I’ve been attending Pitching for Management events for several years now, and the format has been broadly stable.  The organisation is currently experimenting with a refreshed style, and the London event of the series was the first time that I’ve personally experienced this change.  Originally, the concept was pure pitching, with just the usual sponsor talks and intros in addition.  Now, Modwenna Rees-Mogg has decided to go for a content-heavy format instead.  The event thus had a significant panel discussion, in addition to the pitches.

The panel on this occasion included: Camilla Dolan from MMC ventures; and Alan Wallace from Octopus, who I know well from previous investment dealings.  These were certainly good choices, with much to say about both investment and entrepreneurship.  One of the challenges, however, of a format change such as this is that it affects the style of the event.  A pitching event with less time for pitches is fundamentally different.  One of the features of the ‘Pitching for Management’ concept is that it tends to have a broad range of pitching firms, as it doesn’t have a sector focus.  This broadens the scope of the event, and also tends to raise the chance of discovering something genuinely novel.  However, it also has the effect of somewhat reducing the likelihood of serendipitous connections within a preferred sector.  This change meant that the London event felt to me a slightly less productive orchard from which to harvest.

The firms pitching made a good impression.  The most distinctive in my mind was Bee Good, which marketed a range of cosmetics based on bee products.  Presented by Glen Jennison, their secret sauce was an ingredient called propolis, which (I later learned) is a substance which bees use to seal gaps in their hive – much as one might use No More Big Gaps to do the same job in a draughty Victorian terraced house.  This is certainly a good branding move, as it makes their product seem distinctive.  Nevertheless, I’m always sceptical of grand claims made by the cosmetics industry, and after seeing the pitch I’m unclear as to how the relatively tiny proportions of this magic ingredient are supposed to make such a difference.  I shouldn’t let this trouble you from a commercial point of view, as robust scientific evidence has not been a key marketing feature of the cosmetics industry in my personal experience.  Bee Good were seeking brand-building expertise, to help them develop their product lines commercially.

Now We Comply is a business much more typical of the projects I like to get involved in.  It’s what I term a ‘boring business’ – one that fulfils a real need, and one that people are prepared to pay to have filled.  Their modus operandi is to provide online tools for all the tedious box-ticking and form-filling required for firms operating in regulated industries, such as healthcare recruitment.  When a locum doctor or agency nurse is sent out to a client hospital or clinic, they need all the right t’s crossed and i’s dotted, or the faceless bureaucrats will snap their pencil leads in frustration at the devastating shambles of an unticked box.  In an industry where the slightly-raised eyebrow of a fat-pensioned, under-talented oaf can mean the difference between success and bankruptcy, making paperwork perfect is crucial – and that’s why there’s money in this model.   Ben Stoneham was looking to find a CEO, to help the firm grow to the next stage.

Stuart Blyth finished up by representing ‘From Pitch to Boardroom’ ( fp-tb.com ).  They were looking for a door-opening sales enabler.  Their proposition was to engage firms in management training – selling at senior management level.  Their product used games and insights based around Stuart’s professional footballing experience.  He was an engaging chap, and it seems like he’d be a good hire for the clients of his firm. Whether his business could be made into a scalable model is more questionable, as it seemed a lot of personal hard work was required.  However, scale isn’t the only measure of success.

The new format for the Pitching for Management events certainly feels very different.  If you’re looking for a mixture of opportunities and insights, it’s likely to work well.  However, for those seeking a greater density of  pitches, the new format may feel less focussed.  Combined with the relatively high price point of this event, this may mean that their audience shifts a little bit in nature.  On a personal level, whilst I certainly enjoyed the panel, I’d prefer to have used the time to line up more pitching firms to connect with.

The event was catered with Nabarro’s absolutely excellent on-site hospitality, and also sponsored, as usual, by Marks and Clerk patent and trademark attorneys.