Pitch@Palace: Many thanks, Prince Andrew!

In a way, Pitch@Palace was a bit like speed dating. Both sides (entrepreneurs and guests) knew why they were there – to network and make connections that could help the startup business thrive. Plus the not so small matter of delivering a pitch to the crowd to help them learn what your company does.  Prince Andrew made it very clear throughout that he wanted every guest to engage the startups and make at least one connection.

Prior to guests arriving in the Queen Anne room of St James Palace, nervous entrepreneurs paced the hall running through their pitches for the last time.

As the clock struck 5 pm, guests started trickling in. We’d been given a guest list in advance so had researched our marks for the evening and a game of guess who was afoot. It’s usually not polite to stare at peoples midriff on first meeting, but the game of spot the name badge was in full force by 5.05pm.

We had 45 mins before the pitches started and we wanted to be as memorable to People as possible, so we didn’t hold back on making introductions. A fantastic room full of interesting people awaited us from CEOs to notable dignitaries (including Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson) were all “pounced on” and introductions made.

Networking is for most of us, a notoriously uncomfortable experience. There are few people that do not cringe at the thought of interjecting themselves into the conversations of others with the express purpose of telling them why you’re so great. But with the Prince’s words ringing in my ears (“everyone’s here to network”), it gave me the confidence to dive right in.

And to their utmost credit, almost everyone I approached took the time to listen to who we were and in some cases they’d already done their homework and knew who we were – result!

But as the guests slowly moved into the pitch room, the nerves of those pitching returned and the real show commenced. The general format was each company had 30secs to pitch their company and anyone over running got a blast of a trumpet from assembled guardsmen. A few lucky companies had the chance to give a 3-minute pitch but distilling an organisational message down to those precious 30seconds was the real art!

Presenters filed on and off stage in quick succession. Panaseer were up relatively early on to the relief of our CTO, Charaka G. However, he had nothing to worry about. A perfectly timed message was effortlessly delivered {view here}. He even had a spare moment to turn to the guardsmen challenging them to toot him – much to the amusement of the assembled audience back at Panaseer HQ.

With the pitch out of the way, we could relax for a bit. A further conversation with Prince Andrew and some networking and back-slapping with our fellow entrepreneurs took us to the end of the pitching.

After what I’m sure was some tough deliberation due to the quality of everyone’s presentations, the winners announced. Panaseer were unlucky this time around (congratulations to VChain who took 1st place), but we were a commendable 5th (out of 42) in the People’s choice award (thanks to all who voted for us).

With our company paddle waving the rest of the evening was a networking blur. Some people we spoke with were able to talk cyber security with us, others had little to no experience but were happy to share experiences and warnings of what to look out for as the company grows (I was pleased that we were already aware and addressing a good number of them). Near the end of the night, we called time on our time at the palace with a stack of business cards and connections.

The Pitch@Palace team that put on the events have been fantastic in keeping in contact throughout and supporting along the way. It’s been a great experience for us, and we look forward to being part of the Alumni network and continuing to engage with them in the future.

Many thanks, Prince Andrew!