Thanks to our friends at Propel by Deloitte, I popped into The Pitch 2018 to hear from and speak to leading UK entrepreneurs about scaling startup businesses. Here are a few notes I took: 

Running a successful crowdfunding campaign 

  • The importance of storytelling to your pitch and being genuine. 
  • The founder must be seen in promotional materials - don’t hide behind animation as it can be impersonal.
  • A two minite pitch video is ideal. There are a bunch of video producers who specialise in this. 
  • Eric also says to not do all your PR at once and do ongoing updates. 
  • Facebook and direct email are vital marketing channels for raising funds vi the crowd. 
  • Think about if you should have a loyalty system for investors. Chilangos did this effectively. 
  • With crowdfunding, the clock is ticking and the counter goes up, so there’s a sense of urgency. You can then base your communications on updates of those numbers. 
  • Pippa says warming up people who are somewhat committed to funding you is most vital, as is ensuring you communicate with them when the deal opens etc.
  • Crowdcube can algorthymically target your potential investors based on their previous investments and what they’ve looked at on the platform.
  • Don’t spring a funding round on people by kerping it a secret. It’s important to plug it all occasions so people are ready to invest when you open funding.

We heard from Pippa Murray of Pip & Nut, Eric Partaker of ChilangoCalum Brannan from No Agent and Matt Cooper of Crowdcube

Getting government support and investment 

  • Be careful you go for the right grant money as it can affect your direction.
  • Be careful of accepting grants because it can affect your R&D tax credits 
  • Early stages are the best time to look for government grants.
  • It’s not just free cash, so think about how you’ll demonstrate return on investment to your granter.
  • Ask about flexible loan repayment options.
  • You can often get 33p in the pound back in eligible R&D costs so make sure you log time and cost spent on R&D.
  • You’re not allowed to claim R&D tax on many government grants, so speak with an advisor like Propel by Deloitte before you go for a government grant to ensure it suits your needs.
  • R&D tax credits can also often cover things like salaries for professionals and outsourcing in R&D etc.
  • Read the fine print of grants! Sometimes there are some important conditions such as not being allowed to use the funds on salaries etc.
  • Many grants are match funded, so you can have to commit equal funds yourself.
  • Have a look at Innovate UK, the governments grant arm, for grant opportunities, but also discuss with them the requirement not to commercialise under their grants because it’s a key term to their support.
  • If you take a grant from Innovate UK, remember you are using taxpayer money, so ensure you can explain how you are solving a problem for the taxpayer. And pitch with passion!
  • Innovate UK and GreatBusiness.gov.uk has a lot of information on grants and support.
  • If you’re in a region, there are a number of regional grants out there.
  • Keep an eye out for skills-based and export grants.
  • Speak with your local council and sign up to their newsletters, as they have funds.
  • Startups.co.uk has a good grants page.
  • Ensure you speak with your accountant on claiming VAT back.
  • There are specialists who write grant applications. Many don’t charge if you don’t get the grant.
  • Don’t sign up for an open call, wait until something comes out that’s relevant to you as it’ll be less competitive.

We heard from of Creative England, Tarryn Gorre of Kafoodle and Matt Dyson of Rockit.

The other side of the table with Duane Jackson - Founder of KashFlow and Supdate

  • Experienced people are expensive but make a huge difference.
  • Ensure you manage your people how they want to be managed rather than how you like to manage. And this will continually change as you grow and take on more staff.
  • Your business personality will change as you grow, so keep an eye on it.
  • Get a great mentor.
  • There’s nothing wrong with having notes in your pitches and meetings because it’ll keep you on message and your story will be better for it.

Pitching for a wildcard 

Seven new businesses took the stage to pitch for a wildcard to Pitch 2018:

  • Clikd - online dating app 
  • Not.Corn - changing the snack industry with sorghum 
  • Afrocenchix - products for Afro and curvy hair 
  • GoSweat - 25,000 weekly activities available 
  • YourTour - hyperlocal GPS-guided audiovisual tours via a phone
  • Medapti - making children’s medicinal dispensing easier 
  • Tamu - pre-order food with friends and family before arriving at venues

All in all, a great afternoon which I found very interesting and I’ll look forward to hearing the 2018 winners later this year.