Start-up competition season is in full swing and a couple of the big ones - the annual TNW Europe and TechCrunch Disrupt NYC – are both coming up later this month (go BizSpark finalists!)
So we thought it would be interesting to get some ‘behind the scenes’ viewpoints from start-ups who have themselves been on stage, presenting to a panel of judges. What did they learn? Did they love it or hate it? And would they do it again?
First we hear from James Scott, CEO of Theappbuilder.com (a multi-award winning global success story), which was runner-up at the 2012 BizSpark European Summit. This annual event involved 15 of Europe’s top BizSpark members presenting on stage in London to a formidable panel of investors and industry experts. What advice would James give to other start-ups thinking about entering a start-up competition?
“Start-up competitions are a great way to raise your start-ups profile at virtually zero cost (aside from your time of course) and to meet potential advisors, investors and partners all in one day! We really enjoyed taking part in the competition.”
Hendrik van Iterson is CTO and co-founder of Atomblock, one of the finalists at the 2011 European BizSpark Summit, held in Brussels. Would he recommend entering an event like that to other start-ups? “What’s bad about it? You get to bring your company and product to a competition. You get the chance to convince the jury that your company is THE one.”
So what lessons have our start-ups learnt from entering competitions that they’d pass on to other people? Over to James Scott again: “It's a start-up cliche, but hone your 30 second elevator pitch. The audience will be seeing lots of start-ups so make sure your pitch is punchy, memorable & communicates your key messages....in just a few sentences! It's tougher than it sounds! First and foremost be yourself: explain why you are passionate about your start-up and the rest will flow naturally.”
Sharing the experience
Standing on stage, potentially in front of hundreds of people who might have the power to transform your company’s fortunes, is nerve-wracking. So what’s the experience like and how well-prepared did our start-ups feel? Unai Olabarri is CEO of Spanish start-up Practice Your Music. The company was runner-up in the business category, at March’s EU AppCup event, which was organised by the IAMCP and sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark.
Says Unai, “this was the first time we’d done anything like this, so having the coaching was really important to us. We all got there on the Tuesday and did our presentations straight away. The coaches gave us immediate feedback then split us into groups for working on our presentations. The next day, we did our presentations again and got feedback from the coaches, who came from all over Europe and had a variety of expertise.”
“I saw everyone else’s presentations and could really see how much they improved across the two days. By the time we went on stage on the Thursday, we had come a long way. We presented first thing in the morning of the final day of the IAMCP event and remembered the judges’ advice to aim for 5 minutes, 6 minutes maximum. The judges announced their decision later in the day and we were delighted to be named the runner-up in the business category.”
Hendrik van Iterson: It was nerve-racking, with anxiety attacks flying in from left right to centre, but it was so worthwhile. When you hit the stage and start your talk and words come out of your mouth and the joy of sharing about our company made me love the experience. And even till this day the funny feeling in the stomach is there, but that will never stop me to say yes to events again.”
Winning isn’t everything
James Scott adds: We really enjoyed taking part in the BizSpark European Summit competition. Working in a start-up you can feel "out there" if most of your friends & family have normal jobs. So meeting the other start-ups and networking with an audience of like-minded people was energising and exciting.”
This is an important point to end on. Through all the start-upsevents we’ve organised or been involved in over the years, entrepreneurs tell us that while winning is great, the chance to connect with such a wide variety of peers and influencers is invaluable. As Unai Olabarri says, “It was a great opportunity to network with some useful people. I would definitely do this again.”
That said, we wish our European BizSpark start-ups entering TNW Europe and TechCrunch Disrupt NYC the best of luck. Trustev, Drippler, Itembase and Monolith – we will be keeping our fingers crossed for you guys.
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Drippler From: Tel Aviv, Israel Quick pitch: “Helping mobile users make the most of their smartphones and tablets.” Announcing news at TNW Conference
Itembase From: Berlin, Germany Quick pitch: ” Your personal digital inventory. Itembase enables you to build the digital collection of your belongings” Announcing news at TNW Conference
Monolith From: Tallinn, Estonia Quick pitch: “Monolith turns consumers into shoppers and shoppers into customers” Launching at TNW Conference