Blog from Zoe Peden, co-founder of MyChoicePad
Ever since we won the Big Venture Challenge competition last year we’ve been trying to get the company into a position where it is “investment ready”. This essentially means a combination of great team (which of course we have had form the beginning!), traction – this is demonstration of ongoing sales strength and growth and solid path to scalability – so the business can grow exponentially without having to take on too much costs. This means all the extra can then be ploughed back in for us to create new things and expand!
The final one took some time to find the right business model but by touring the UK and asking lots of questions to parents, SLTs, teachers and local authority workers – we’ve got it right now (touch wood *bangs head*).
Sooo….armed with our new business model we sent in an application late April to get on a technology startup accelerator scheme, Wayra, in London ran by the global telecommunications company Telefonica. Their focus was effective communication and so was ours.
The scheme offers investment in return for a percentage of the company (like Dragons Den) and they provide central London office space with other startups for 6 months and give you access to mentors and lots of help for you to grow and expand. In terms of what’s in it for them – they hope that a few of their investments become really big so they get their money back but also it’s important for large companies like Telefonica to support innovation so they can learn from people like us. They are running these schemes all over the world and they just launched Europe. Check out this video to see the pace they move at!
1000 other people also joined me in applying. Tough competition.
So when I got an email asking me to phone them just over a week after the deadline I was shaking. We had got through to the next round of 50. They asked the team to attend an interview the following week. We thought it went very well but still did not want to get our hopes up too high.
Fortunately we only had to wait 3 days to be put out of our misery and we were told we were in the final round of 31 and asked to attend Wayra Week. This was 3 days of intense mentoring and preparing for a final pitch in front of judges.
We practiced hard, talked to lots of people who gave me very constructive criticism on our approach and our slides. We practiced and practiced for the 15 minute pitch. Then just two hours before our pitch they told us they had changed it to 12 minutes. Quick change!
The actual pitch went well and I’m glad I was not up there on my own for the questions at the end. It was great to have the team around me.
On the final day we were asked to assemble for 3pm in the afternoon and the press arrived at 5pm. All 31 teams were present to hear whether they had been one of the chosen 16 companies to be offered a place on the scheme. They had beer flowing, music pumping and special lighting. I felt sick. Afterwards someone commented how all the colour had drained form my face. As each company was announced I was calculating the odds of us being one of them slipping away. By this point I think I was looking like Morticia.
Then the eighth company was announced…Insane Logic. Things then went a little blank but I imagine I just tried not to fall over on my heels as the team went up to some pumping music, get an award and shake hands and hug lots of people. I also had to hold a microphone and do a short speech. I said something about this being a sliding doors moment…all a bit of a blur! Then with very wobbly legs I sat down again with my team still in shock.
There is still all the legal stuff to sort out but we move into the startup office on Monday. After working from home for two years I think I’m in for a bit of a shock!
If you want to see the office space we’re moving to and what it’s all about take a peek at this video. We’re very excited!
If that wasn’t enough… This week we found out we have been shortlisted for the “Innovation” category in theTechnology4Good awards run by AbilityNet and sponsored by BT. We get to go to a ceremony in London hosted by Mariella Frostrup. Whether we win or not this is a fantastic achievement for our small team (and our bigger team of supporters) and so nice to be recognised by the technology accessibility industry. Beers all round!
So if you’re thinking of setting your own business up, it’s really hard work and you have to keep pushing but it’s better to get out there and do it (JFDI – don’t ask me to spell that one out rather than be an armchair entreprenuer! Thank you to everyone who believed in us over the last 2 years – you know who you are *big hugs*
16th June, 2012 by zoe