For an increasing number of SMEs, it is all about the pitch

The ability to deliver a polished investment pitch is a key requirement for any successful entrepreneur, writes Trish Dromey

Seen on Dragons Den, used in business competitions and by investors, investment pitches were this year used by Enterprise Ireland to select recipients of €50,000 Competitive Start Funding for the first time.

Offering workshops to help promoters with their pitches, Enterprise Ireland plans to use video pitches as part of the selection process for high potential start up companies in 2015. Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start Up manager John O’Dea says the ability to deliver a polished investment pitch is now a key requirement.

In the space of five to 12 minutes the promoter has to give details of the product or service, the unique selling point, the target market, the route to market, the business model, the experience of the team and outline how the money will be spent.

Getting the information right is important but so too is the delivery. “A good pitch is like a performance — it should be polished, without seeming over rehearsed, should be enthusiastic and positive with appearing unrealistic or naive.

“The style should be informal but business like,” says Mr O’Dea says that a pitch can expose a lack of communication skills in some.

Those who have been honing their pitching skills during the year include the 80 companies who successfully obtained Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland as well as the 100 or so companies which secured investment of €200,000 each as part of the High Potential Start Up programme.

“It has been a good year for us and the numbers are at least as good as 2013. In all we dealt with 1300 enquiries and got around 900 business propositions and have given small funding of up to €15,000 to over 400 entrepreneurs,” he says.

As in previous years there has been a preponderance of technology companies in all programmes.

Mr O’Dea says software accounts for 62% of high-potential start ups this year and that participants in all programmes included a high number of companies involved in apps and cloud based services Key strategies for Enterprise Ireland have been to target female entrepreneurs, encourage start ups outside of theDublin area and also to promote Ireland overseas as being a good place to start a tech business.

In January 2014 a Competitive Start Funding programme for female entrepreneurs was announced and this was followed up by another in November.

“This year the number of female high-potential start-up companies companies has increase to 18, up from 13 last year. There are now a growing number successful female entrepreneurs providing role models, for others,” says Mr O’Dea.

A Competitive Start Funding programme specifically designed for recent graduates attracted 100 applicants and 15 of these were approved for funding. Mr O’Dea says one of the trends noticed Enterprise Ireland is that promoters are getting younger.

Recent graduates are willing to take the plunge rather than wait until they have experience, he says. As a result of efforts to encourage promoters from overseas to locate here, nine companies received HPSU funding.

These include Logograb which has patented technology to scan logos with a smartphone. Led by two Swiss promoters it launched at the Web Summit in November.

One of the success stories in 2013’s high-potential start-up companies class include Xpreso, the winner of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition which has produced an app to map addresses for couriers and now employs a staff of seven.

Other participant include Wicklow Wolf Brewing, which produces American style beers and has plans to export to the UK and create 16 jobs in the next few years. Dublin company Intalex aims to disrupt the recruitment market with a new recruitment platform. Planning is already underway to provide assistance to start ups in 2015.

Companies which believe they have the capability to succeed in global markets are invited to submit applications for Competitive Start Funding funding by January 28. Enterprise Ireland is planning two other general Competitive Start Funding funding calls later in the year. It will also be putting out a call for graduate entrepreneurs in April and for female entrepreneurs in November.

Entrepreneurs in the south east are invited to apply for feasibility study grants of up to €25,000 by January 20. For the New Year Enterprise Ireland will also be running pitch practice sessions and advises all entrepreneurs to get in training.

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