“Free money? Yeah right! What’s the catch?” – These were my first thoughts when a colleague asked whether we should enter the Technology Strategy Board’s Digital and Creative Manchester Launchpad.
The competition, open to technology entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs in the Manchester region would grant funding to help accelerate projects in the digital sector.
These Launchpad competitions take place in different regions according to a different sector, but this particular competition was right on our doorstep. EventBeat was one of the 10 winners of this competition and eventually awarded its funding.
With a sector as rife as digital and creative, being successful required a combination of things; an innovative idea, confidence and a certain amount of common sense.
The Launchpad competition was a three phase process; a video submission, a written submission followed by a presentation to a panel of expert judges.
At this point, winning the competition seemed to be an unattainable prospect. Our video submission was relaxed yet took an informative approach. Having been successful at this stage, we became a bit more confident that funding could be somewhat achievable.
Read the proposal thoroughly
The second phase required us to submit a written proposal. Our first decision was to read the brief individually from front to back, and then sit down as a small group of Directors to outline a clear approach.
We needed to be clear on what our project needed to contain to meet the project scope and funding rules. This may sound obvious, but looking back I think that was key to our success.
From speaking with a few other companies, who sadly didn’t make it through to the final pitch phase, it was apparent that they may have stumbled because they hadn’t understood the scope and ticked the right boxes.
Show your idea is commercially viable
Here, we were asked to provide details of how we would use the funding. It requires you to identify how the project is commercially viable and show an understanding of your marketplace.
While the judges are experts in this field, you are the only expert of your project. Avoid any technical jargon and keep your content simple and clear.
While the brief requires you to outline why a project needs funding, go one step further and outline what the impact would be if funding is not granted.
Be clear, focused and passionate
The final phase required us to meet with the panel of judges face to face. This stage was by far the most nerve-racking and intense. At this stage it is vital that you cover all key points within the allotted time constraints.
Be clear, focused, and confident and show passion. You only have 10 minutes so be concise.
I would also advise to leave time for questions too. Don’t spend the whole time talking about your project as this is also the judges’ opportunity to ask you questions and your opportunity to fill the panel with confidence in your company.
I allocated almost half of my time for panel question while other companies did not. I wasn’t aware of any of the eventual winners that didn’t leave time for questions.
Demonstrate the public benefit
Above all, I would say to remember that unlike other funding competitions, this is a government initiative and as such needs to show what it can return to the taxpayer.
That is not to say that the TSB shies away from risk adverse projects. Risk shows confidence. All these Launchpad competitions taking place in different regions and sectors, are designed to support small companies with an innovative idea that will give the UK the competitive edge it needs to be a leader in these respective sectors.
The opportunity is there to make a difference and be part of that mission. Just be mindful to take the right steps to succeed and stand out from the crowd.
Nick Johnson is the director of Digital and Creative Launchpad winner EventBeat.
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