In the face of stiff competition yesterday, Mallzee’s founder and CEO, Cally Russell, emerged as the Pitch of the Day winner and can now place the prestigious EIE London award on the shelf alongside his many other business accolades.
The group of 12 companies pitching to an international audience of investors were drawn from a range of sectors, from the internet of things, construction industry, advertising, sports technology and, of course, in Mallzee’s case, online commerce and big data. In the beautiful and imposing Canada House, each entrepreneur did themselves proud, delivering confident and often witty performances that at times enthralled the audience (perhaps it was even Cally’s cheeky comeback about the host’s shirt that helped him secure the win?!).
As EIE London draws to a close for this year and as pitching events become ever more popular, the best advice I can give to an entrepreneur wanting to stand out and be memorable is be passionate but natural. It’s so much easier for an audience to connect with a presenter when it feels conversational, spontaneous even, but I guess, counterintuitively, all that comes with practice.
In addition to an inspiring line up of high growth potential companies (view them all here), we were also treated to a impressive line up of guest speakers – all women and all at the top of their game. Our great thanks to Lesley Eccles for making the trip down to London to tell the story of FanDuel and the challenges they faced scaling their business and growing their headcount from 123 to 515 in just 11 months! In a very endearing and honest account of the rise of FanDuel, Lesley acknowledged the current challenges they are facing amid US regulatory change while reassuring that FanDuel, as so many time before, is in a strong position to meet any challenges head on, even welcoming the chance to participate in forming the regulations to protect their customers and safeguard the future of their industry.
Our next speaker, Kerry Sharp, Head of the Scottish Investment Bank discussed the myriad of funds available to help them achieve their objectives of internationalisation, investment, inclusive growth and innovation in Scotland. Kerry also discussed the Scottish co-investment fund which matches private investment up to £1.5m to help alleviate the funding gap and affords SIB the opportunity to take a measure of satisfaction as investors in FanDuel, Touch Bionics and Nucana Biomed to name just a few. It’s a great fund that has already made a huge impact across Scotland and will no doubt continue to do so for many years to come following investments like these!
Closing the day’s speakers was the always inspiring Sherry Coutu CBE whose passion for the subject of starting and scaling a business had the audience captivated. Sherry is clear about what we can and should do as a nation – it’s not rocket science, just focus on tangible growth based on turnover (yep, that’s real money in!) and growing headcount, the two things that really do contribute to the economy, rather than obsession with valuation at investment – being a ‘unicorn’ really is just a number. That can go up. Or down.
All told, a true inspiration and a privilege to hear her speak yesterday.
For the first time since its inception, EIE yesterday was the first cohort to be derived from other regions beyond Scotland and, for that, we would like to give our special thanks to EIT Digital, UCLB and UCL Advances for their considerable support leading up to the event and for putting forward a strong contingent of London and European based entrepreneurs.
Of course, the real value of Engage Invest Exploit (EIE) is the connections made on the day and, to that end, it was great to see a large number of new faces, as well as the long-time supporters of EIE (all of whom we hope to see again next year, if not before at EIE16 in May!)
If you’re reading this as a company wanting to participate in future events there’s still time to apply for EIE16 but applications close on 30th November so don’t hang about. Full details on the event and how to apply can be found here.