Sponsoring Pitching for Management clearly works well, because the venue sponsor Nabarro is always top-of-mind whenever I’m asked for a recommendation for a startup lawyer. The London event is always stuffed to the gunwales, as it’s clearly the most popular event in the series.
Heather White also sponsored the event, offering a service designed to bring talent into firms at an NED level. Nonexechub.com is looking to help bridge the gap between the talent and the placement, by providing a range of learning and networking opportunities for non-exec wannabes. I’d certainly like to add more NED-type roles to my portfolio, so this is something I got straight on to.
The 25th March event saw an unusual crop of firms, which were quite distinct from most of the business I’d seen at their previous events. For me, the fit wasn’t as good as is usually the case, but maybe some of these will whet your appetite…
Smart City Solutions were offering an idea I was quite gutted not to have thought of myself! Neil Herron presented a solution where delivery vehicles could pay for an electronic permit to park in a restricted zone. Perhaps a little like the sale of indulgences by the Medieval church, this absolves drivers of their PCN sins (for a small fee). In a display of financially-motivated pragmatism the council and the driver do a little deal. The driver gets round the risk of a PCN, and (kerching!) Smart City takes a piece of the action. What’s not to like!
Oc3 was an unusual proposition, presented by Stuart Blackman. The concept basically amounts to a better version of school careers advice, which clients pay for. The target audience was older, of course – and the plan is also sought to dole out business advice, from my recollection. Whilst the idea of working for such an outfit really appeals to me, I honestly can’t see it scaling. My guess is that the generalist, high-street style proposed won’t be focussed enough for the high-spending audience they’d need to attract to make the business work. I could see a specialist version being viable – which would be based around a competitive industry, such as law, banking or fashion. However, the one-to-one format likely won’t hit the margins needed to make it a lucrative opportunity in its current form.
T.O.A.D. was a niche, premium spirit brand, which sought to capture the essence of Oxford in a range of high-end drinks. The proposition blends the revenue from sales, and from the tourist experience of visiting the firm’s distillery. Tom Nicholson created an evocative pitch which captured the true magic of the quintessentially English heartlands. I felt the concept was a relatively risky one, but nevertheless he clearly had the passion that’s necessary to draw people into his entrepreneurial vision.
Tim Aston had a venture based around the concept of Emotional Intelligence. The idea was that by taking training and support to blue-chip firms, they can build the EQ of their staff. This is an idea I can really see delivering results. However, the big challenge in such a project is always going to be finding the sales. No matter how good your founder is at taking the ‘Big Idea’ to customers, it’s not easy to find people to scale that ‘secret sauce’ to a larger customer base. Emoquo is a business I hope will see success – but I’m aware that it’s a challenging journey as firms like this seek to grow their operations.
Educake was a great proposition, which perhaps has some parallels with KoSu. This allows teachers to set short answer questions, which are intelligently marked in software. The concept is a time-saver, and an improvement to the conventional learning cycle of education. This is freebased homework – the crack of key stage 3! I’m all for digitised education, and putting the tools into the hands of the learners, so it’s a brand I hope will succeed. However, sometimes an entrepreneur with a clear vision and expertise can be a challenge for a team to engage with. I felt that perhaps Charley Derbishire was someone who would be relying more on his own drive to make the project succeed than he would on the ideas and input of others.
Always a favourite of mine, I’ve rarely missed a London PfM event in recent years. You should check them out, too.