The good, the bad and the ugly were all present at TechPitch 4.5, hosted by Danvers Ballieu from Pinsett Masons.  

The keynote was given by Ben Tompkins from Eden Ventures.  This was a surprisingly no-nonsense talk, which would have suited many lean startup presentations.  All good, sensible stuff about having a minimum viable product, and being specific about exactly which niche you’re targetting.  One key takeaway for me was that he specifically claimed to like startups which negotiated hard with him.  So remember, don’t leave money on the table when you negotiate with a VC…

The startup presentations ranged from the inspiring to the awful.  I’ve picked a few of the most notable below.

If you believe in the wisdom of crowds, Digital Shadows were the winner, with the largest share of the audience vote.  These two affable chaps run a consultancy helping firms identify and clean up all the confidential corporate stuff that finds its way onto the internet.  Most large firms have a rudimentary degree of network security in place, but many fail to realise that there’s loads of sensitive stuff lying around on external networks.  Digital Shadow tracks this compromising material down, to help firms eliminate it.  Their business model is modest and sensible, and they have credible growth plans.  They won’t be overtaking facebook anytime soon, but are well on the way to becoming a respected and profitable centre of expertise. I could well see them growing in reach and stature, or alternatively bringing on new partners to offer a full-service security offering. They have the ‘soft skills’ needed to make partnerships work, with a notably pleasant and professional approach.

Winner of the judges award was Flooved.  With a dynamic and engaging pitch, this firm clearly communicated its intention to become the Spotify of textbooks.  They plan to take convert the printed books familiar to students into an up-to-date online subscription service.  The panel pointed out some reservations, mainly concerning the difficulties of entering this market, and the potential need for significant capital.  I broadly share these concerns, but I also recognise the opportunity to disrupt a mid-sized market with a well-targetted business model.  Perhaps there will be a couple of tweaks and pivots along the way, but this is a business with clear commercial sense behind it, and it could be the disruptor the textbook has been waiting for.

I’ve seen miicard before, but have not yet had the chance to write about them formally.  They got my vote, as I can see the swift and tremendous scale possible with their model.  They do the online equivalent of showing your driving licence to prove your identity.  This might not strike you as something you’d rush to sign up for, but when you realise that many online finance applications are abandoned once it gets to the paperwork, the case for modernising the ID system is overwhelming.  It’s certainly possible that there could be hurdles when it comes to consumer adoption, but having a free, quick and easy way to prove your identity online is likely to become a winner once the public are educated.  The pitch itself perhaps didn’t make this rip-roaring business opportunity sound as exciting as it is in reality, but this is my personal blockbuster business pick. I think we’ll all be using a miicard in a few years time. The judges missed their target here, I feel.

Last and least was a very weak pitch from Simplified Recruitment.  This is a business model which is particularly familiar to me, as I’ve consulted for a competitor of the firm. However, the business was so poorly communicated even I was left confused by the end of the pitch!  I was far from alone, and the panel had to ask for clarification on what the company actually did, once the pitch was over – despite the fact that I’ve consulted with a competitor of theirs for some time. With a second go, their service of posting job ads to recruitment boards was explained fairly clearly, but this didn’t rescue them from a poor initial impression.  A prickly and difficult Ben Francis didn’t do anything to claw back from his bodged pitch later.  Needless to say, he wasn’t on the podium, despite having a reasonable business model and some traction. I could be 100% certain, but I think Simplified Recruitment also pulled in a big fat zero from the audience, too. Here’s how not to do it….

As always, Techpitch 4.5 is professionally run and a wise choice for anyone looking to find the hotest startups in the business. I look forward to future events as much as I enjoyed this one.