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The end of September to the beginning of October last year was an insane time for us at import.io. Not only did we launch into public beta, but in the span of three days I was on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin and Web Summit in Dublin. In fact, the two events were so close together that the first round of pitching at Web Summit had to be done by our CTO Matt, because I just couldn’t get there in time!
I arrived in Dublin having had very little sleep, to find Matt and Jen (one of our marketing team) completely swamped at the booth with people wanting to learn more about import.io. There was nothing left for me to do, but roll up my sleeves and immediately get to demo-ing!
About an hour later we got the news that Matt had got us through the first round of pitching! We were stoked! Especially since this was the first time that Matt had ever given this presentation. We had prepared and submitted the slides way in advance but Matt had only just started practicing a couple of days prior, when we realised that I could not be in two places at one time – Dublin and Berlin! Now, a couple of days to prepare for a presentation sounds like a lot of time but it isn’t really when there are 68 slides and you only have 5 minutes for your delivery. You need to be well rehearsed.
The pitch competition is organised like a knockout tournament. You pitch in groups, to a judging panel made up of professional investors and entrepreneurs. You deliver your pitch and then have to answer questions from the judges that can be on anything: from your team to your business model. The judges then choose the winners and the winners go on to later rounds of pitching against other winners. I remember thinking how strong the other companies were that we were pitching against, even in the first rounds of the competition.
After three rounds of pitching, I suddenly found myself practicing for the finals on the main stage alongside the other pitch finalists. The main stage at Web Summit is amazing. It is definitely the biggest stage that I have ever presented on. To say that I was nervous, barely begins to cover it! Luckily for me, I had my colleagues with me for support and I was able to find my focus as I prepared to go on.
However, while we were all preparing we were told that the original 5 minute time slots that we were expecting had all been cut to 3 minutes for “scheduling reasons”. I was already running pretty tight at 68 slides in 5 minutes. With the reduced time slot I was going to have to nearly double my speed and each slide would be up on the screen for only about 2.5 seconds. If you watch the video you can really see the speed that I am going at.
The final pitch went without a hitch and the judges’ questions were not too bad either. After coming off stage all we could was cross our fingers and wait. When they announced import.io as the winner, I can only describe the feeling as total elation. The rest of the team back in the office was watching on the live stream and – if my team-chat history is anything to go by – then the celebrations in the office were pretty intense too!
Being selected as the startup with the most promise out of such a strong field was amazing. Knowing that other people also believe in what you are trying to achieve is a great source of motivation. We got a ton of signups and press coverage off the back of our Web Summit win and it was a major contributing factor in us exceeding our target user numbers for the year.
I can’t wait to see who is going to win this year!
Andrew Fogg is Founder and Chief Data Officer of import.io, a London based startup shaking up the world of data. Since winning PITCH at Web Summit in 2013 Andrew and the team have gone from strength to strength, securing investment and developing their product offering.