Mentoring start-ups on how to pitch their business plan to a room full of investors is not something I do everyday – which was why being involved in Rockstart Accelerator’s first Smart Energy programme earlier this month was exciting.
The idea of Rockstart Accelerator, which was launched three years ago, is to give start-ups a 100-day crash course on how to build and run a successful business. The Smart Energy programme is a new spin-off geared to energy-related initiatives.
Ten companies were selected from 130 applicants from around the world to take part in the Smart Energy programme (nine made it through to the end). The young entrepeneurs from Norway, Greece, Moldova, Israel, Chile and the Netherlands spent 100 days in Amsterdam working out how they could take their ideas to the marketplace, helped by a network of mentors.
And then on April 17 it was Demo Day. The nine start-ups had to present their business plans in a five-minute pitch, in English, to an audience of 200 people, including potential investors. Scarier than Dragon’s Den!
A week before D-Day, the start-ups began rehearsing their pitches. There was lots of feedback on content. It was hard to strip down the complexities of a new business into a KISS (Keep It Short & Simple) format. But harder still was how to present their story – because at the end of the day, that’s what all pitches are about, selling your story.
In fact, mentoring start-ups to pitch a business plan to investors is not so very different to coaching journalists on how to pitch a feature idea to editors or media training. They’re all about communicating a clear and concise story with conviction and confidence. Easy when you know how.
By Abi Daruvalla