Every year, we invite an experienced team of entrepreneurs and industry leaders to help judge The Pitch. The judges will provide advice and feedback to the finalists and choose The Pitch 2020 champion.
Our judging panel this year includes business leaders who’ve grown startups into global businesses, active investors and sector specialists.
If you’re interested in applying, the application form can be found here – it only takes 10 minutes to complete!
Crowdcube co-founder Luke Lang
In 2011, Luke Lang co-founded Crowdcube, a crowdfunding platform that gives everyone the power to invest. Their aim was to not only enable small businesses to gain financial investment, but also a community of supporters.
Over the past nine years, they have made equity investment accessible, helping over 800 companies receive funding. To date, over 750,000 Crowdcube investors have invested £690 million on the platform.
Luke has been named one of Britain’s 500 most influential people by Debrett’s and was selected as one of The Sunday Times’ Maserati 100 game-changing entrepreneurs.
“I’m a strong believer that difficult economic times are a breeding ground for innovation; it’s no coincidence to me that the likes of Funding Circle, Crowdcube and Ratesetter emerged from the banking crisis. Britain has a proud history of innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship and it’s vital we continue to support our startup community,” Luke said.
Moneypenny founder and investor Ed Reeves
Ed Reeves co-founded Moneypenny, the UK’s leading telephone answering and reception service. The service was created to help companies with their customer service efforts and has achieved a reputation for consistently high-quality service levels. They support 225k clients, handling 15m calls and chats annually on their behalf. Through Ed’s leadership, Moneypenny has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise and has been recognised by The Sunday Times in its Best 100 Companies to Work For list.
With the added challenges now facing businesses, Ed has some encouraging words of wisdom:
“Moneypenny was born as we entered a tumultuous few years of recession. There wasn’t a single person who felt it was a good time to start trading, including pretty much every potential investor.
“Out of adversity comes opportunity. I’d happily accept that businesses and individuals might be spending less of their hard-earned cash, but that that would mean they’d be open to new ways of working. We’re there again now and any entrepreneurial business that capitalises on that period is my kind of investment.”
UK Business Angels CEO Jenny Tooth
In 2012, Jenny Tooth became the CEO of the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA). With an estimated £1.5 billion per annum invested by angel investment, UKBAA serves as the trade body for angel and early-stage investment. They act as a voice for the investor community when communicating with the government.
Before UKBAA, Jenny helped SMEs across the globe gain investment. In this time, she co-founded Angel Capital Group, dedicated to help small businesses prepare for and receive investment, provide startups with high growth coaching and develop early-stage co-investment funds. Jenny earned an OBE due to her hard work and dedication in helping small businesses.
In conversation with The Telegraph, Tooth explores the gender inequity prevalent within the business sector; something that wants to change.
“We know that if you can have some early-stage risk capital in your business, it massively helps you accelerate and grow faster. But women who are pitching to angels and early-stage investors for equity are not always getting the investment they need. In some cases they are literally asking for less investment than they need out of their own sense that they don’t have the right to ask for this level of finance.”
Origin founder and investor Heather Frankham
Heather Frankham founded training provider Lifetime Training. As one of the UK’s largest apprenticeship and skills training businesses, they deliver courses for the Fitness, Leisure, Hospitality and Care sectors.
After exiting Lifetime Training in 2016, Heather founded Bristol-based co-working space Origin Workspace. With few connections when starting her own company, Heather wanted to make networking and collaborations between businesses much easier. They have also introduced Origin Startup, which provides mentoring, coaching and business development support for their small business owners.
Heather is now an active investor in several Bristol-based and education-focused businesses.
In an interview with Business Leader, Heather outlined the advice she would give to someone starting out.
“You must be resilient and learn to take the knocks when things do not go to plan. It is important to take a little bit of time to reflect. That is the best time to pull your team together, and to project positivity to the team on the direction of the business. Reflection means that you can direct your energy into the right areas of the business.”
Entrepreneur and investor John Stapleton
With over 30 years of experience in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) businesses, John Stapleton has become a successful entrepreneur, CEO, and board director.
John kick-started his career by co-founding The New Covent Garden Soup. He has since set up two other health-related businesses, including healthy snack company Little Dish which he sold after growing to £15 million annual revenue.
John aims to help other small business owners, providing business growth advice, guidance and mentorship to help them succeed. He is a resident business advisor to Bord Bia’s entrepreneurial start-up programme in Ireland and is investor director of Mission Ventures, a progressive business accelerator designed to build challenger brands.
“Have the courage in your convictions. It’s so easy to say that and so hard to deliver. As an entrepreneur you’re currently putting yourself in the face of adversity. But you have to figure out if you’re on to something good and you really understand your market,” he said.