Applying to The Pitch? Read our judging panel’s tips for success

As the application deadline for The Pitch 2019 nears, our judges have shared advice about what they hope to see from this year’s contestants. 

With their expertise ranging from running co-working spaces to selling vegetable subscription boxes, we have advice for every type of startup.

Jim Cregan has taken the coffee industry by storm

Founded in 2011, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee has become one of the most recognisable drinks stocked in our supermarkets. After feeling uncertain about his career prospects, founder Jim Cregan decided to create a business he was really excited about – and it paid off. 

Cregan’s excited to see startups with a real passion for their business. 

“I want to see businesses take a risk. I like seeing people who are doing it for the right reasons, not to get rich. People with true stories. You can feel the blood flowing around their body. They’re nervous, hungry, willing to make mistakes and willing to learn.”

With a focus on making his own product packaging as eco-friendly as possible, Jimmy’s also interested in seeing startups with a sustainability angle, who are looking to reduce their use of plastic.

Crowdcube set out to help startups financially

Founders Darren Westlake and Luke Lang aimed to motivate regular people to invest in companies, after seeing how difficult raising funds could be for startup businesses who have the creative flair but lack finance.

Westlake’s own struggles to find funding for his previous companies served as the catalyst for Crowdcube. 

“The biggest challenge was trying to raise money. In the previous companies, it was credit cards, friends and family, selling my stuff. I found it really hard to find angels.“

Westlake will be judging the 15 startups in The Pitch Final. He’s looking for useful and innovative products, and he’s interested in the team. 

“Their pitch doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, but they have to know what they’re talking about. They have to be convincing. No one’s going to invest unless they believe that person’s going to take that business forward.”

Natasha Guerra has created a haven for startups

Runway East is a co-working space for startups, hosting over 2,000 people in four different locations throughout London and Bristol. Guerra’s previous experiences within co-working environments motivated her to create her own.

“I was working in a space where I didn’t really know anyone else. I always felt like there was such a great energy when you got a load of founders together, so that was what I wanted to create.”

Guerra outlines three key aspects that she would hope to see in a potential finalist.

“I like to see people that are changing the world. We’ve had some truly inspirational companies at Runway East, from people working on helping people with dementia to people overhauling how we manufacture computer chips. People with the passion to make the world a better place – they’re great people to be around.

“The best pitches are story-based. Start by talking about why the founder’s working on that product and the story of the experience that sparked the idea. It shows you really understand the problem that’s out there.

“Focus on delivering one message clearly. It’s good to have clean slides and a short, well-executed message which you reiterate. People can only retain so much information at once. The goal is always to pique people’s interest or get another meeting, so think about what’s going to open the next door. Less is always more.”

Grind specialises in all things coffee and cocktails 

Initially intended to be a single cafe selling coffee and wine, David Abrahamovitch’s Grind has now expanded to 11 sites. The business has also created compostable Nespresso pods and will begin to open cafes throughout various airports.

Abrahamovitch advises startups to make sure they are confident about their numbers. 

“There needs to be a bit about you, a bit about the business and a bit about your numbers. Everyone knows that businesses probably aren’t going to hit their numbers exactly, but demonstrate your understanding.

“Ideas are cheap, execution is everything. Everyone has a thousand ideas and very few people build businesses where they can successfully exit. Why you? Why are you going to be the person who’s going to solve this problem? Convince me how that’s going to be you.”

Oddbox sends wonky veg directly to your door

The Pitch 2018 winner Emilie Vanpoperinghe will be on our panel, who succeeded with her innovative subscription service to sell surplus produce directly to the consumer. With her own personal experience of the competition, Vanpoperinghe provides inside advice to help current competitors.

“It helps if you practice in front of people. Practice makes perfect. For me, I practice a lot and ask for advice. With slides, remember less is better – people can’t look at slides and listen well. Have one idea per slide and don’t have too many slides.”

Vanpoperinghe outlines that complexity isn’t necessary for success, and that simple, well-executed ideas can easily impress.

“Oddbox isn’t a new idea or anything complicated. It doesn’t need to be AI. I think the best ideas are simple, because it’s something people can understand and see where there’s potential.

“In your pitch, make sure you demonstrate any traction you’ve had. What traction have you got with customers or press? What advisors or team members do you have on board? What’s your ambition – what are your future plans?”

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Holly Sawyer

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