iij Post-conference report on PitchLive London 2011

Overall verdict: a bit of a ‘best kept secret’, offering more than enough insight into less-widely covered sectors of the startup investment scene to justify watching out for next year’s event

For those who don’t know what PitchLive is all about, I’ve done an iij perspective on the event, suffice it to say that anyone interested in the innovation investment scene who didn’t consider attending would have been unintentionally deflected by the event’s low profile, and missed out on something they would have found valuable. What about the diversity, quality and innovativeness of the ideas, products services and solutions being pitched at the event?

  • Diversity – this was good, although in one sector there was quite a bit of ‘overlap’, although ironically the sector (online security) which had the most overlap also included some of the most innovative and impressive solutions
  • Quality – the solutions themselves  looked generally extremely well chosen, so the judging process had successfully managed to select highly credible contenders
  • Innovation – the solutions being pitched were all, without exception, genuinely innovative, so the judging process had successfully managed to select truly innovative contenders

Organisation – the running of the event (by organisers OmniCompete) seemed smooth and efficient, with action-packed schedules which were diligently managed, delegates certainly seemed ‘well looked after’ by the event staff and the facilities seemed to me to be perfectly adequate for the delegate requirements. The panels were, at their best, unquestionably the crowning glory of the event, with many very experienced and highly relevant panellists invariably providing extensive, helpful and unique insight, despite (and in some  cases as a result of) some seriously persistent questioning coming from yours truly in the audience. The panel moderators also did a good job of keeping things moving along productively, making good use of the time available and fielding plenty of feedback from the audience. The panels were definitely good enough to justify attending the event on their own Could do better:

  • the event was not recorded on video (c’mon guys, there’s this thing called YouTube and it leaves you with zero hosting costs combined with the ability for all those involved or interested to watch anything they missed)
  • pitch slides were not made centrally available on SlideShare
  • the disappointing quality of the presentation in the pitches in most cases did not live up to the quality of the (often breath-taking) ideas being pitched
  • several pitchers actually ran out of time and did not even finish their pitches
  • audience engagement effort by the pitchers themselves was generally non-existent (it was all ‘talk and chalk’)
  • use of humour, surprise, amusement, spectacle, tension and audience participation was conspicuous by its almost complete absence
  • use of animation and video within the presentations was extremely rare and limited, despite many solutions being ideally suited to a ‘multimedia’ presentation, there was no use of ‘post-PowerPoint’ dynamic presentation tools like Prezi
  • all presentations were ‘one man (person) band’ affairs, despite all startups being teams
  • in short, the commendable professionalism of the ideas and their respective startups was ultimately mostly let down by the (unnecessary?) amateurishness of many of the presentations

For future reference: The competition organisers should consider:

  • offering pitch coaching (or at least offering to do a pitch critique) for the pitchers (or at least to the finalists)
  • insist that finalists rehearse their pitch specifically for the time limit, rather than just ‘hope for the best’
  • that there should be a ‘shark tank’ session, i.e., where brave contenders elect to allow a public (i.e., ‘live in the event’) dissection of their (one minute!) verbal (no slides) pitch by a respected pitch expert, immediately followed by a one minute ‘this is how I would pitch it’ session by the expert, followed by a response and then one minute re-pitch from the startup
  • Shark tanks inevitably get the audience cheering, rather than just politely applauding!
  • focussing on making the event more lively in this way will open up commercially valuable opportunities to attract a much larger (and younger) and much more widely-based audience rather than just (mostly) the pitchers themselves and a mere sprinkling of investors and other interested parties