Telling the truth about SME life today

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

The most established brand of all nine finalists, JustPark, smashed records earlier in 2015 with the largest technology equity crowdfunding round in UKs history at 3.7m.

That’s not bad going considering it was the first time the company, which embraces the sharing economy to help people find parking spaces and others to rent them out, used crowdfunding something that founder Anthony Eskinazi was hesitant to do.

Having launched the business in 2006, Eskinazi took his concept to the stage just a year later on the silver screen.

Back in 2007, I pitched in front of a startup audience at London’s BFI IMAX. My face was projected on to the IMAX screen, which did nothing to help the nerves,” he said.

Since then, I’ve pitched to our investors both to Index Ventures and BMW i Ventures although that scenario is more of a conversation than a pitch. More generally, I’m regularly in situations where I need to explain JustPark to people and get them excited about the brand and idea.

Preparing for the finale was a collaborative process with the JustPark communications team in order to make sure the pitch was as concise and well structured as possible, Eskinazi explained. From that point they continued working together to make sure it was as natural as possible until they were all satisfied with the finished product, spending hours each day to get it right.

Being victorious in the Grow category meant that JustPark pocketed a 250,000 marketing campaign, with all media and production costs covered by Virgin Media Business, as well as management of the campaign development.

I wasn’t nervous about pitching in front of the judges but the fact that the prize was so significant and such a great opportunity for us as a business did raise the stakes and spur me on,” said Eskinazi.

My biggest concern was that I’d forget the flow or structure of the pitch and freeze, or that my question at the beginning to initiate some audience participation [he asked if anyone had had trouble parking in the last month] would be seen as rhetorical and therefore not answered. That could have been very awkward.

Offering some closing words of wisdom on how to deliver the killer pitch, Kino-mo’s Chykeyuk, said: Knowing how to present your company is crucial. It is decisive. You might work on your presentation days and nights, know it by heart and have solid reasons for every word to be there, but it is when you present it to someone else you realise that some bits have to be changed. So the key is to rehearse as many times as possible, to everybody you can brothers, sisters, neighbours, friends. Until they hate you.

For Fourex boss Patterson, he thinks that keeping the pitch as short and engaging as possible is the answer, adding that all product details and all-important numbers must be at the forefront of your mind.

Eskinazi, meanwhile, closed and suggested being yourself is the way forward. Be authentic, passionate and personable,” he said. Ultimately, they’re investing in you. Make yourself likeable, don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t come across as arrogant. If you can get them excited about the idea, you’re on your way.

The three winners will also receive:

  • Up to 150,000 worth of telecoms from Virgin Media Business inclusive of internet, landline and mobile calls for a year
  • Unlimited travel on Virgin Trains for a year worth 35,000
  • Free npower electricity for six months worth 17,000
  • ICAEW business advice around financial issues including tax, business planning and more
  • Membership to the House of St Barnabus

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