Edoardo Cannarsa is the founder and managing director of EspressGo and a resident entrepreneur at Innovation Warehouse (IW). He has ten years’ experience in sales and leadership and worked at Cisco for four years before starting EspressGo – an app that connects coffee lovers with independent cafes. He describes his journey from seed to initial funding, to becoming pitch perfect with the help of IW and the Accelerator Academy programme.
Innovation Warehouse is partnered with the Accelerator Academy, housing companies and providing mutual support on deal flow, coworking space and mentoring. The Accelerator Academy has brought some 250 companies through the IW ecosystem, and some of IW’s longest-established directors double as mentors at the Accelerator Academy. Innovation Warehouse looks forward to continuing this relationship long into the future.
We founded Espressgo in January, I left my full-time job and it took about six months to develop the product itself. By the time of launch we’d already raised £200,000 seed investment and had 12-18 months runway, so we knew we had to rally finance in that time.
Raising investment was really about building product, gaining traction within the marketplace, getting feedback from customers and users, and then understanding that we needed to get further funding. We needed to be in a position where we were finance ready.
Whereas my initial investment came from seed investors, now it might come from seed syndicates or early-stage venture capital. I haven’t had any experience with that, and so a late-stage accelerator enables us to get into a position where we’re able to submit relevant documents, or I’m ready to answer questions about due diligence. Previously, that would have been something I had to research entirely online.
Working through the Accelerator Academy programme at IW is almost like a full-time job in itself. You have to juggle the priorities of your day to day job with the team. I’ve been at IW for ten weeks of the 12-week programme, and I’m at the point where I really need to start pitching to investors and securing investment. That’s what Pitch Wednesday is all about.
Perfecting the pitch
On the Monday night we had a practice pitch in which I presented, took feedback, made the slide deck slightly more refined and fine-tuned how I spoke. On the first night I was saying things like “if”, “lucky”, “believe” – words that investors don’t like – so I tried to avoid those words at Pitch Wednesday.
People do fall into bad habits and investors know this, so I’ve learnt different fillers and use different words so I’m not umming and ahing. And this is all about getting feedback from real investors, which is the most important part.
Less is more
The five-minute time limit is tough – I’d love to present a lot slower; be more articulate; elaborate on certain things and go into more detail, but investors see three companies in 45 minutes, which is a lot of time – they don’t want to be spending more than an hour when, in fact, these companies might not be relevant to them.
So five minutes is understandable for me, with my investor hat on. It should be short and sharp enough to gain interest – if not then it’s not the right opportunity for you.
It’s a small board room and a short time limit, but I enjoyed the experience. If anyone goes into a pitch room you have to know the cold, hard facts about your business and present that, get your point across and who you are – and enjoy it. It’s all the more challenging because all of the investors are anonymous.
Once a week Accelerator Academy holds a clinic, bringing together industry experts that essentially help us as a business on any given topic – from financing to branding to marketing to digital to sales – so it covers the whole spectrum for your business.
From most start-ups that we’ve worked alongside here today, they’ve all benefited from the majority of the clinics – for example we had one on presentation, meeting an actress who’ll help us with our skills for the main Accelerator Academy pitch event in December.
Power of mentoring
IW finds the right mentor for you, pairing you with an angel that’s going to push you to your limits – to levels that I didn’t think I was able to reach – and that’s what you need in the end to really break your business and think properly about what you do.
Pitch Wednesday is only one small part of the journey, but now I’m ready to go out and start pitching to investors. We’re all here to raise money – if not, you’re here to understand more about your business. There are different accelerators that benefit different stages and this is perfect for us – we’ve raised enough seed, we’ve got a business going; I just need them to rip it apart and figure out how we can scale it.