Christmas marketing budget.
This event was different from what the Business Forum Scotland normally runs and so I was interested in finding out what the luminary panel thought of it.
Paul Atkinson is an entrepreneur, serial angel investor and founding Partner in Par Equity LLP. Paul has a substantial track record of building value for companies in the technology and services sector and taking them to a successful exit.
Paul said he liked the different format and thought the event enabled the panel to discuss the issues each company faced and therefore ask useful questions to help them.
Eric Young is chairman of Archangel Informal Investment, a Scottish based business Angel syndicate which now comprises of 100 investor members and is investing circa £10m per year in early stage Scottish companies.
Eric enjoyed the event and the opportunity to help the pitching companies.
John Preston is involved with young company investment through EIS investments with PAR and sits as Chair of Apollo Informal Investment, an informal group of investors focussed on SEIS investments.
He acknowledged it was very different from what the forum normally facilitates and the entrepreneurs have only a short time to get to the proposition but it was good practise.
Jim Hall is part of the Core Investment Team at Kelvin Capital and provides leadership in a number of high growth start up businesses. He is also a member of Scottish Enterprise West of Scotland Advisory board and has supported Scottish Enterprise in a number of key advisory roles.
He thought the panel was particulary able to help the pitching companies by building on each other’s questions.
Kathy Greenwood has 20 years experience in the venture capital industry and is the Investment Director of W L Ventures and West Lothian Venture Fund.
She thought the pitch competition was great and said it was good to have something different.
The fact that this event was completely sold out, attracted some of Scotland’s most enterprising entrepreneurs, insightful investors, smart sponsors and that most people stayed to network afterwards will hopefully see it repeated again in 2015.
Maybe I’ll even find the courage to ask to pitch for my own startup InverLife?