https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2015/10/23/71-tech-smes-pitch-to-their-peers/

71 tech SMEs pitch to their peers

You have 2.5 minutes - Go!

Alex Cole from PolyPhotonix makes his pitch at the Innovate UK Tech-inspired Collaboration Nation event
Alex Cole from PolyPhotonix makes his pitch at the Innovate UK Tech-inspired Collaboration Nation event

We held our annual Technology-inspired Collaboration Nation in London, on 14th October. 71 small and micro UK businesses that won the Technology Inspired Feasibility Studies competition this year had:

  • 2.5 minutes
  • one Powerpoint slide each

to pitch their companies, technology, ideas, and, most importantly, ask for what they need to grow their businesses.

Vote for your favourite pitch

To make it even more exciting, the audience had handheld devices to live vote on:

  • how clear the pitch was
  • how cool the technology was

Pitching is a difficult task

I was nervous about this- and I wasn’t even pitching! As the organiser and as an ordinary audience member, I knew that it was a big ask to intellectually absorb 71 pitches in one day.

The vast majority were given by scientists who have gotten where they are by delving deeply into their subject areas and concentrating on their technical expertise. Not, by explaining how their businesses deserve attention and support, in 2.5 minutes.

Pitch training skills

How, then, do you keep the audience engaged and help the companies get the most out of the day?

Last year we offered a pitch training workshop to those who wanted to attend. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, so this year, I asked all the projects to attend one of three workshops- and the results were fantastic.

Improved pitch quality

Those who were in the audience this year and last remarked that the overall pitch quality was noticeably better.

When one pitcher was congratulated on her pitch, she said that it was down to the pitch training.

Avoiding jargon in pitches

I remember Victor Zhitomirsky from Alterix, working on software to enable large interactive touch screen displays. Victor had an uphill struggle to pitch his work and company without descending into jargon.

The workshop trainer and the audience gave him feedback and suggestions. Then during the day itself, I was thoroughly impressed with Victor’s pitch- a massive improvement over his practice pitch. I was so happy that we’d had the chance to help.

Business networking opportunities

Business networking at Tech-inspired Collaboration Nation
Business networking at Tech-inspired Collaboration Nation

What about for the pitchers and their businesses?

I see Collaboration Nation as an integral part of the Technology-inspired feasibility projects.

We bring the projects together for one day at Collaboration Nation because they are small, quick projects, and one of the few competitions we run which don’t require collaborative partners.

Collaboration Nation is primarily a day for the projects to meet and learn from each other.

Even though we also invite:

  • investors
  • larger companies
  • potential end users
  • potential collaborators
  • general audience from the science and innovation community

So I was happy to see:

  • enthusiastic voting on pitches of their peers
  • lots of discussion during the networking breaks
  • so many companies exhibiting their work.

Everyone wants short pitches

And you know what? I see short pitches required everywhere:

  • EPSRC competition panels hear engineering projects pitched
  • other science and innovation bodies such as DSTL use short pitches as part of their competitions.

I’m currently organising companies we’ve supported in Advanced Materials to pitch at a conference in front of potential investors and partners. So lessons from the Collaboration Nation pitch workshops are going to come in handy!

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