Pitch Perfect at the Global Pitch Competition!
The NextWomen Editorial Assistant Alyssa Davison reviews the Global Pitch Competition at the We Own It Summit, organised by Astia and The NextWomen.
Dare I proclaim that, with two events under my belt, I am well on my way to becoming a pitch veteran? The most recent event I attended, The Global Pitch Competition at the fourth annual We Own It Summit, really opened my eyes to how powerful a polished presentation can be. Read on to find out why...
Some context about the event itself: the Global Pitch Competition was the main event of the 2013 We Own It Summit, organised by Astia and The NextWomen. Competing for a cash prize of £20,000 (provided by the sponsors Technology Strategy Board, Microsoft and Astia Angel) five finalists had been selected to pitch their business models in front of six judges.
Unlike the previous The Next Women pitch competition I attended, which was based on a democratic 'first come first served' premise, applicants for the Global Pitch Competition were pre-screened via Cisco's Web-ex.
The competition resulted in five finalists ( from more than 100 entries) with pitches that were of high quality, in terms of delivery, timing and visuals. Our day began with a rousing speech from Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia Global, asking the business world the important question: “Where are your women?”. She explained the aims of the two day event; to increase the number of women high growth entrepreneurs and their likelihood of success; and to increase the number of women investors and those on boards.
First to pitch was Myra Donnelley, Vice President of Eniware, providers of portable, power free sterilization tools. She began her pitch by asking “How many people in the audience of you have mothers? And how many of you are mothers?”. Building on her rhetorical question, she created an image that gripped the audience emotionally describing the desperation of a woman about to give birth without any sterile medical equipment before moving onto the solution; the Noxilizer steriliser. Eniware had a projected five year revenue of over $50,000,000 and were looking to raise up to £5,000,000 to build, test and manufacture products. Questions were raised concerning the patents and licensing of the company which Myra handled well.
But concerns about potential competitors taking Eniware's market by reverse engineering were difficult to address.
Next was Tjarrie Wijga, who began her pitch by proclaiming “I'm a loser". Not the best opening line for a competition, you might be thinking, it but it makes a lot more sense when you consider that she was describing the need for the new lost property app, iLost! Boasting an increase of 5 times greater chance at finding your item, this app was described as “the Google of lost and found” (this was supported by the company having two ex Google employees).
Tjarrie seemed very confident delivering her pitch, so I was interested to learn that this was her first presentation in four years.
But with questions raised about the logistics of the app and, with only € 1 profit from each found item, the business model was under heavy scrutiny.
Pamela Ayra, Founder and CEO of Optensity admitted that her business concept was difficult to grasp and, being fairly uninitiated into the tech world, I have to admit that I had trouble following the pitch, but I’ve since learned that they specialize in the development of applications and big data processing within a cloud computing environment. Seeking $4,000,000 to target new markets, questions from judges showed that not only funding but a knowledgeable partner was needed to direct the technology into other markets.
Sandra Sassow, CEO of SEaB Energy Ltd, who went on to win the competition, began her pitch by describing how she saw a future where waste would be converted into energy. Before launching into the product description, she set out her mission (“disrupting the market”) and gave a summary of her presentation.
Despite, in my opinion, a lack of colourful slides and imagery I felt I could follow the pitch easily as she started with a summary of her presentation.
Interestingly, when asked to describe the biggest challenge currently facing her company, Sandra responded that with two ordered units needing funding for completion, like many other startups, the cycle of customer interest and funds was their major issue. It was good to see that admission of this common problem doesn’t have to mar the success of a pitch.
For me, the most enjoyable pitch came last, with Jackie Schooleman of Virtual Proteins. Presenting her 3D medical modelling business she seemed relaxed and very, very confident.
Having presented to previous intimidating audiences, such as the Queen of the Netherlands, I could understand why she frequently used humour
to explain her background, team and target market. Despite hard hitting figures showing funding requirements and projected income, it was perhaps Jackie's overconfidence that made her lose some fluency, making the presentation fall short. It seems too much humour can take the punch out of a pitch.
Unlike the pitch event I attended before, where the majority of the pitchpreneurs and audience were from the fashion and beauty industries, I was surprised to see that all pitches were from tech startups. The expertise of the members of the judging panel, which included Directors of Microsoft and the Technology Strategy Board, was perfectly suited to the type of pitches at the event.
My only criticism of the event overall was the lack of male attendees.
One pitcher informed me that the male CEO of their company would have liked to attend, but was unclear as to whether this was a “women only event”. Being a vehicle for diversity, I'm sure this wasn't the case and, in fact, this was raised in an open discussion where suggestions were raised to improve the event in the future. According to one attendee, previous events in the US have an almost 50/50 turnout.
But let's not let that detract from the overall event. As one attendee informed me, she felt a “positive energy” throughout the day and with such engaging pitches, a supportive atmosphere and many quality networking opportunities, I couldn't agree more.
Alyssa studied Philosophy and Literature at The University of Warwick before starting work in financial services in London. At the same time she The NextWomen's Editorial Assistant, publishing articles, attending events and developing our social media strategy.
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