Getting to "yes" in a world of "no"…

Posts tagged ‘Tech City’

Sorry, I don’t need your fabulous startup service…

It’s a line that just about every entrepreneur should have printed on his/her business card and/or forehead, to help fend off the waves of startup service company representatives that assail you at pretty much every public event you go to:

  • patent agents / IP lawyers
  • hotdesk / virtual office / virtual fax / virtual phone answering / virtual address
  • PR / marketing / social media / SEO / community engineers
  • design / web / creative services
  • equipment hire / car hire
  • crowdfunding / network introduction / pay-to-prepare / pay-to-pitch / pay-to-be-funded
  • cloud accounting / invoicing / factoring / statementing
  • business card printing / headed paper design
  • rich cynics / pitch clinics / mentors / centaurs

Have I missed anything? Yes! If I take my inbox at face value, it seems that just about every day a brand new, subtly differentiated startup service niche opens up (often in Tech City, curiously enough). How I wish for a [service company spam] filter on my inbox! But until such a dream comes true, all I can sensibly say is…

Sorry, I don’t need your fabulous startup service. [Errrm… now piss off].

OK, so no grant this time… :-(

I’m disappointed to have missed out this time round, of course: but a Tech City grant was always going to be a bit of a long shot for a Surbiton-based non-social-media startup. Some of the TSB’s anonymous judges clearly liked my whole “Soft Factory” pitch: but given that the point of the competition was to fund loss-making collaborative Tech City projects rather than Tech City companies, perhaps I did ultimately end up veering too far towards the latter (certainly, one of the judges felt compelled to reiterate this point several times). And being in a consortium of one probably didn’t help either. Oh well. 😦

Still, I’ll be doing my 2-minute thing at the TSB’s investor day this Wednesday (please feel free to say hello!) in the 3.55pm-to-4.25pm Pitch Session #5 (AKA the mid-afternoon graveyard shift). Given the homeopathically low amount of interest that UK angels tend to have in manufacturing and the brutal-but-unavoidable fact that angels are mainly there to sniff around the 18 grantees, my expectations for positive funding outcomes from the day are perhaps even lower than the normal ankle-highness. All the same, it’s always nice both to catch up with people you already know and to meet new people. For example (going through the list of attendees), Twickenham-based Wren Capital looks interesting, as does MMC Ventures: and perhaps I should be cultivating more of a relationship with NESTA Investments. Anyone else there I should be talking with?

Tech City Launchpad 1 – round one has now closed…

Two-minute video pitches, as with most things in life, surely tend to get done either cheaply or well, but rarely both: and seeing past the inevitable imperfections is one of the key problems facing the Technology Strategy Board’s Tech City Launchpad 1 judges. What should they look for?

  • production values (rewarding ‘pre-funded well-preparedness’ over substance)
  • bureaucratic savvy (rewarding the applicant’s ability to sequentially tick checkboxes)
  • personality (rewarding charisma over substance)
  • business savvy (rewarding credibility over substance)
  • etc

Given that the TSB is a government agency, there will always be a suspicion that a demonstrable ability to surf the tide of bureaucratic checkboxes will win the day: but one of the interesting aspects of this competition is that once the votes are in, it will be clear exactly what pressed the judges’ buttons… because we can simply play the winning videos and see for ourselves.

According to the competition’s member page, 439 people joined the Launchpad 1 group, including lots of names that may be familiar to you from OpenCoffee, Flagon’s Den, etc. What isn’t yet clear is how many people actually entered, when I’ve only managed to find 37 entries actually on YouTube. Incidentally, if you want to see them all, here’s a Tech City Launchpad 1 YouTube playlist I put together. My best guess is that there probably as many again from people who have not made their videos public: so I’m guessing 75 or so entries, but we shall presumably see soon enough.

As to my own competition entry: a few weeks ago, I discussed here how startups are tiny social revolutions, and suggested that a properly informative pitch might well involve presenting a dialogue between startup and early customer. Well… for my own two-minute video pitch, I basically took that idea and ran with it as far as I could, by presenting a fictional dialogue between myself and a mythical person from the TSB, in the form of an animated “text-to-movie” Xtranormal film. Total production cost: $3.33 (the equivalent of 400 ‘xp’, Xtranormal Points).

Nick Pelling's Tech City Launchpad 1 application

OK, in real life I don’t have as much hair as that, nor do I wear implausibly tight trousers or comedy ties (yes, my avatar is indeed the one on the left). But it was a lot of fun getting a whole load of business information across in dialogue form, and including a fair few laughs along the way, mainly at the expense of social media startups. (But not your social media startup, oooh no, you’re much better than that, so you are).

I know, I know, classical entrepreneurial wisdom has it you should “never tell jokes in a pitch”. But this isn’t a live pitch, it’s a video pitch: so do the same rules hold true? Personally, I don’t think they do, but please watch it (clicking on the picture should take you to YouTube) and let me know what you think! Enjoy! 🙂