Wanna pitch to Vodacom? Don’t come with vague ideas, executive tells startups

With Vodacom receiving between 20 and 30 pitches a month from startups, entrepreneurs can’t afford to approach the cellular provider with ideas that are vague or poorly researched, says Fatima Hassim, the managing executive for SME at Vodacom Business.

Hassim says startups with innovative ideas for apps or platforms should describe their solution in as much detail as possible and provide Vodacom with an estimation of the solution’s market size and potential.

“Make sure you have a short, concise summary at the top: you need to catch the reader’s attention in the first five minutes,” she says.

Describe the solution in as much detail as possible, provide market size estimation says Vodacom executive

Read more about Hassim’s advice for startups pitching to Vodacom in the below interview.

Ventureburn: What are some important tips for startups looking to approach Vodacom with their idea for an app, widget or platform?

Fatima Hassim: Ideally, it must respond to a customer need, it must be an addressable market, it must leverage technology and must be both easily deployable and scalable. It can also be something that is of value to Vodacom’s operations, ways to do something more cost effectively, new technologies that are applicable to Vodacom. Vodacom defines innovation as “something new that creates value”.

VB: What should they prepare or think about beforehand?

FH: Before pitching an idea, it’s important to conduct research and gain customer insights.  There is nothing more effective than getting first-hand feedback from potential customers. A clear description of the problem being addressed, the potential solution, a high-level business case and a potential deployment plan all help to give clear understanding.

It is also important to think what the commercial engagement model is you would prefer. In other words, what would the commercial relationship between you and Vodacom look like. Also, very important is to ensure that you protect your idea before pitching it to any external entity.

VB: What channels should they go through and what kinds of things should they have prepared and got in order before approaching Vodacom with their ideas?

FH: All initial contact with Vodacom must be through the MyIdea channel on Myidea@vodacom.co.za. It’s also important for a startup to find an incubator. Vodacom is in the process of developing an SME Development incubator — we are working on providing a dedicated innovation hub for tech startup entrepreneurs.

VB: In general, how can startups improve the way they deal with corporates? Are there certain things that make them look more professional?

FH: It is important to present a well-thought-out concept. It does not really help to have a vague idea. Remember, you are one of many pitching to a very busy and professional organisation so make sure your proposal is as professional as possible. Key to this is a clear description of the problem or requirement you’re addressing.

Describe the solution in as much detail as possible and give an estimation of the market size and potential. Make sure you have a short, concise summary at the top: you need to catch the reader’s attention in the first five minutes.

Startups also need to better sell the benefit of the product as opposed to only focusing on the product itself. They need to be quick to respond to a fast changing marketplace.

VB: How many pitches do you currently get from startups per month on average and what kinds of services and products are they usually pitching?

FH: Vodacom receives on average between 20 to 30 pitches per month. We do have a programme encouraging the submission of innovative ideas called My Idea. Startups are encouraged to submit high level proposals to MyIdea@vodacom.co.za.

Once the proposal is received, applicants are given Vodacom’s terms for third party idea submissions to accept. The innovation team will then contact the applicant for further evaluation. Most pitches revolve around product ideas.

VB: What kinds of innovative services and products is Vodacom looking for?

FH: Vodacom is looking for digital technology that transforms and enables a connected society. We’re always happy to listen to any new idea that could add value.

The latest interview follows similar ones Ventureburn has had with Old Mutual, Capitec and Barclays Africa. See below:

Read more: Show your work, don’t just share ideas, Capitec innovation head tells startups
Read more: Startups, have an app or web platform you want to sell to Old Mutual?
Read more: Looking to sell that app or platform to Barclays Africa? Here’s what to consider



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