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Calling all startups: Prince Andrew wants to help your business grow

10 min read

14 November 2018

Reporter, Real Business

Thought the royals didn't do much for British startup businesses? Well you thought wrong. Real Business attends Prince Andrew's Pitch@Palace event to find out more.

The royal family, you either love them or you hate them. Well, isn’t that the British way?

From school classrooms to boozy pubs late into the evenings, you’ll hear the ‘royal family debate’ rage between two dissident groups.

The first are the royalists, those who love and respect the royal family, and the other are the modern-day roundheads. In short, the naughty revolutionaries among us who want a republic instead.

But of more importance to us, and to our readers at Real Business, is the question, just HOW much are the royal family doing, as an institution to bolster British business?

To answer this eternal question once and for all, we headed, by royal invitation (we might add) to Buckingham Palace, to attend an event headed by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.

Can we really call Prince Andrew a startup ambassador?

The event in question was Pitch@Palace, a surprisingly modern-sounding event that took place in the palatial home of a thousand-year-old institution, but was this all just royalist PR?

Are the royals hosting events such as this to simply ‘look good’, or do they actually care about the world of startups? Well Prince Andrew seems to…

In recent years, Prince Andrew has fancied himself as a British business ambassador of sorts, travelling the world and rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s biggest business players to help promote British enterprise.

Pitch@Palace is the latest realisation of this particular dream, but on home soil, and for the benefit of British startup businesses, now we’re listening…

What is Pitch@Palace?

Prince Andrew founded Pitch@Palace in 2014 to provide a platform for budding entrepreneurs to amplify their business ideas.

“Business owners who are invited to attend have the opportunity to gain the contacts that could help upscale their business from a startup to a growing SME.” – Prince Andrew

The Duke of York addresses the audience at Pitch@Palace.

“Pitch@Palace is for ambitious young businesses seeking to scale and grow. We have 687 alumni who have created over £800 million pounds worth of economic activity.” – Prince Andrew

What’s the criteria?

For startups that are lucky enough to be invited to pitch at Pitch@Palace, it represents the ideal opportunity for business owners to get their voices, and ideas heard, and to a well-connected audience that includes potential funders and even government officials.

Part of the criteria for business owners entering the pitching competition is that their business should encourage sustainability and an international outlook.

The pitching rules

The event itself was something of a spectacle, with each business owner having only between 30 seconds to 3 minutes to outline their business pitch to the audience before the Queen’s guards blew their regal trumpets, that signified that their time was up.

Let’s hear from the businesses that were brave enough to take part, and which ones came out on top…

The grand winner: Biosure, a startup that’s fighting the HIV crisis 

Biosure is an HIV testing kit that’s easy to use and produces results in mere minutes.

A little like blood glucose monitoring kits, the test requires just a drop of blood, but without the usual mixing and medical assistance that’s required traditionally. The kit takes just 15 minutes to produce the results.

It’s been certified by EU health organisations as being at least 99.7% accurate, and no doubt, through easy usability and fast and reactive results, this new product will mean that people worldwide will take HIV tests, enabling better preparation for those living with the disease if people are diagnosed earlier.

“The Pitch@Palace network has changed our business. We’ve met so many people through the Pitch network already: at the top of my ‘ask’ list was to meet Amanda Staveley, a high-profile British businesswoman who I met here tonight.” – Brigitte Bard, Biosure

The runners up: Stasher, storing luggage for busy city-slickers

Stasher is a luggage storing startup that came to life when co-founder Jacob Wedderburn-Day was trailing around central London with some cumbersome luggage and was forced to dump it at a friend’s place for ease.

He realised that there was a gap in the temporary urban luggage storage market, namely that there wasn’t one to speak of…at all…

Today, Jacob and his team have enabled their customers to temporarily store their luggage in nearby hotels and shops (who have the appropriately secure facilities to do so) whilst they go and sight-see.

“A lot of the discussions we have had tonight should materialise into meaningful partnerships and that is what we came here for.” – Jacob Wedderburn-Day, Stasher

Lilypads, empowering women about their reproductive health

Lilypads founder Alison Wood starts her pitch at Pitch@Palace.

Lilypads offers environmentally conscious female sanitary items to women in the UK. However, the business idea doesn’t stop there. Lilypads founder, Alison Wood, was undertaking an academic dissertation when she discovered the devasting rate in which Kenyan women and girls were engaging in ‘transactional sex’ in exchange for the very same sanitary products.

Ever since, the profits from the UK based business goes towards providing these women with the sanitary products they need, as well as educating local women to act as ambassadors and educators on menstrual health.

“We feel privileged to have been able to pitch to this audience of people: people who we would never get to meet otherwise. We’re excited to see where being part of the Pitch@Palace Alumni network can take us!” – Alison Wood, Lilypads

On The Tools, social media marketing for the construction industry

On The Tools is ensuring that people working in the construction industry benefit from digital marketing technology as much as anyone else.

This may not initially sound like an impactful business. However, the platform enables their 2.5 million followers (and counting) working in the “blue collar industry” to have the same advantages and digital connections as those working in white collar industries have today.

On The Tools is helping more workers, across more industries, and especially those in more traditionally ‘working class’ roles such as construction, gain access to powerful marketing platforms as much as those who work within offices.

If that’s inclusion in business, then we’ll take it!

Does Pitch@Palace actually work for entrepreneurs?

Mobile Power was a Pitch@Palace winner in 2016.

Real Business spoke exclusively to Jono West, founder of impact energy company Mobile Power and a past Pitch@Palace winner, to find out how impactful the event was for his business…

Company: Mobile Power

Website: https://www.mobile-power.co.uk/

Mobile Power, a business that provides clean, transport friendly and widely accessible energy for sub-Saharan Africa, caught Prince Andrew’s eye back in 2016. Speaking to the founder at this year’s event, he remains adamant that the pitch led to some great exposure for his business and even accelerated it.

“Pitch@Palace gave us a great boost at a crucial point in our businesses development. It opened doors to a wide range of investors, new manufacturers and potential clients.”

Watching this year’s contestants with great interest, he commented on the recruitment interest his business experienced following his own pitch…

“The experience massively improved our team’s moral and attracted great editions to the company, who have helped take us to the point of launching our commercial product across Africa.”

In all, it seemed that the Pitch@Palace event was a highly successful experience for Mobile Power…

“Most of all it raised our profile, giving us a new credibility and publicity.”

For savvy startups who are dreaming of becoming SME success stories, the next UK Pitch@Palace event takes place summer 2019, find out apply here.