Hong Kong innovators

The power of passion and the personal touch

Networking event highlighted the importance of enthusiasm in making a successful business pitch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 9:36pm

Earlier this week I hosted a cocktail party introducing the startups participating in Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific, with bankers from 20 financial institutions that will provide mentoring support.

It was a classic case study in networking, and underscored the power of presenting your own business case personally.

Eight startups were selected to participate in the program, and over the course of 12 weeks they will receive mentoring advice from the participating banks. This cocktail party was the first opportunity since applying for the accelerator program for the startups to talk face-to-face to their mentors.

Believe in what you do, and it will show

Throughout the room you could spot the founders and most senior-level executives of the startups making their pitch, which is precisely what the Lab is meant to encourage.

Their business cases were myriad, and included a fraud prevention system that uses algorithms based on Chinese characters, a customer identity system built around the online ledger platform known as blockchain, a predictive investment solution and an electronic wallet. The hurdles for implementation include the cost-effectiveness of scaling and delivering the service, as well as the requirement for the solutions to meet banks’ regulatory and compliance requirements.

Many of the budding entrepreneurs had their smartphones to hand to help emphasise their points, demonstrating the apps they are developing or calling up data to support their pitch.

But the biggest selling point for the startups was their passion – that’s what helped them break through.

It’s their own businesses and in many cases their own money on the line, so a cynic might say they’re bound to be passionate about their enterprises. But what shone through was their enthusiasm and excitement for a new idea that could be transformative. That excitement about changing the world - maybe just a tiny sliver of it - to make life easier and/or better is a powerful thing. I’m sure many people starting out in business dream of becoming a unicorn, and if that helps carry them through the long hours and inevitable sleepless nights fretting about finances, then perhaps those dreams are helpful to the business too.

For me, the management takeaways from the cocktail party are numerous:

Believe in what you do, and it will show.

Seek symbiotic mentorship. In the case of our Innovation Lab, the banks provide not just broad-based expertise, but also scale, while the startups provide niche expertise and agility. It’s a win-win relationship.

Recognise there are different pitches for different audiences. Selling your business to a customer is one thing, selling to a potential partner yet another. Increasingly, ecosystem partnerships will be the norm as businesses recognise that a connected world means interconnected business offerings.

The most effective spokespeople for a company sit at the top: they are the founders, the C-suite, the people who dreamed up the idea.

After you’ve done your initial sell, back it up with digital data

After you’ve done your initial sell, back it up with digital data: show the app, follow up with the demonstration the next day, recognise that delivery is ultimately more important than passion.

Networking is a much-vaunted and important part of doing business. But it should never be done for the sake of ticking a box. You are your best salesman.

Alex Trott leads the distribution and marketing business for financial services at Accenture in Hong Kong