Postdocs learn key start-up skills at pitching and business plan-writing workshop

by Kasia Ladds

Postdocs from departments across the University of Cambridge gathered last week for a pitching and business plan-writing workshop to learn the essential skills needed to enter the Cambridge Postdoc Enterprise Competition, which is now open for entries.

Led by Adelina Chalmers, presentation and pitching guru, postdocs were given the low-down on what investors want to see in a business plan and pitch. Chalmers has trained Professors and Senior Lecturers at Cranfield University on presenting their research and winning-over industry audiences such as those at Airbus. She helps Cambridge University start-ups secure millions of pounds of investment, specialising in helping researchers become entrepreneurs.

For just under two hours, Chalmers outlined the business plan dos and don’ts, including the importance of focusing on the value of the technology to its market, rather than the intricate details of the technology itself.

She then talked through a pitch – an integral part of the competition – and explained the importance of structure, making sure that the speaker understands his or her own needs in order to effectively convey them to an investor. She also asked them to be prepared to answer the investors’ obvious questions, the most important of which is ‘why should we care?’

The postdocs were then challenged to try out what they’d learned and asked to write a one-minute pitch in just one minute.

Chalmers insisted that ‘one of the biggest challenges for academics looking to transform their invention into a successful venture is that they focus on how their technology works, yet all their market, investors and audiences care about is what it does for the customer and how it solves their problem. Change your thinking in this way about your discovery, and you will have everyone’s attention.’

The upcoming business plan competition, run by Cambridge Enterprise in conjunction with the Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge, welcomes entries from all postdocs of the University of Cambridge. To enter, postdocs must submit a business plan. Successful applicants will then go on to be mentored before reaching the final, where they will each pitch their idea to a panel of judges at a grand finale event on 27 October. The deadline for entries is 30 June.

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