If you want to grow you have to pitch

“If you have a business and want to grow, you need money. And investors are constantly in search of interesting opportunities”, says Yannick Dillen, senior research associate and coordinator of the iGMO platform and Vlerick Venturing. “Once a year, we bring our students and alumni who have founded a start-up in contact with venture capitalists and business angels through Pitch@Vlerick.” Yannick takes a brief look back with Dries Wijnen, the co-founder of Securafin and runner-up in Pitch@Vlerick 2017.

8, 10, 25

The Pitch@Vlerick concept is simple: eight teams give a ten-minute pitch before a jury of investors, in which they explain what their start-up does, what their ambitions are, how much money they need and what they are going to do with it.

“Every year we invite students and alumni to come and present their project. Professor Veroniek Collewaert and I then select the best eight submissions”, Yannick explains. “The jury members, venture capitalists and business angels come from the school’s network, BAN Flanders, personal contacts and so on. We had 25 of them this year, no less. That shows that they are looking for opportunities.”

High level

Jury members and participants alike benefit from Pitch@Vlerick. The investors come into contact with the growing businesses of the future, and it is the perfect opportunity for students and alumni to learn to pitch their idea and find money. Incidentally, there is a nice prize for the winner and runner-up - a coaching session, a voucher for training at Vlerick and a pitch at a BAN Flanders event.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the pitches. The participation form did give you a bit of an idea, but pitching is a whole different ball game to explaining on paper what you do, after all, and all eight of them made a very good impression. The members of the jury also felt that the level was very high this year. Even start-ups that are not yet ready for investors are now on their radar.”

Learning opportunity

One of the starters that has certainly made its presence felt is Securafin, which uses blockchain technology to combat the problem of unpaid invoices and late payments between businesses. For Dries Wijnen, as a young entrepreneur, participating in Pitch@Vlerick was first and foremost a learning opportunity: “During the masters course, you also had to present your project and report on it every few weeks in the start-up accelerator, with the practical coaches putting you under fire. But Pitch@Vlerick was a taste of something different. You find yourself in front of 25 investors who are probably even more critical. With all their experience, they know exactly how to pinpoint your weaknesses. It is really interesting to be put to the test and to be able to debate your weak spots.”

A close second

“The jury gave us very positive feedback though. They told us we could be enormously valuable in increasing the working capital of SMEs and even the larger corporations”, Dries continues. “By the way, we received a lot of messages afterwards on LinkedIn from investors who wanted to sit down with us and talk about what we might be able to do together. At that point I didn’t expect to get second place, because I assumed we hadn’t made enough progress yet. After all, some of the start-ups that participated were already generating turnover.

Yannick believes that that is exactly why Securafin didn’t come first. “It was really close. Securafin is in very competent hands with Dries, but Daltix, the winner, does already have customers.”

To be continued

Yannick is already looking forward to the third edition at the end of June and the beginning of July 2018: “As a school we promote entrepreneurship. I see it as our task to bring fledgling entrepreneurs into contact with our network of investors. Think of it as an extra service for our students and alumni.”

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