The nine startups of the inaugural IIoT cohort hit the halfway point of their accelerator journey by pitching to corporate partners in August.
Remember the endless rows of cardboard spectators in huge soccer stadiums? While the cardboard cutouts may have gone away, empty seats haven’t. I felt a bit of that two weeks ago during a corporate pitch event for the IIoT cohort of mHUB’s accelerator. As most event planners these days, we were optimistically planning an in-person event – putting cohort participants on stage in front of corporate partners Avnet and Panduit to mark the mid-way point of the accelerator Well, while COVID restrictions prompted us to make this a virtual event, we didn’t have the cardboard audience, just a few of our staff sitting in the big mHUB event space with a camera and live stream rig.
But let’s back up a bit as this post will summarize what the nine Industrial IoT cohorts have been up to since my last update in July. The corporate pitch competition held on August 26th took place at exactly the halfway point of the 6-month accelerator program. The first half of our program was centered around validating problem statements, identifying the customer, and building the solution: an endless series of customer interviews to better understand the job to be done and validating their hypothesis and assumptions. Only then can startups begin building their solution in a frugal manner: a sketch, a look-alike, a works-like prototype, to finetune the solution essentials. All of this was done in mHUB’s prototyping labs, allowing for the acceleration of the prototyping phase not just through the availability of equipment and tools but expertise. This expertise comes from both the program’s mentors but also mHUB’s Hardtech Development team, a group of engineers and business strategies devoted to supporting startups and SMMs chart their innovation journeys.
The mid-way pitch was not the typical investor pitch, but one focused on corporations, small and large. Our cohort teams and mHUB invited corporate partners and interested companies to listen in, in addition to the program’s partners Avnet and Panduit. Combining the curiosity and agility of our hardtech startups with the extensive customer network and operational and manufacturing prowess of the corporate world.
Although implicitly not a full-blown pitch since we are only halfway, the pitches were content-rich and polished, the founder-speakers energized and the remote audience listening in. The recipe for a good pitch is simple: focus on simple messages. Early versions of a pitch have too many slides, too much information on one slide resulting in a 2x too long pitch. Cutting the number of slides is hard and getting a simple message across is an art. It’s difficult and requires multiple iterations. Everyone got there.
The art is to explain this in simple terms, using pictures or numbers. One of our teams is active in the worker safety domain — if you hear that every year there are 2.3 million worker deaths, well, the problem becomes very clear. Another team is working on data center cooling solutions: if you see that operational temperatures on chips can be reduced significantly resulting in an efficiency gain of 15%, the value offered is clear.
In addition to the corporate pitch event, the mid-way point also culminated in the announcement of a cash investment into a selected few teams by our corporate sponsors Avnet and Panduit. You can read more about that here.
Beyond the halfway point, startups will enter the business viability phase: developing the business model, the financial model, and the go-to-market strategy amongst others. Finding early customers requires the support of all mHUB’s stakeholders: startups in our community, corporate partners, mentors, and investors.
My next post will be a big one and include a reflection on the program’s conclusion, celebrated through a massive Demo Day that we are determined to have in-person this November. Stay tuned.