It’s just over six months since the last Startupbootcamp Amsterdam Demo Day. I have very clear memories of pitching on that day back in July. It’s by far one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my life. It’s right up there alongside solo rock climbing in Krabi, Thailand (one of the most beautiful climbing paradises in the world) and deep water diving in the Maldives with huge Mantas. The experience taught me a lot about storytelling – and I discover a lot about myself too.
Pitching in front of an audience with more than 400 investors and all your mentors got off to a brilliant start for me. Our team got an awesome introduction from Derk Haank, CEO of Springer (one of the largest scientific and medical publishers in the world) who gave us a short, sharp testimonial without stealing our thunder! My heart was pounding. And afterwards, when you know you’ve nailed it, the feeling is even better. You feel you’re on top of the world.
This all sounds great right? Well, I can tell you now that the road to that moment wasn’t that straightforward at all. In fact, there was a moment six weeks before DemoDay when I wondered if I should look for someone else to pitch the Layergloss story. English is not my mother tongue, so it required extra effort to bring my pitching skills up the high standard of fluency that’s expected from everyone on that stage at DemoDay. I worked with an international pitching writer, Jonathan Marks, who helped me structure our story in a clear, logical way. “Only share one thought per sentence” was his advice. And once the story was shaped into a convincing pitch, it was time to concentrate on the delivery. Patrick and Ruud (the founders themselves) helped me develop my own pitching style and pace. We did it by pitching at least once a day – practice and preparation is SO important. As the big day approached, I did my own rehearsals at the weekends, pitching in front of the mirror or anyone who would listen at every opportunity. My confidence grew as the story became my own and I understood the power of timing. It’s a technique which I have used every since. This is just one little example of what the Startupbootcamp program has done for me personally.
We got accelerated at all levels, even on things we didn’t know we didn’t know at the time. Thanks to all the great mentors. If I tell this to other early startups I meet, I sometimes see that look of confusion in their eyes. What can an accelerator really do for my company? I just make the following comparison: It is like ‘The Voice of Holland’ but then for startups. And actually it’s even better. Because if you make it as one of the 10 finalists then you don’t have to compete against each other anymore. The focus for everyone is the same – building a great team and an awesome company. Being with 9 other teams in the same office space, facing the same challenges forges close friendships that will certainly last a lifetime. I remember that on DemoDay I was even more nervous and excited for my fellow pitchers than for myself.
It’s now six months after the program. For my co-founder Martin and myself, it has been a life changing experience. Looking back to this time last year, we could never have anticipated this in a thousand years. Experience is not measurable. What can be measured is that we’ve raised a half million dollars in funding, we have an extraordinary advisory board, we are employing six people at the moment (always looking to expand), in January 2013 we’re going to take the development of our platform to the next stage – the open public beta. For the last six months we have been working with launching clients, thanks to the terrific mentor network.
So a big thanks to Startupbootcamp Amsterdam for all your help! And I wish this year’s finalists all the wisdom and success in the world. It’s going to be an awesome journey.
Co-founder of LayerGloss