A look behind the scenes of a startup incubator pitch night

Published at Nov 9, 2018, in Start Your Engines

Media and creative-tech incubator, The Studio, recently hosted its first Pitch to Investors night at the Sydney Startup Hub, with eight startups pitching.

Annabel Murphy, host of TechBiz and Sky Business News, acted as MC for the evening, which was attended by startups including:

  • Equal Reality — Creating virtual reality training simulations for diversity and inclusion training
  • Metigy — Applying AI to deliver strategic decision support for SMB social marketers
  • Music on my Mind / Rave Reviewz — A music and mental health social enterprise platform
  • Ad Bid X — A global automated marketplace for digital billboard advertising
  • Blisspot — A marketplace that supports entrepreneurs' and founders' experience success from the inside out
  • Seneca — Personal knowledge management made effortless
  • Rainbow Reef by AFK & Chaos Theory Games — A mobile game built to inspire a passion for ocean care in the next generation
  • Cryptoback — A rewards program where members earn their favourite cryptocurrency for their everyday spend

A number of the startups reported that the event met or exceeded their expectations, especially because they had the opportunity to engage in extensive conversation with potential investors after the formal pitch session.

“There was a fantastic community of engaged and interested people, plus a great mix of businesses and investors,” Samantha Coras from Seneca said.

Davide Fairfull of Metigy commented: “My objective was to continue to raise the profile of Metigy, and all PR is a great addition to building that momentum. The night was well-run and it was a great turn out. Some of the follow on conversations have been positive so far, including a new customer.”

Interestingly, for two of the startups, the most important feedback received was during the pre-pitch coaching. Allison Reid from Equally Reality put it this way: “During the preparation session, we received invaluable feedback on how to clearly and concisely articulate our journey from 'Intense Customer Discovery' to a 'SaaS model'.”

For others, it was about listening, and appreciating that the investors are likely to have an understanding of your sector and some empathy with your idea.

“I had positive feedback from one of the panel members who understands that the wellness industry is booming right now. He saw the potential of Blisspot. That was heartening to me,” Founder and CEO of Blisspot, Deborah Fairfull, said.

When participants were asked what they would do differently, most noted the need to make the presentation tighter, simpler and more compelling, as well as having all the information at their fingertips for the questions from the panel.

Some panel members focused on practice and ensuring you know who you are pitching to. Others advised that it was about telling a compelling story and "taking the audience with you".

One participant put it this way: “Be bold enough to share your big vision and bring them on your journey”.

Chris Muir from AdBidx offered this perspective: “Keep it very simple — better to get part of what makes your business special across and understood versus saying everything and confusing people.”

Dr Karran Ahmed from Music on My Mind, suggested that startups should “try to think of it as a learning experience, rather than a 'make or break' pitch for investment. That helps take the pressure off a little and the whole thing flows more naturally.”

The feedback on the night was provided by David McKeague (The Studio’s Expert in Residence), Andrea Gardiner (Jelix Ventures), Jeremy Liddle (Capital Pitch) and Lynda Coker (Scale Investors).

“There were a couple of very early stage companies, but also one very mature business that was going for a $5 million series A raise, and I think they are going to knock it out of the park. That’s good for industry to see and it show how useful the incubators and advisors are,” Liddle said.

“It was a good mix of product, from music, to media, games, AI, blockchain, virtual reality. All of them quite early stage and with a mix of business models, so all good to see. And, importantly, there were investors in the room,” Lynda Coker from Scale Investors said.

The rationale behind incubators like The Studio

A key driver for incubators is to provide their startup communities with networking and collaboration programs. This capability is the number one factor driving demand for desks within incubators across the world.

The Studio has therefore cultivated an impressive network of industry leaders, many of whom are signed on as formal partners and investors, particularly those with a clear appetite for technology.

“Networking with investors, both formally and informally, was always part of our service plan," said The Studio's CEO, Chantal Abouchar. "It’s a well-established part of the incubator model worldwide and our direct research with potential residents confirmed networking and collaboration are central to their involvement."

“These events are a critical part of a startup’s lifecycle. These eight are ready to start talking to investors. But even if a startup is not ready, coming along to pitch events helps them learn how investors assess opportunity and risk and what they look for in a founding team.”

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