mHUB’s Accelerator Half-Way Program Corporate Pitch
Remember the endless rows of cardboard spectators in huge soccer stadiums? I felt a bit of that two weeks ago. Mid-way of our accelerator program, the nine startups of our inaugural IIoT cohort pitched to our corporate sponsors. We didn’t have the cardboard audience, just a few of our staff sat in that big room … because of Covid restrictions we had to pivot the hugely anticipated event into an online thing.
We are exactly half-way our 6-month accelerator program.
The first part has been about customer discovery and product feasibility.
The teams focused on validating the problem, identifying the customer and building the solution: an endless series of customer interviews to better understand the job to be done and validating their hypothesis and assumptions. Only then can they start building their solution in a frugal manner: a sketch, a look-alike, a works-like prototype to finetune the solution essentials in mHUB’s prototyping space.
The half-way point marks the start of the business viability phase: developing the business model, the financial model and the go to market strategy amongst others.
The essence of the next phase really is about finding that first customer, that pilot.
Finding early customers requires the support of all mHUB’s stakeholders: startups in our community, corporate partners, mentors and investors.
That’s why this mid-way pitch was not the typical investor pitch, but one focused on corporations, small and large. Our cohort teams and mHUB invited corporate partners and interested companies to listen in. Combining the curiosity and agility of our hardtech startups with the extensive customer network and operational and manufacturing prowess of the corporate world.
Although implicitly not a full-blown pitch since we are only half-way, the pitches were content rich and polished, the founder-speakers energized and the remote audience listening in. The recipe of a good pitch is simple: focus on simple messages. Early versions of a pitch have too many slides, too much information on one slide resulting in a 2x too long pitch. Cutting the number of slides is hard and getting a simple message across is an art. It’s difficult and requires multiple iterations. It took blood, sweat and tears to get there, but we got there.
The art is to explain this in simple terms, using pictures or numbers. One of our teams is active in the worker safety domain — if you hear that every year there are 2.3 million worker deaths, well, the problem becomes very clear. Another team is working on data center cooling solutions: if you see that operational temperatures on chips can be reduced significantly resulting in an efficiency gain of 15%, the value offered is clear.
As both partners indicated, they loved to see the teams’ energy and passion and hope to see that entrepreneurial spirit percolate more through their own organizations — or as Brett Lane, CTO Panduit nicely framed it “showing how one can be resourceful with very few resources”. The choice in which team to invest was hard and difficult: Avnet will invest in Stroma(computer-vision based worker safety) and Compocket (miniaturization of instrumentation into machines) whilst Panduit will in Thirdwave (a low-code LoRaWAN platform for wearables and asset management) and Stroma. This choice does not mean interest in the other cohort teams fades away; on the contrary, just to name one, a proof of concept is being setup by Panduit with Iothic (secure transmission protocol between IoT devices like PLCs). Their choices are more about what is a better fit in terms of their portfolio and strategy.
Thierry Van Landegem is the Executive Director of mHUB’s Accelerated Incubation program. He has a broad experience in setting up new businesses within corporations and launching startups. mHUB is the Midwest premier hardtech innovation ecosystem based out of Chicago.