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Looking back on Pitch To Rich – Chris Thorpe of I Can Make

New and Networking

Looking back on Pitch To Rich – Chris Thorpe of I Can Make

Chris Thorpe is the co-founder of I Can Make, a company creating 3D-printable educational content and resources for schools, children and parents. Simply buy and download the kit file to your computer, print on a 3D printer, and assemble. The idea impressed everyone so much last year that I Can Make made it to the final of Pitch to Rich 2014, getting their idea in front of Sir Richard himself and, in the process, learning how to position and sell their product to an audience. With Pitch to Rich back upon us for 2015, here’s how the experience was for Chris - and who better to give some exclusive tips to this year's hopefuls?

How has your business changed in the last year, since becoming a finalist?

We’ve become much more ambitious – we started working with bigger organisations, and after Pitch to Rich a lot of doors opened. We’ve now worked with the big three printing companies, Tower Bridge, and are part of the Wayra accelerator cohort – it’s been a very busy and exciting year!

How did you hear about Pitch to Rich, and what made you decide to enter?

We saw it in a newspaper advert, and decided to apply because we’re big fans of different parts of the Virgin brand and of Richard Branson himself – the chance to learn from the brand and for Richard Branson to learn about what we’re up to was too good to pass up.

How did you prepare for the pitching?

We thought long and hard about how to describe our business. On London’s tech scene you’re always pitching and describing your business to people, but the final felt very different. We were really lucky to work with David McQueen, who got us practising the pitch and getting it word-perfect – and it paid off. I was nervous, but now I’ve pitched to Richard Branson I don’t feel nervous pitching to anyone else! But there’s nothing like the confidence you get from pitching to someone you admire, and having them endorse you.

What’s the most important lesson or skill that it taught you?

An important lesson was learning how to describe exactly what we do. We’ve been working with 3D printers for years, and so it’s obvious to us that 3D printers need content – it’s just like a CD or a DVD player – but to other people it isn’t obvious. Now we work hard to describe that relationship when we pitch, when before we took it for granted – you have to put yourself in the audience’s shoes and explain in a way that makes it click for them.

Would you have done anything differently?

Yes! We’d have worked harder to make that relationship between printing and content more tangible, as mentioned above – but we’d also have started making the model spaceship we wanted to present to Richard sooner, as in the event our 3D printer broke down just two days before the final…

What are your top tips for the entrants of Pitch to Rich 2015?

-          Practise relentlessly – it’ll surprise you how nervous you get when you meet people you’ve admired for a long time. It’s very different to pitching to anyone else.

-          Make sure the product is understandable by people who don’t have a clue about what you do, and make it obvious to the panel. The assumption is that the panel have been briefed on what you do, but don’t make assumptions.

-          The time goes really quickly – you have just a minute or two to make your pitch – so focus on the key points

-          When you’re really nervous, don’t doubt yourself!