Yesterday I pitched Feedback Loop at Nottingham’s annual start-up of the year 2013 competition final. It was my first pitch in England with a really tough Q&A session. However, I managed to make friends with the judges and even taught the bartender a lesson.

Here’s how I did that and what I learnt.

Nott Tuesday Start-up of the Year 2013 Competition, held at Antenna

As usual, the pitching competition was organized by @NottTuesday.com who also run fortnightly tech meetups in Nottingham.

How the hell did I get there?

After finding out about the event a week before and submitting a short Feedback Loop video pitch, I was glad to hear we’ve been selected. Even though Feedback Loop was started in Australia and the only tie linking it to Nottingham was my studies at University of Nottingham (UoN), that didn’t seem to cause any problems in the selection process.

“Emerging” vs “mature”

The organisers decided to tweak the competition a bit by splitting start-ups into “emerging” and “mature” categories with four and two finalists respectively. Reasoning behind that was getting a wider variety of start-ups to compete. With a growing number of sponsors and an increasing prize pot, such move looks more than reasonable.

The pitch

It was my first formal pitch in the UK against a professional panel of judges.

Since I got lucky to deliver the opening pitch, the panel seemed really keen at Q&A stage and their questioning extended way beyond the given 5 min mark. Both Rob Coward (an ex-corporate lawyer and a VC at growthaccelerator.com) and Adam Bird (entrepreneur currently building onediary.com) challenged me on Feedback Loop’s business model, product/market fit and relevance to Nottingham.

Even though I didn’t repeat some of our previous mistakes (Sydney Morning Herald teased us on that! ), I found it challenging to be caught on the spot on some of the questions.

That was my first Q&A session, after all.

The winners

George from Konstrukt won in the “emerging” category award. He’s seeking to build a social audiophile platform for a younger Nottingham crowd and has completed his distinction at UoN on a relevant topic. Some other good pitches included guys building a hybrid comparison/recommendation site from Buying Butler and Rumbly helping sandwich vans utilise online ordering possibilities, both pre-launch.

Ian receiving his prize

Ian from the App Institute (in the picture above) has built a platform where amateurs can easily build mobile apps. Interesting business model and some good early traction seemed promising, hence judges chose apps over style with Jonny from Style Compare coming second.

What did I learn?

  • Leaving your comfort zone is the best way to learn. I’m really glad I applied for the Nottingham pitch competition. That led me to meeting some great Nottingham entrepreneurs and getting strong first-hand pitching experience, let alone PR for Feedback Loop.
  • It may be a good idea to approach judges after the formal part of competition. I had great chats with both Rob and Adam after the competition. Since feedback is not usually provided about every pitch in these competitions, it’s a good idea to be straightforward and ask them in person. This can be really helpful for future improvements, even minor ones.
  • Not many people know how to drink wheat beer. I repeatedly get strange looks from bartenders when I ask to put a piece of lemon into wheat beer (Erdinger is a good example). Sounds weird? Try it.

What about you, what has been your recent public speaking experience? Have you been challenged by other professionals in public? I’m keen to hear your story below!