With InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition now in its 15th year and the deadline for entry fast approaching, I caught up with with last year’s overall winner Dr Terry McWade, CEO of Dublin-based Valitacell, who shared his advice on how to get the most out of the largest all-Island business competition.
By Dr Terry McWade, Valitacell
Winning the overall prize at Seedcorn 2016 was a tremendous confidence boost for Valitacell. As an early stage company in the bio-technology field, we’d been in operation for just over a year and the €100,000 prize fund allowed us to progress further along the implementation path and achieve a number of key milestones.
We are now starting our funding round and feel we are in a very strong position as we are already in revenue with product on the market and have global biopharma companies as customers. The publicity and profile from our Seedcorn Competition win has proved very useful and has opened the door for many of the conversations we are currently having. My advice to anyone considering taking part in the competition is to…
Grab the opportunity
If you are considering taking part – start the application process today, don’t put it off. Seedcorn is the leading business competition and previous finalists have raised more than €218m in equity, so this is a task definitely worth prioritising!
Be mindful your business will be reviewed by generalists
Don’t include jargon or technical speak in your proposal – explain your business in clear language that can be understood by non-experts.
Take note of the tips that InterTradeIreland issue during the process
These will be sent out and will include topics like financial planning and commercialisation but they should help you prepare each section of the submission.
Include appropriate financial info with your application
This is a business competition and clear financial information is critical. It will depend where your company is at the point of application just how much you can convey but financial details need to be adequate enough to show that you’ve thought through your business’s financial model and understand your cash needs.
Use graphics and visuals where possible – they can speak volumes
Don’t make things too ‘wordy’ as graphics and pictures can be more understandable and memorable and are often easier to digest
Demonstrate the highlights of the company
The judges will be reviewing hundreds of entries and summarising what makes your business compelling could help you to stand out – this can often get lost in a 20 page detailed proposal.
Try out your video on someone who is not involved
This will give you impartial feedback before your entry goes to the judges.
Attend an InterTradeIreland Seedcorn workshop, if shortlisted
The information and assistance at this stage can really help you to perfect your pitch. It may seem difficult to dedicate a full day to this but was definitely worth it.
Listen to the feedback and coaching
While you may not initially agree with a direction or tip that is suggested at the workshops, take them on board for consideration – these experts are here to help you. Modify your presentation for the afternoon session to build on what you have learned.
Check all presentation rooms in advance at the pitch stage of the competition
This can affect your props/presentation as if people are close they may be able to read a graphic but if they are far away – information could be lost. This tip is based on a personal experience I had and now I always make sure to check the room layout in advance.
Research the judging panel
Investigate, in advance, just how much each judge is likely to know about your market. Your pitch can be adjusted accordingly.
Pitch your business not your product
While this seems self-explanatory, it can be hard to separate the two. Remember it is the business itself they want to hear about. They will be looking at your investability and commercialisation strategy rather than just the product itself.
Find an analogy to resonate with the audience
This will depend on who your judges are and your research can help you here. It’s all about creating a lasting memory of you and your business in their minds.
Highlight your company’s journey and progress since the competition’s early stages
Things will have changed in your business if you have reached the final stages of the competition and are pitching to the judges. Don’t assume they know of your interim successes – tell them.
Network, network and network some more
This is key at each stage of the competition but especially at the grand final. The room will be full of potential investors and it is an excellent opportunity to strike up as many business conversations as possible across the guest list.
Finally - if you are considering entering the competition, be sure to grab the opportunity with both hands and listen to the feedback and sound advice you are given every step of the way.
Seedcorn 2017 is now open
This year’s competition is now open for registration at www.intertradeireland.com/seedcorn and the deadline for submissions is 26 May 2017. You can follow all the action throughout the 2017 competition by searching for and using #ITISeedcorn and following @Inter_Trade.