Creating and refining a bright idea is a difficult task in itself, but putting it out into the world is a whole other ball game. You’ve got to convince others to believe in it and risk your perfect plan getting poked and prodded by an outsider’s perspective. Although daunting, this is the best way to launch your idea, make some improvements, and put your best foot forward towards making your dream a reality.
Without opportunities to present them to the right people, ideas to improve our products and services can go unheard. Launch22 hosts a monthly Pitch Night for entrepreneurs looking to share their ideas with expert judges and investors. It’s completely free, with a more laid back approach, and a great opportunity to test the pitching waters and get some valuable feedback.
In February we welcomed Daniel Pedder, founder of EXPAND9, a software solutions provider. The success of his pitch earned him a free month at our business incubator. We caught up with Dan to find out more about his experience and advice for fellow entrepreneurs. Sitting down with a cuppa in our communal kitchen, I wanted to know a bit more about his venture and where the inspiration came from. He tells me that, having worked in the medical industry for the last four years as Digital Marketing Manager, he often came across a recurring problem and sought to create a solution.
“Throughout that period, it became apparent just how difficult it is to monitor your competitors effectively, thus leading to potential missed opportunities. This got me thinking that this must be happening across other industries too. Companies might find out about something a bit too late, and not really understand the impact of what their competitors are doing until receiving feedback customers. By then, of course, they may have already switched to the services offered by the competitor.”
Dan is creating a tool that will make it easier to track competitors. His goal is to create a solution that will collect data and present it back to the user in an easy to use fashion. While there are plenty of marketing trackers, Dan wants to track intellectual property and more information about admin and the business side of things. The overall idea is to help infuse your company's creative and strategic decision making. Having identified a problem and thought of a solution, Dan brought his plan to Pitch Night after a friend emailed him the details from our Eventbrite page. I asked him about his experience of the event and how useful it was for his venture.
“I thought it was brilliant, very professional and accommodating with free drinks and food. The environment is very relaxing as well. I mean, there’s a ping pong table over there and a massive teddy bear in the corner! Being a solo founder can be difficult. The only people that give you feedback are your friends, family and, of course, customers. Although I was just pitching an idea, it was good to get some objective feedback. It was really helpful and I think there’s a lack of that available in general for start-ups, so I think it’s a really good initiative to have that facility in place.”
When working alone, Dan says it’s also easy to get tunnel vision and spend too much time one one aspect of your idea. Taking on feedback from outsiders can give you a new perspective to progress you onwards and upwards in your business journey. His month at Launch22 gave Dan the opportunity to work in a new environment away from home.
“I’m about 4 months into the project and, being a one-man band, that’s a massive challenge in itself. I’m at the point now where I’m still developing a demo version so I can get it into the hands of customers, but there’s still so much background work to be done. Sometimes I’ll start at 8:00am and won’t finish until midnight, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sleep’s important as well! And it’s hard to get that balance. I think that’s when a space like Launch22 is great. I will definitely be looking to come back here, because my flat is basically my office now, but it’s where I live, sleep, and hang out with friends. The line between work and life blurs a bit.”
“Everyone here was really friendly and the setup is really relaxed and cool. Even though it’s serious in the sense of what people are trying to do, run a business and get it going, but this kind of environment helps to relax people and it doesn’t feel like an office. It feels more like a creative space. I wear headphones a lot of the time when I want to zone out, but it’s nice to flip them off and get some downtime in your working day, before you get back into the zone again. I think it’s just the right level of activity here and I had a great month.”
Listening to Dan’s business plans, aspirations, and other projects he’s currently working on, I’m impressed that he can juggle all of this alone and in his own time. I decided to pick his brain for advice to fellow entrepreneurs…
“I do try to infuse a bit of structure. I think you have to, because you can lose track. One thing I’ve learnt over this journey is that Trello is the best thing. It’s fantastic! There’s also the psychological aspect when you complete a task. You’ve achieved something, even though it may be a small task, but it gives you a dopamine rush. I basically just set what the milestones are for the project to get from 0 to 1: what are the key elements that need to be in place for a functional demo? Once I’ve achieved that, I’ll then go back and finesse each part, whether it’s the marketing, the speed of the application, or the user experience.”
Finally, what advice does Dan have for anyone wanting to come along and pitch their business idea?
“Just do it. Don’t think about it. I’d say get a broad scope of your idea or product, spend five minutes creating a quick slide set, identify the intro, the problem, and what your solution is. You could then touch on your go to market strategy and finish with a call to action."
"Other than that, don’t worry too much about the night, otherwise you might convince yourself not to do it!”
Find out more about Dan's company over on EXPAND9
The next Pitch Night will take place on Wednesday 25th April. Sign up here!
Words by Jessica Greenall