Pitchfest competition opens for business

Pitchfest competition opens for business

Entrepreneurs in the Midlands looking to improve their pitching skills can now apply for Pitchfest - the pitching competition that gives entrepreneurs a better chance of winning investment.

Pitchfest, conceived and jointly organised by Aston University, the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick, is an opportunity for business owners and entrepreneurs to raise their profile in front of a national audience of investors, and gives them the chance win one of several awards at Venturefest West Midlands 2017, including a top prize of £1,000 sponsored by Gowling WLG.

Businesses pitching for investment frequently overlook the need to tailor their pitch to an investor audience, focusing instead on what they would present to potential customers. This is a major pitfall when it comes to winning external finance, and a stumbling block for most small businesses wanting to grow. Business investment experts at the three universities developed Pitchfest to combat this very problem, and free pitching workshops are being run to help participants hone their delivery.

Pitchfest is entirely free and open to any business sector. Applicants who own a growing business, or a business in its early stages are encouraged to apply and applications are made online. The organisers are encouraging early applications so that entrepreneurs have the time they need to refine their presentation – a process that is key to delivering a winning pitch at the final.

Shortlisted applicants will present to a judging panel, and selected finalists will pitch to leading investors and industry experts at Venturefest WM on Tuesday 27th June 2017 at the NEC, Birmingham, watched by an audience of potential investors. This one-day event is supported by Innovate UK and is part of a national network of Venturefests, which brings together entrepreneurs, investors and innovators to meet, engage, and discuss ideas.

As well as the potential to win investment, Pitchfest also provides useful PR. Byron Dixon, owner of antibacterial coatings firm Micro-Fresh, won the “Growth Stage” and “Best Pitch” Awards in 2015 and saw the effects long after the competition was over. “The publicity is something you just can’t buy – taking part and winning the awards has given us exposure to some of the best investors in the region and nationally. The confidence I have gained in approaching investors has helped us to secure international investment too.”

James Richmond, founder of Roompik – a fledgling tech company creating a mobile app for finding housemates – also enjoyed a hike in interest and success after taking part in the competition. “Pitchfest was the catalyst for getting the deal across the line with investors - the moment it all finally happened. Our pitch evolved dramatically throughout the process and repeatedly answering questions from the judges really helped.”

Paula Whitehouse, director of Aston Centre for Growth, said: “Access to finance for small businesses and entrepreneurs is vital for growth, which is why Pitchfest is once again a key element of Venturefest WM. A fully-developed finance pitch isn’t necessary, just a viable business idea or growth opportunity along with the ambition to succeed. We will help all successful applicants to develop a suitable finance pitch with workshops, practice pitches and feedback from expert panels of investors and industry leaders, all completely free of charge.”

David Coleman, head of enterprise acceleration at the University of Birmingham works directly with small businesses in the region. He added: “Although the West Midlands is a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity, the lion’s share of investment still goes to London and the South East. The Pitchfest platform is a great tool for redressing that balance. By bringing investors directly into our selection process, we are enabling companies to both improve their investment prospects, and to network with potential funding sources.”