As the Clean and Cool mission to Colorado comes to a close it’s interesting to reflect on what we are trying to achieve here and what we have learnt. The Technology Strategy Board funds entrepreneur missions like this as part of its support for small businesses in the U.K. — companies we consider the growth engine of the U.K. economy. While we also provide many grants to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to help them develop their products, broader support is essential for young businesses with large growth potential, and these missions aim to act as a springboard for them by helping them link up with potential investors and collaborators in future markets, but also to provide a space for them to learn about how to do business in the U.S. and get inspiration about how to develop their business models more effectively.
Some have asked: “Why Colorado?” We’ve come here because it has a rapidly growing cleantech cluster with inspiring organisations like the Rocky Mountain Institute and Innosphere, a great industry association in CCIA, and of course the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Denver. We’ve planned the mission around their big investor event, the Industry Growth Forum (IGF). It’s one of the largest cleantech events around and attracts investors from all over the continent. We’re very pleased that some of the Clean and Cool mission companies made it through the stiff competition to be amongst the thirty young cleantech businesses pitching for investment at IGF.
The sixteen U.K. companies on the mission were selected through a competition and represent a broad cross section of technologies, including bioenergy, transport, smart grid and heat management businesses. But we also have some companies at a very early stage of development, for example Renovagen who are developing first prototypes of their portable PV array, and some at much later stages like Agility Global who have actually brought their amazing electric superbike with them, and which is causing wide-eyed excitement wherever we go! This breadth of technologies and development stage provides an ideal mix for collaboration and cross-coaching around the group — an essential part of the experience of a good mission.
So what are we learning? Well, up to now there’s been a strong focus on pitching your business in the U.S. One liners and elevator pitches that intrigue enough to launch the right conversations, and longer versions for investors. A fantastic panel of local investors was assembled Monday morning to provide great frank feedback to the businesses about their pitches.
Simple advice: Be clear about what you’re asking for, be frank and open about where your business is at and what it needs to do to get to market, explain why you’re credible to deliver that and show your belief that you’ll do it. There’s often a worry about having to ‘oversell’ in the U.S. compared to our UK mode of operation. The advice was clear; it’s not about overselling but it is about absolute clarity and conviction in what you’re saying and that applies wherever you are in the world.