I spent Tuesday evening hosting Sports TechPitch 4.5.
Eight pitchers, three minutes each, five judges. The winner gets some industry kudos, exposure to some real life VCs and a bottle of something.
The judges are there because they know about tech and/or entrepreneurship. I don’t claim to know much about either, so I was there to keep things ticking along. The atmosphere is supportive and because I’m not one, I have enormous admiration for people who are or are trying to be entrepreneurs, risking their own money and devoting their lives to the idea.
It’s an intense couple of hours and this is what stayed with me.
1 We all have our own lens
Nic Couchman is a lawyer. Dom Moorhouse created and sold a big project management consultancy. This shapes their world view and the questions they want answered. I’m a journalist. I get stories. I get bored and confused when there isn’t one.
2 I didn’t understand what most of the ideas were
Related to 1). Each pitcher was given a form to fill out beforehand and this was distributed to the judges as prep. In this form was a box where the pitchers were asked to write down what the product was they were selling.
In only a few cases did they succeed in telling me in simple terms, what it was they were selling. My frustration may be due to the fact I’m not a techie. But I’m not an idiot either.
3 Some never got beyond the first sentence
Because of 2) I spent three minutes trying to work out what the business did. This wasted time I could have spent thinking about other questions, such as how good it was and whether I’d invest in it.
4 I remember people
Eight ideas in 90 minutes. On the train home I couldn’t remember very many of them. But I remembered the people giving the presentations. They were all competent. All spoke well. Some immediately struck me as people I would give money to (with the obvious caveat that I’m not going to give them money, but you know what I’m saying).
5 Most failed the film test
A sign of a bad film is that when you start watching, it reminds you of another film. Often, when listening to the pitchers, they were reminding me of other businesses.
6 Pitching in public saves time and money
Often, the idea for the business is flawed in some way. It might be the market isn’t there, or the tech is faulty and will take too much money to make better. Whatever it is, its better to fail quickly than die a slow, lingering death.
7 Entrepreneurs are like writers
The story analogy again. Having just written a book, I was struck with the similarities. Both involve a leap of faith. There is a longing to run a business, just as there is a longing to write. Both are encouraged by the democratic idea that we all have a book in us and the self help industry is as keen to take our money along the way. Also, in both cases there are two types of people, the ones who plan meticulously, and the ones that prefer a more spontaneous approach, leaving some freedom for interesting diversions. In both cases, the need for a strong central idea is paramount. It’s that story which keeps everything moving forward: And then, and then, and then. The rest is sweat. Which is important too. As is ability.
8 I want the dream layer
If the product is there in front of me, I lose a bit of interest. When the basic question being asked is, this is what we’re selling, we need the money to make more of them, some of the magic dissipates. I like it when something not quite formed is presented, which allowed me to project on to it what I’d do with the business idea. Again, the writing thing is relevant. Stories take place mainly in the head of the reader.
As mentioned, each of the pitchers were great in their own way and I wish them nothing but luck and vast wealth.