PressStories21 October 202211 min

#BehindTheScenes at Pitch Days: three minutes in the spotlight

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It’s time for one of the most exciting moments of the year: Pitch Days! We can tell you that startup fever is hotter than ever, having received a total of 321 applications for our accelerator program: 277 for the general program, plus 44 for our new Start it @ Fashion & Creative track. We invited 158 startups to our Pitch Days, where they each got three minutes to tell us what they’re all about. For the first time we’re giving readers a peek behind the scenes!

Bright minds, fresh faces

We once again held our Pitch Days according to the new normal: online. We started doing this in 2020, but found out that it actually works really well for everybody! Our distinguished jury is made up of a mix of founders, alumni, mentors, partners and business coaches representing the diverse experiences of the Start it Accelerate community. We want to use all the input and knowledge we have on board to inform our selection.

We were fortunate to have some of the brightest minds in the entrepreneurial world join our jury, from leadership and efficiency consultant Els Van Humbeeck to sustainable finance expert Theany Bazet to head of strategy for Wisemen, Glenn Gielens, just to name a few of our many superstars!

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Our jury members have tons of entrepreneurial experience in a wide variety of sectors between them, and know the right questions to ask. Several different sectors in the Start it Accelerate community were represented, from health & wellbeing to media & telecom. We saw a surge of sustainable energy and circular startups, which makes sense given recent world trends.

For the first time we also had a separate track for Start it @ Fashion & Creative! The presiding jury for this new program was headed by Start it@KBC business coach Jim Nkolo, and joined by representatives of the City of Antwerp and DC Flanders.

Our modus operandi

Each startup gets three minutes in the spotlight, and yes the pressure is on! The jury allows founders to share their story uninterrupted, then follows up with concise questions. A little secret: one of the questions is always “Why Start it Accelerate?”.

Startup pitch

The jurors give scores based on all criteria, and these are automatically tallied up. There’s a personal element too however, since jury members also discuss their choices and deliberate at the end of the process.

The startups were super enthusiastic, but of course that’s not the only criteria. Start it Accelerate is looking for innovative, scalable, coachable startups with a team that fits our accelerator. Jury members look at whether the business idea is creative, the scalability of the business model, how open the team is to feedback, and how the startup fits in with our values, mission and community. They also get asked lots of questions on what activities they have undertaken so far and what they expect to gain from the program.

Since the beginning, we have said no to slide decks for our Pitch Days: it’s just too much hassle! Each startup only has three minutes to pitch, so there’s no time for technical difficulties that can interrupt the flow of the whole day. We feel that founders should be able to tell a good story without visual aids. We want to hear them speak about their passion and see that they are able to share a great message within a few minutes. This also lowers the threshold for founders to pitch, since prepping a special presentation is just one more challenge to add to the ones they already have.

The final verdict

On Thursday October 20th the juries spent the morning deliberating their choices, and the results were announced in the afternoon. A big moment for those who got the GO email! The selected startups are invited to two days of Bootcamp to kick off the program on October 26th and 27th.

Go mail pitch

The NO GO’s are encouraged to see Pitch Days as a learning experience. They will all get a feedback call from one of our business coaches. We find it important to give transparent feedback to help startups improve, and then they can give it another shot next time! We’ve had some great startups in the program who didn’t make the cut the first time around.

To those who made it, we say congrats! Welcome to the Start it Accelerate community. We had 73 spots open for the regular accelerator track, and 8 for fashion startups. In total we chose 67 for the regular track, and 8 for our fashion program. Get to know our new wave below!

We can’t wait to see everyone at Bootcamp: stay tuned for more info! You can start by reading our rundown of the previous edition.