Another month, another trip to the excellent TechPitch 4.5, run by @2_Pears. This event has it all: a consistently great line up, a venue you can actually see and hear in, and (of course) free pizza. Hosted as always by Pinsent Masons and chaired by @danversbaillieu, it is the best-organised monthly tech pitching event, and the one with the best line up. You can’t afford to miss it.

The keynote was given by Jim Brown of @round8recruit, who filled everyone in on his tips for hiring. But of course, it was the pitches which were the main event, and so – without further ado:

@BagServant are an online marketplace for handbags, which can take advantage of affiliate commissions. By specialising in a single high-margin, high-value item, they can provide a specific service to consumers which more general sites will struggle to match. Lenka Gourdie gave a pitch which engaged me, but sadly didn’t win a prize from the audience or judges. There are some big-name competitors for Bag Servant – even ones which are specific to handbags. However, I’m hopeful that they will find their focus will allow them to survive (and possibly thrive) against some strong competitors. It was suggested that the resale market might be a good move for them. Personally, I feel that there’s a lot of options when it comes to carving out a niche in handbags, and I look forward to seeing the brand evolve.

@BranchBot aims to put the high street on an app – literally. The concept is to allow real-world shoppers to window shop on an app, while they’re out and about. Users are able to call up microsites for shops in their local area, to speed browsing in high street locations. The site follows a fixed format, with each retailer given a map pin, a short & punchy ‘business card’ style description, and an instagram-style photo board. This allows shoppers to quickly compare all the boutique shops in their area, to make sure they don’t miss any hidden gems. It’s free for retailers to get going, with more storage available to those who choose to upgrade. Getting the app populated is the way forward – and it’s up to Omar Francis to decide whether to lead with a location or a niche in this regard. Fashion is an obvious choice, and for my marketing money, I think I’d concentrate on getting the majors on board to give the boutiques a reason to follow suit. There are many geolocation-type business out there, but there’s something simple and inherently attractive about this, and I think it’s one to watch. However, in a night of particularly strong competition, this business sadly didn’t make the podium.

MrMash are a business from the South West, which has a growing community of tech entrepreneurs, primarily based on a very supportive university environment at Bath and Bristol. Pip Williams gave a demo of his impressive video greetings cards, which allow users to embed their photo in high-quality video clips using real actors. In the demo, the user’s photo appeared on newspaper front pages, billboards and traffic signs. Whilst this is a very impressive technology, the panel sensibly raised concerns about its longevity. I’m also not sure whether they’ve got the product diversity and clear route to market needed to turn a piece of seriously cool tech into a winning product. Nevertheless, their creativity and innovation won them the Judges’ Bronze.

@OpenBrandHQ is a project I’ve previously worked on, and I like their niche-focussed B2B offering. The aim of their project is to allow firms to manage all their brand materials in a single, specialised platform. For example, McDonald’s need to have a way to store and share all the relevant versions of their logo, and related branding materials. Controlling and distributing that Worldwide is a serious job, and Open Brand does the heavy lifting. I think it’s a great business, and the audience agreed – placing it joint second. The judges expressed concern about their direct sales approach, and instead suggested that they should middleman the product through the creatives who act for a large number of brands. I can certainly see the advantages of this sales strategy suggestion.

@PleaseCycle is a business which helps employers encourage cycle commuting. This has health benefits, and makes wages go further – as people don’t need to waste money on their cars or on parking. It also allows firms to improve their green credentials. Their online platform allows employees to compete against each other on commitment, gamifying the process of regular cycling. As a committed rider myself, I really ‘get’ this business. Knowing your employer and your colleagues are on board can be a real help when it’s wet and dark and you can’t be bothered. PleaseCycle is a package, and not just a piece of software. It helps with everything from knowing you can get a shower at work, to feeling smug when you’ve braved the road on a particularly unpleasant morning. Cycling is a viable choice for many more people than currently choose it – and I think this business has a really bright future. One angle the panel spotted was the chance for the firm to ‘own’ the whole cycling market, particularly in London. Cycling is a fair-sized industry, with regular riders spending a few hundred quid a year. This business could end up pivoting as it grows, but its current incarnation still makes a lot of sense. The judges gave it a Gold, and it picked up a joint Silver from the audience.

Rain Beau doesn’t appear to be specific to London, despite the slightly confusing @RainBeauLondon twitter handle. They can perhaps best be described as LinkedIn for creatives. The judges didn’t appear to ‘get’ this business, but I did. Fortunately, a large proportion of the audience also got it too, and they carried off a joint Silver. The core proposition is letting people with an inherently visual career display this online, and to connect with others. LinkedIn just doesn’t cut it for fashion designers, photographers, etc. I’ve seen other businesses which host portfolios, and use a freemium model to make sense at small scale – so I’m confident that this team can do something really exciting if they execute well.

@UTellyTV gave a confusing pitch, which appeared to leave the judges as baffled as I was. As I semi-understood it, they were intending to allow users to control their TV using a phone app which would navigate and select content. Doubtless a neat technical idea, but a hard market to break – as the judges rightly pointed out. I didn’t feel they managed to demonstrate the X-factor required to get in with the majors – and they walked away without an award.

@Zondle were last, and certainly not least. The audience gave them a Gold, and the Judges a joint Silver. They describe what they do as ‘Chocolate covered broccoli’, in that they make education fun by mixing it with mobile games. Strictly speaking, their mobile apps aren’t exactly educational games. They’re more like a Kosu-style multiple choice test with user-generated content, interspersed with games to make the experience a bit less boring than ‘normal’ homework. They’ve got serious traction, with six-figure user numbers, and a clear monetization model. They get paid by selling branded content, for students who want the additional confidence in breadth and accuracy that accompanies an exam board or publishers’ brand. They displayed serious promise, and deserved to win an award.