PractiFI is thrilled to have been crowned the inaugural winner of Salesforce’s PitchComp Australia, securing the lion’s share of funding from Salesforce Ventures. With World Tour Sydney 2018 just around the corner, I thought I’d share what I learnt from the PitchComp experience and my advice for startups entering this year’s competition.

PractiFI has been around since 2014, so for my fellow co-founder and CCO Adrian Johnstone and me, PitchComp was an opportunity to show the world what we’ve been doing in that time, share our achievements and really accelerate our growth. Needless to say, it turned out to be a really worthwhile experience.

Describing PitchComp in one word

Overall the PitchComp experience was intense. While we had put quite a bit of work and consideration into the application process, once we were selected as a finalist the intensity really ratcheted up.

In the lead up to World Tour Sydney 2017, Salesforce put us through a rigorous preparation exercise. We had access to specialists and coaches from the world of corporate presentations and theatre. Their job was to help us refine our pitch, develop our speech technique and improve our presentation style. The whole process was unlike anything we’ve ever been through.

Even before we took to the stage, we’d got so much out of the PitchComp experience. Prior, I hadn’t really had much professional training in public speaking, so the coaching in this regard was really beneficial. I was able to polish my presenting skills, and improve my ability to stand on a very public stage and deliver a winning pitch.

Why PractiFI won

The PitchComp judges – who last year were Annie Parker, Pip Marlow and Steve Baxter – were very clear that the basis of a successful pitch is being able to articulate your business’s value proposition, and demonstrate an intimate understanding of your market, customer and numbers.  

We really took this instruction on board, and the judges cited it as one of the reasons why we won. We’ve always been fixated on understanding the customer’s customer, and I think that really helped us stand out on the day. Plus, we were able to demonstrate a rock solid grasp of the numbers – we knew exactly what we needed to do to turn a profit and how we would do it.

The curly question

Going into World Tour we weren’t too sure what to expect from the judges’ line of questioning, so tried to prepare for everything. Overall, we felt the judges were reasonable and fair.

Pip Marlow threw us off guard at one point with a comment about the all-male line up on stage, from all three presenting finalists, and then asked us how we are bringing diversity into our business. It took me a moment to compose myself, and you can see that in my response.

But, I took a lot away from that exchange, and realised a good pitch is not just about the numbers, growth story and business plan. It’s also about telling the story of an ethical, diverse and socially inclusive business.

While PractiFI is actually incredibly diverse in makeup and thinking, we recognised it was an area of our pitch that wasn’t particularly polished. We’ve subsequently refined how we explain that, as it’s a good news story to tell.

Advice for pitching your startup at PitchComp

My advice is, firstly, you can never be too prepared. We really took the process seriously and put a lot of preparation into our pitch – I think that came through on the day. Make sure you’re across the financials, the business’s potential and the reason you exist. Know the market, what customer needs the business is addressing and why your startup is better than others that have come before you.

It’s also about how you present personally, because clients and/or investors are buying into you as an individual, as well as the business. Are you conveying that you’re 100% committed, passionate and dedicated to your startup? Ten minutes isn’t a long time to get to know a person, but in that small window you need to convince your audience they want to buy from or invest in you.

PractiFI’s been blazing a trail since winning

We had a huge 2017! As well as winning PitchComp, we landed a string of exciting new client wins, delivered an array of new features to our clients and integrated with a range of new alliance partners. We’re also very excited to have closed out the year by expanding into the United States, signing our first clients there.

The exposure from PitchComp has certainly helped propel our international expansion plans. It gives us exposure and recognition that we might not have otherwise had, which makes all the preparation effort well worth it.

And, there’s a whole lot more on the horizon for 2018.

Just do it

Good luck to all of the 2018 PitchComp contestants. The whole experience is hugely worthwhile, whether you win or not.

So, just go for it. No matter what stage you’re at in your startup journey, you’ll no doubt benefit from being involved in PitchComp.

This year, there’s US$100,000 up for grabs and a rockstar line-up of judges to pitch to.

If you’d rather sit in the audience and watch the pitch battle, registrations are now open to attend Salesforce World Tour Sydney on 6 March 2018 – it’s guaranteed to be a day of learning, innovation, inspiration and fun.