Applying for any competitive business support programme can be both exciting and traumatic. This blog describes our recent application to Birdhouse Accelerator based in Belgium. Ultimately we were unsuccessful, but it was definitely a learning process, and I felt that this was worth sharing.
Birdhouse AgeTech Accelerator Accelerator AgeTech - Birdhouse (gobirdhouse.com) is a hybrid programme describing itself as ‘the leading European AgeTech accelerator’. Birdhouse supports SMEs to scale via amongst other things networking, advice/support and funding. Part of this involves a total of 4 weeks based in Belgium, including a final pitch presentation day.
Out of the blue, I was contacted by one of the directors of the programme asking me if I might be interested in applying. I had a zoom call with the programme lead, and after discussion with my cofounder Rob we went ahead and applied.
We were then invited to pitch to the Birdhouse jury either face-to-face in Antwerp or online. We chose the former. We were invited to a social/meal on the Thursday evening where we would have the chance to meet those running the programme, other interviewers, and fellow applicants. After travelling by plane and train, I was ready for a pleasant walk through the narrow streets of Antwerp old town leading me to the magnificent Cathedral and then on to the restaurant.
I chatted with the directors of the programme, and fellow founders, some who had already pitched and some yet to pitch. We exchanged stories about our respective journeys, whilst avoiding talking about the actual pitching process!
Rob had to travel on the morning of the pitch and we managed to meet near the venue and had a very quick chat through the pitch, part of which Rob was doing, and how we would present.
We were welcomed into the Birdhouse offices and as we were invited through to the jury, I was still mentally rehearsing the presentation but also felt strangely calm. I channelled all the lessons I had learned from Billal Jamil from Public Speaking Academy - Training & Coaching from Fear to Pro, who had given me some fantastic coaching re public speaking.
The jury were in a large warehouse-type room which was darkish and atmospheric - a real dragon’s den type vibe! The presentation was to be 10 minutes followed by 15 minutes of questions from the jury.
The pitch was a really surreal experience. Rob and I shared the slide presentation and apart from some ‘clicker’ issues and a slight rush at the end, it went as well as we could have hoped. I felt strangely empowered and weirdly relatively in control. I had decided that wherever we were in the slides, when the 9-minute bell rang, that I would move on to my summarising remarks and we managed to round off the presentation nicely.
Questions followed. The jury was made up of the Birdhouse directors, and a number of agetech experts and mentors. The chair of the jury moderated the jury members’ questions and the questions were searching, but really relevant. We were asked about market size, IP, pricing, roadmap and technology amongst other things. We also had the opportunity to demonstrate a Bide in action, and with the somewhat darkened room, we felt that the mode of action of Bide was emphasised. The 15 minutes seemed to rush by.
We were thanked for our presentation and were informed that we would hear the outcome within a couple of days. We said our goodbyes and left the room. I had thought it all had gone really well, Rob was less convinced. We waited to hear more. Two days later we heard that we had been unsuccessful and some days later we received more detailed feedback, which was helpful and constructive.
So there we have it. Having had time to reflect on the experience I would make the following observations:
1. This sort of application, particularly if travel out of the country is involved, does require a lot of effort and commitment, so make sure that there is a decent chance of success.
2. Filling in applications online can be lengthy and tedious, and if you can’t save and go back in to them, then this can be enormously frustrating.
3. The communication channels with the organisation throughout the application process can be a sign of the ethos of the organisation. I would say that Birdhouse were excellent on this aspect.
4. The reception you receive from the organisation when you travel makes an enormous difference to the experience. Again the Birdhouse team was very welcoming.
Overall, we really enjoyed the experience of pitching to the Birdhouse jury in Antwerp and would recommend any SME with an agetech solution to apply if they think it would suit them.
Dr Tom Adler
CEO Peak Medtek Ltd