We all want to get out voice heard, but there can only be one winner. To get to that magic cheque at the end of the day requires outshining everybody else. We asked jury members Riku Asikainen and Ilkka Kivimäki what they will be looking for in the final round of Slush 100.
“The first thing I look for…”, Riku Asikainen takes a break before he continues. For over two decades he has gathered experience as an manager, founder and business angel for budding companies, currently as chairman of the board at the Finnish business angels network, Fiban.
“Well you have to be able to get an overall picture – is it a hopeless case or something interesting. It’s quite rough, in 30 seconds I have to get the feeling that this interests me.”
Ilkka Kivimäki, partner at Inventure and chairman of Slush, is looking for the big idea when trying to select the brightest shining stars.
“Generally it’s quite simple. You see the pitch and then you start analyzing: what was the business idea, does it make any sense, how big can this be? Those are the primary things, only after that do you start breaking it down to business model and so on,” ponders Kivimäki.
“The best guys manage to crystallize what they want to say in a quick, sharp message. That’s what it’s all about in a pitching competition. You have to instantly raise the interest of the investor”, Asikainen concludes.
The biggest blunder an aspiring company can do is focus too much on confidence and not enough on hard knowledge.
“If I know the field and someone states ‘we don’t have any competitors’, it is a clear cut. Either you are caught lying or you do know your own field and have not done your homework”, Kivimäki says firmly.
Self-assurance is key in taking the crowd, yet too much can backfire. Kivimäki cautions that holding oneself too high in regard can signal difficulties when it comes down to cooperation and compromise.
In search for the X factor
It’s not only the eager entrepreneurs in the limelight that feel the pressure. The investors have to make split second decisions based on the facts they have at hand. Asikainen remembers a decision he might have done differently today, when he gave the cold shoulder to a startup that now three years later is making millions in profit.
“You can’t regret making decisions based on the knowledge you have at that moment, you can’t stop to think about those things.”
Just as entrepreneurs learn how to achieve the perfect pitch, the jury members gain experience from seeing hundreds of companies take to the stage. Only this year both Asikainen and Kivimäki have gone through hundreds of companies that have taken part in events such as Startup Sauna and the Pitch Finland events.
“The companies have developed enormously, they have never been this good at pitching. You learn every day in this job, we see such incredible amounts of talent,” says Asikainen.
With around 1400 startups attending Slush this year, the competition is fierce and the span of different fields astounding, ranging from nanotech probes to location apps. Keeping up with had choices after seeing dozens of pitches places strain on even the most experienced of investors.
“You have to be careful that you don’t mix up good performers with good entrepreneurs. Sometimes valuable companies can be overshadowed by show stoppers – it can be hard to get a grasp of the content in 3 minutes,” says Kivimäki.
In the end it all boils down to a strategic mix of reliability and confidence. Anyone can make plans, but few startups can execute them with brilliance. According to Riku Asikainen the final verdict is based on the how well the startup orchestra can play together.
“You can always fix the funding and other aspects, but if they don’t have a sort of manic know-how of what they are doing, how can it then become the best team in the world?”
Follow the semifinal of the Slush 100 pitching competition at the Black Stage on Wednesday starting at 10 o’clock and the final at 16.45 at the Silver stage!