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Ampion is a Berlin-based accelerator and advisory firm promoting technology entrepreneurship in Africa. In this series, Ventureburn follows the organisation’s Ampion Venture Bus tour through Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, in its seven-day bootcamp for entrepreneurs.
Once everyone was up and breakfast was done with, we hit the road once more to tackle the 400 or so kilometre stretch to Bloemfontein. During the bus ride, mentors began working with their assigned groups to help tweak, fix, or fine tune their pitches. A few of the groups, such as CoCo, split altogether in order to work on their strengths with different projects.
We arrived at Bloemfontein that same evening and headed for the Seda Agricultural Mining and Tooling Incubator (SAMTI) located at the Central University of Technology. Upon arrival, we were taken on a tour of the facility and shown the different machines and areas used for the mining tool incubator.
The Elevator Pitches
Afterwards we were treated to supper, and given a speech about the overview of SAMTI. The participants were then told they would need to give an elevator pitch for their company, and each would be allotted 90 seconds only. Marko Müller, one of the mentors, gave a few pointers on how to present themselves, such as not to put all of your weight on one foot, never show your back to the audience, and the correct way to look around the room. Müller stated speakers have 10 to 30 seconds to capture the audience’s attention so try to start with a general question they can relate to.
Most of the teams were eager to get started and one by one gave their pitches. Most of the teams also showed they took in the given advice, while others faltered slightly in presenting themselves. It was a tense situation for the participants being put on the spot to present.
Once the pitches were done, everyone packed into the Venture Bus and we headed to that night’s stay over. That evening’s pitching session would be an interesting one. It’s the first time the newly split groups were giving a full presentation.
Just before supper, one of the mentors, Moritz Schroeder, started off the evening by giving a very serious presentation. The talk was focused on a disease, DBBP, and his sliders featured the United Nations as well as a heat map showing its spread throughout the world. Tensions started to rise as everyone looked to their neighbours wondering what was happening. How did this fit into startup pitching and what was Schroeder thinking? The final slide revealed what actually DBBP stood for; Death By Bullet Points. There was much laughter when the presentation was over and everyone realised what he was getting at. Since then, bullet points have mostly vanished from the pitching slides.
The Evening Pitches
It was finally time for the evening’s pitches to begin. First up was AgriFair, which consisted of two team members from CoCo. Their aim was relatively the same as CoCo, which was to remove brokers and the cartels from the agricultural B2B market by establishing a link between the farmer and customer. The service would also eliminate excess food waste and deliver the products to the customers. The feedback given to AgriFair was that they didn’t explain the “How”, such as how they will obtain customers, and what opportunities there were for obstacles and sales.
Pulazi’s received the least amount of feedback and focussed mainly on not having quality pictures about the service.
That night, skEyeFarm changed up their offering by incorporating thermal cameras into the drones, which would help detect poachers. The products could now be leased with the option to purchase at the end of the lease year, or rent the drones. The speaker’s stance was a problem, and the person didn’t decide which slide came next, someone else did. The speaker also turned his back to the audience and there was missing energy from the presentation.
Investment company InVnture, which was previously Inventure Safari, were applauded for their story. Unfortunately, the slides weren’t flowing together, some of the wording didn’t fit, and they never said how the revenue will be generated and what the business model is.
Online bidding market Agri2go was another new pitch. It offers prices in real-time for bidding on livestock. Farmers would be able to pay for their bids via mobile payments. The feedback focussed on the presenter’s body language, the need to use short and precise sentences, and to not look back at the slides.
SheFarms managed to tweak some of the parts of their business plan. Its business model would be collecting data from customers and giving it to businesses, as well as offering customers loyalty points, and performance monitoring. As with other groups, the slides came into discussion with feedback and the group needed more interaction.
The first one-person team and the only one not focussed on agriculture, Open Crime Map, presented their pitch. It’s a platform focusses on showing crime hotspots in different parts of the city and allowing users to register crimes. The mentors asked why it would be limited to user data, what the go-to-market strategy was, and the possibility of users inputting incorrect data. The platform still requires more validation as well as a business model.
Bullprotector kept its ideas relatively the same, but allowed farmers to pay for the insurance via USSD. Mentors asked if it is possible for users to pay the insurance in full, considering how expensive insurance can be.
The team behind e.Mkuyu seemed to have refined their ideas more than the other teams and came in under the pitching time with a minute left. The feedback received consisted of using easier-to-read text, how students would be trained, and what would differentiate the site from other platforms — it needed more added value.
While showing the most energy and enthusiasm about pitching that evening, Flow was the last team to pitch. The speaker’s enthusiasm shone through as moderators asked him to slow down, as well as stating some of the wording in the pitch wasn’t correct.
After the pitches, teams headed to bed before the final stretch of the journey ahead of us. The Venture Bus would be driving from Bloemfontein to Cape Town, a 1 000 kilometre journey. The final day was drawing closer and teams worked around the clock to perfect their ideas.