Geeks on a Plane help Kiwis take off to San Francisco

Geeks of all manner assembled at the Cloud in Auckland last night to hear quick fire pitches from emerging Kiwi businesses, at the first Geeks on a Plane (GOAP) event in New Zealand. 

TranscribeMe and Booktrack were among the familiar names in the list of 12 businesses entered into the Rocket Pitch Competition. Each presenter was given one minute to pitch their business in front of the 200-strong crowd and a panel of judges from New Zealand and the US. Their prize a month's stay at the Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco.

Judges included The Warehouse founder and serial investor, Sir Stephen Tindall; high flying expat, Claudia Batten; and founder of 500 Startups and GOAP itself, Dave McClure.

Geeks on a Plane judges, winners, and organisers

Smart water meter producer Outpost Central won the Outsourced IT No 8 Wire stream, beating out 1Above water, TranscribeMe, and Big Little Bang.

Speaking to Outpost Central co-founder James Riddell before the competition, he says the night was an opportunity to learn more about pitching to VCs.

"It's not something we're used to, we've been busy running our business for the last three years so this is a great way to find out what investors want in a pitch," says Riddell.

The Return on Science 100% Pure NZ stream was won by Ecofibre with its industrial flax fibre product, and BNZ Breaking the Rules by e-remittance service KlickEx. Both of these results were from a tie-breaker decided on which company could best use the month in San Francisco.

What I learned at Geeks on a Plane:

1) Get to the money shot quickly, and lead with your customers

One minute isn't a great deal of time to try and sell your business, but the common thread across all the judges comments was for pitchers to get to their revenue proposition faster. 

The American judges in particular wanted to know more about already established customer relationships, and where future customers would come from.

"If you have traction, lead with traction," says Dave McClure.

2) AgTech businesses aren't polished pitchers

While the other judges danced around the issue of the poor pitches in the Return on Science stream, McClure went straight for the jugular.

"Those pitches sucked ass ... I have no fucking idea what the hell those ideas were all about," says McClure, to the cheers of the audience.

Judges agreed that some of the hottest ideas of the night came from the stream, but the polish on the pitches were far lower than the first and last group. McClure, who was googling the businesses while they pitched, says the information on their about pages were usually more succinct than their presentations.

Perhaps there needs to be more agriculture focused pitching competitions to help this very important sector?

3) Investors don't know every single niche of every single business

"I don't know much about this field" seemed to be a common phrase on the judging table. That's to be expected with businesses ranging from solid state paint to cow rumen monitors presented.

Some of the pitches were heavy on the underlying technology or niche, without being clear on the universal language of investment - the money. This relates to the first point: get to what the revenue potential quickly then worry about explaining the technology behind it after.