In even the most normal of circumstances, pitching an idea for the next big business venture is a daunting task. Then add the Royal family and an audience of investors and venture capitalists worth a combined $1 trillion into the mix, and it’s easy to understand why the ideas of Pitch@Palace go on to attract the attention of industry giants like Apple and Twitter.
Founded in 2014 by the Duke of York, the Pitch@Palace initiative offers up-and-coming entrepreneurs a global stage to develop, perfect, and ultimately pitch their ideas for business or tech startups. The event, held twice each year, selects 42 applicants from around the world to participate in an intense boot-camp and training period where they work with a series of experts and coaches to finalise and develop their ideas. From there, 12 finalists are invited to pitch their ideas in front of the world’s top investors at St. James’s Palace. Since 2014, Pitch@Palace’s impact accounts for 637 jobs and over £256 million of new economic activity.
During Advertising Week Europe, Nick Giles, Co-Founder of Seven Hills, sat down with three Pitch@Palace alumni to discuss their experience pitching their startup ideas to the Duke of York, and how their businesses have been catapulted in the time since. Though not all of the three panelists were winners of Pitch@Palace, all agreed that regardless of outcome, the visibility and the credibility that’s granted to the entrepreneurs involved in the program is unlike anything else in the world.
“The stories that come from people who are involved in it are incredible. Whether you’re in the idea stage or you’re already making profit, the benefit is that [the pitch] accelerates whatever stage you’re in,” said Abdul Alim, co-founder of OfferMoments.
Alim recalled watching sci-fi movies in his garage to get inspired with the next big startup when he and his friends were struck with the idea to develop the world’s smartest screen. Some 18 months later, Alim and his team created OfferMoments, a screen that utilises facial recognition-data to personalise ads as consumers approach it. Soon thereafter, the team found themselves standing in front a room of investors in St. James’s Palace, along with a special guest they hadn’t prepared to meet: Her Majesty the Queen.
But even outside of Royal attendance, Rebekah Scheuerle, co-founder of JustMilk, said the setting is made to feel somewhat intimidating, so as to elevate the potential and bring the best out of the entrepreneurs giving their pitches
“It’s intimidating by design with the way the lights are done, and the room is all red, but it’s just a great opportunity to talk about what you’re doing and then get to go network after,” Scheuerle said.
JustMilk, a breastfeeding device that delivers drugs and nutrients to infants, went on to win first prize at Pitch@Palace in 2016. Scheuerle, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge Department of Chemical Engineering, said the credibility you receive from becoming pitch@Palace alumni continues even after the immediacy of the event is over, making the visibility of the new businesses unparalleled to anything else in the start-up space.
Paul Varga, co-founder of Playbrush and another Pitch@Palace alumnus said that although he and his partners didn’t make the cut on their first application, the investors also took notice of their perseverance, a trait that is essential in the fast-paced, ultra-competitive world of tech and start-ups.
Two significant winning acquisitions to come from Pitch@Palace include Vocal IQ, which was recently acquired by Apple, as well as Magic Pony, bought by Twitter for over $150 Million.