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3 Hacks when pitching to participate in an internal innovation program

Two weeks ago Schneider Electric Pacific launched their internal accelerator program in its 2nd year. Like most programs we changed a lot of our processes this year to ensure it's more effective.

The intent of the program is to accelerate growth initiatives for our 2022 strategy. We do this by looking at our strategic goals and determine what we need to invest in to boost growth in our Zone. We’ve had previous success in our program including the birth of our EV segment role now headed by Laetitia Odini.

The first stage of the program was to empower our employees to #ActLikeOwners and #DareToDisrupt (two of our values) by asking them to submit insights and problems faced by our customers. Included was a #WhatsYourBoldIdea statement, as well as considerations for commercial gain. Then we picked the top 9 teams who were only given 2 days to pitch their Elevator Pitches.

After going through this process I had some reflections on what investors look for, which is very different coming from a person who normally pitches for funding at hackathons and startup events.

Here are my top Hacks:

1.Clearly scope out your opportunity and put numbers against it to qualify who it is affecting and why it is a need. I’ve been reviewing a lot of pitches lately and people tend to generalise their personas. The benefit of being more specific is that we can clearly see where the opportunity is and how we, as the business, could benefit from the target market. We want certainty.

For example, you may say that ‘consumers want home automation’. To me, this is a hypothesis. If we break this statement down, ‘consumers’ is very broad target market. Yes, it'll be fabulous to get everyone to pay but realistically that doesn't happen. The word ‘want’ implies this is an assumption and not a need. The term ‘home automation’ is good but I want to know the reason WHY someone would need home automation.

Instead I would suggest ‘NDIS funding has increased from $4.2 billion in 2016–17 to $21.5 billion in 2019–20. This is an opportunity for Schneider Electric to help the 4 million people who have physical disability in Australia gain freedom and independence using home automation through the Scheme.

Here we have the: who (4 million people with a physical disability), what (NDIS funding), where (Australia), when (2019-2020), and why (freedom and independence). Notice we haven't put in the 'how' because that's where we expect the innovation to come from. ---

 2.Tell us why you are the right person, doing this at the right time and am in the right place A lot of the time when we do a pitch we focus on what our idea is when in fact we look beyond that. We all know the saying 'you have to be at there at the right place at the right time', and this is quite true!

Firstly we look at the scope of the opportunity. Have there been change to laws and regulations? What are the market trends and insights? How will this be impacting us? When will these be impacting us? Have you convinced us that now is the right time to make a move?

Then when it comes to people, we look at the qualities of the person who is pitching. Are they a hustler? Do they have the passion and tenacity to drive the project forward? Are they open to pivoting and learning? Can they make the solution commercially viable? Then we look into their other team members. Is there a 'hipster' and 'hacker' ie someone who is creative to make the solution desirable, and someone who is more technical see if it will be feasible.

And finally we determine if we, as sponsors/investors can help. When the Schneider executives were discussing the projects we thought that some of them were just business-as-usual. They should already be doing some of these things as part of their business. The value of the internal accelerator program was that it was transversal, there was a clear opportunity but there was no clear MVP (minimum viable product) so we would use the program to flesh out the use cases and test out with customers. Don't purely focus on your product, service or solution. Rather, give us a wholistic view of the circumstance and why you and your team should be involved. ---

3.You can’t fake it til you make it We usually use KPIs in a sales performance setting. When it comes to having set KPIs (or Killing People's Intellect as I call it), we tend to make up some fluff so we can prove that we are worthy in the organisation. However when it comes to pitching like a startup to a board of investors, we want you to be honest and give us the reality.

Being transparent is a gift because this is our opportunity to help you.

The trick to this is to understand the unique value of your investors so you can have a strong call-to-action, or ask, at the end of your pitch or during Q&A. Not one person can be an expert at everything.

I'm sure we've all heard of the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos. She make fake claims to have revolutionized blood testing using surprisingly small volumes of blood from a finger prick. Yes, you can sell the dream but if you need help there, we have the connections and networks around all over the organisation, globally and beyond to try to help you. ---

So when it comes to pitching to an internal accelerator program, remember that it is a journey and not a destination. Take everyone on a journey to identify the opportunity clearly, to communicate why you are the right person to accelerate your idea, and to be honest in what you need so we can help you.

If you want to learn more about what we do feel free to get in touch with me. Happy to share learnings and also forge potential strategic partnerships.

Angela Bee Chan

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