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How to pitch to billionaire investors like Virgin boss Richard Branson and win

Following the grand finale of the three-month Pitch to Rich competition, which saw JustPark, Fourex and Kino-mo scoop the big prizes, Real Business has rounded up the founders to determine how you pitch to a billionaire tycoon like Richard Branson and walk away with his money.
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The big event itself took place at shared workplace Second Home, based in the creative London district of Shoreditch.

TV host Rick Edwards presented the proceedings and the judging panel was equally high profile. Virgin boss Richard Branson was accompanied by Jo Malone, Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, Virgin Media business MD Peter Kelly, Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer and male model David Gandy.

Indeed, Gandy may sound like an odd candidate to review the efforts of startup owners, but we’ve observed that he’s a budding entrepreneur himself and has invested in a number of ventures – one of which he went on to acquire.

The Pitch to Rich contest, now in its fourth year, comprised three categories including Startup, New Things and Grow, which offered a total of £1m worth of prizes.

Nine startups, three in each category, secured a place in the final, but it was Kino-mo, Fourex and JustPark that won the respective awards and largest shares in the winnings.

Tech firm Kino-mo specialises in holographic imaging and secured a £150,000 marketing campaign, as well as one year’s worth of mentoring and advice from Virgin Startup.

Founder Kiryl Chykeyuk explained where his first lesson of pitching started – you might be familiar with his work.

“Our experience started with a pitch at BBC’s Dragons’ Den followed by two hour grilling. In the end we received three offers from the Dragons. After that we pitched a few dozen times, and in hindsight our pitch got better every time,” he said.

As for how he was going to face Branson and friends after staring down the Dragons, Chykeyuk was anything but complacent and said he was very thorough in terms rehearsing his pitch.

Read more on the brain behind Virgin:

The key for his preparation was “practicing, practicing and practicing,” he recalled. “And lots of analysis of course – what the judges want to hear, why and what would be the best way to present the information.

“You are alway nervous before the pitch but once you are there in front of the judges, all that adrenaline gets quickly redirected and you get totally focused on your pitch.

“As for the Pitch to Rich competition, the biggest concern was to fit everything in two and a half minutes. For example, we had to cut out a few sections about our team and some amazing features of our holographic technology.”

Real Business spoke to Fourex, a “currency exchange [service]on steroids” in June ahead of the Pitch to Rich finale. During that time, co-founder Jeff Patterson explained the company has contracts in place with TfL and Westfield which will see its kiosks installed at various sites.

Winning the New Things category provided Fourex with a £50,000 cash injection and also mentoring from Branson’s head of investments.

“Oliver [fellow co-founder]and I have pitched this idea to hundreds of potential investors while looking for funding,” Patterson detailed. “Pitching in the Pitch to Rich was quite different because we weren’t pitching to secure investment, we were pitching to get the idea across in under two minutes. We had always only pitched to a few people, and never to such a large audience.

The biggest fear for the fast-talking FX executive was stage fright, however. “While I knew the pitch off by heart, I was really nervous about freezing up,” he told us.

“I was very lucky because part of my pitch included giving each of the judges a sample jar of foreign coins and notes. Earlier, the presenter had asked Richard what he thought was important for the perfect pitch, and he jokingly replied ‘a good bribe’. When I started my pitch I used this comment as I handed out my jars of coins, and that seemed to capture their attention.”

Find out what JustPark – the most well-known brand in the finale – had to say about winning over investors on the next page, as founder Anthony Eskinazi draws upon pitching on an IMAX screen and charming BMW.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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