The feeling of winning the Slush 100 pitching competition and what happens after?
When Eversend joined the Spring 2019 batch of Fast Track Malmö, it was almost obvious to all of us that we could expect great things from this groundbreaking startup. Little did we know how fast we could congratulate them on a very big success. In November 2019, Eversend participated and won the prestigious Slush 100 pitching competition. Pitching in front of thousands of visitors, Emma Smith, COO and co-founder of Eversend, together with her team, convinced the jury of their cause, their passion and their ambition to change the finance world in Africa.
For Africans and Africans in the diaspora that experience inconvenient and expensive financial services and hidden fees, Eversend is a one-stop financial services hub that provides a multi-currency wallet allowing them to exchange, save and send money at the best possible rates while offering personal loans, payments, investments and other financial services.
Being equally proud and curious about how it actually feels to call oneself a Slush 100 winner and what effect it has on the company’s development, we spoke to our former FTMO members about their experience in Helsinki.
First of all, congratulations, to winning. How does it feel?
We feel honored! Though, while winning was exhilarating, the most inspiring part of the Slush 100 was really participating. We cannot change the world on our own, but our network can. And it was incredible to join forces and share ideas with the great minds at Slush. The teams we competed with were solving some of today’s greatest challenges – from detecting abnormal brain activity to tackling the underlying causes of climate change. We were so touched by the stories, passion, and vision of the founders we met throughout the competition. I truly believe every one of them should’ve brought a piece of this giant check home.
What was the goal for Eversend to participate in the pitching competition at Slush?
Our goal was to attract. Attract attention, attract investors, attract partners, attract customers. We thought if we could get people talking about Eversend, it would help us reach our mission of growing as Africa’s first neobank. It has!
What is the most difficult/challenging part of pitching? What did you enjoy about it?
If you watch the video of me pitching in the final, you can notice that I pause for a few seconds as I walk on stage before starting to speak. Hilariously, the mic hookup that was attached to my pants was so heavy that it was starting to pull them down. I had to stop to grab my waistband. Everyone has had that nightmare of standing in their underwear in front of thousands of people. Mine almost came true.
Apart from that, pitching was energizing. If you’ve ever bungee-jumped, it’s kind of like that. The moment before you jump is absolutely terrifying when you see the fall – the audience – before you. But as soon as you start talking, the view is beautiful, the air is fresh, and you know that even if you crash and die, you had a spectacular experience falling.
I had my pitch memorized, and that made me feel more comfortable and at ease. I felt most intimidated by the fact that I would hold the attention of thousands of people for ten minutes. My words would impact the audience, or not, but if I spoke well – I could even shape or inspire people in some way. I didn’t take that responsibility lightly.
The thing that made me feel most confident and at peace even despite the nerves was our team. They were standing by on WhatsApp, sending me messages of encouragement and support. Every minute of courage I had to stand on stage, I got from them.
What do you think made your pitch special? Why do you think you won?
As I said, I firmly believe any of the fellow companies in the Slush 100 could’ve won. The amazing guys from Neurolabs (also FTMO!), the awesome team at Digizen, at o.Vision or at IPDx. I had so much fun meeting these innovative, spirited, visionary companies.
I think my pitch was unique in that I spoke very very simply. I decided to do this after I had tried to explain Eversend a few months ago to my mom, my Aunt KT, my grandma. I really confused them, because I over-complicated things. I find that it’s often difficult to explain things in a straightforward and succinct way. I challenged myself and tried to put Eversend as plainly as possible in my pitch, with phrases like “we built an app where you can do everything you would at your bank, straight from your phone.” This seemed to land well with the audience.
How did FTMO prepare you to succeed at Slush?
FTMO was a big catalyst in our journey to Slush. FTMO were the first investors to commit to being a part of Eversend. They were the very first people that I heard say, besides my mom and Aunt and grandma and family members, “I think this could be something big.” Heidi coached us through launching our product, Joel talked to us about hiring new people on our team, Nino brainstormed our customer acquisition strategy with us. And the rest of the team helped us with our go-to market, pitch deck, financial projections, the list goes on and on. We spent so much formative time learning and growing with the FTMO team at Minc. To this date, whenever I am really stuck on something I always think “I can just ask FTMO”. We are super grateful for their early faith in us.
What skills that you learned at FTMO helped you the most to succeed at Slush?
At FTMO, I learned to communicate about our business more clearly. FTMO hosted a number of rich and diverse workshops and sessions with business leaders and investors, where we had the chance to hone our messaging about what we do at Eversend. This certainly was crucial in preparing us for the pitch at Slush.
What happened after Slush? What can you expect after winning? How did it influence your company?
After Slush, we could feel the momentum, the wind beneath our wings, more palpably than ever before. As a startup, a moment like Slush 100 win is an indication that maybe, we’re doing something right.
We celebrated briefly, then quietly went back to work. We’re laser-focused on this rigorous journey we still have ahead of us. We hope that the Slush win will be the first of many mountaintops on the zig-zagging, wild and treacherous adventure we are on.
And how has Slush helped you to develop your company?
Slush led to a few investments, a lot of global attention, some interesting potential partnerships, and a lot of motivation among our team. It’s still too early to really see for sure what else this could lead to. Some of the benefits of winning, we may never know, like who may have been inspired, who we may have touched. Just as I was inspired by previous winners. We hope also that our win brought more attention to the burgeoning startup ecosystem in Africa. The continent urgently needs more investors and founders to join in the startup revolution happening there, especially in fintech.
We are so grateful for all of the new people who have become a part of our journey because of Slush!
The writer, Nino Subotic, is Entrepreneur in Residence at Fast Track Malmö. In his job, Nino mentors and advises startups in femtech, edutech, fintech, deeptech. He works with companies such as Syrona Women, Grace Health, Solfeg.io, Eversend, Jolle.ai & Neurolabs. Previously he has co-founded Framkalla, the biggest print app in the Nordics, which he bootstrapped from 0 to 100k paying customers and a $1M ARR before exiting in the spring of 2019.