When Rob Halligan and Scott Ashmore began following the cryptocurrency boom back in 2016 and 2017, they were struck by the speed with which like-minded individuals created a vibrant community around a shared interest. This got them thinking about how the often-starchy world of start-up investment could do with similar democratisation and they’ve made it happen through PitchedIt, a crowdfunding platform with a twist.
Crowdfunding platforms are one of the “friendlier” ways for start-ups to raise money. However, the barriers to acceptance can still be high. It’s not unusual for early-stage businesses to fall at the first hurdle and, with no money, their potentially great idea flops.
“The biggest issue founders face is that most of them don’t know any angels or VCs,” Halligan says. “Secondly, traditional crowdfunding platforms are very transactional and founders must get through a heavy, front-loaded, due diligence process to be accepted. The experience can be isolating and what feedback they get is often non-specific or actionable.”
PitchedIt aims to tackle these shortcomings by creating a community of founders, investors and mentors where start-ups can go to raise money but also to chat, showcase their idea, collect feedback and refine their pitch.
“We’re first and foremost a community where people can connect, collaborate and network,” Halligan says. “We believe there are some incredibly talented founders out there who may need the benefit of time, a small bit of refinement or the right piece of knowledge to turn them into an investable proposition.
“For some it will be all about the money, but even if a founder doesn’t want to raise, our platform allows them to manage all their investor materials in a structured way.”
PitchedIt is aimed at very early-stage tech companies. If a founder’s idea catches the community’s attention, it’s the beginning of what Halligan and Ashmore hope will be a lively mix of advice, feedback and engagement that will ultimately lead to investment. Minimum investment will be €50,000 and maximum €500,000 but Halligan says the sweet spot is €250,000-€300,000.
Halligan comes from a commercial background and spent seven years with Salesforce before leaving to start PitchedIt. Ashmore is a techie and has worked in software engineering management and product execution roles for companies including Google and Nike.
PitchedIt uses its community rather than a traditional due diligence process to determine which businesses can raise investment on the platform.
“Ideas are validated by our community who rate the pitches from one to 10 under six headings,” Halligan explains. “Companies need to be scored a seven or higher across every section by at least 30 mentors and investors to be deemed validated and eligible to move on to fundraising. Mentors can also become investors and can earn equity tokens for their contributions to the platform.”
Professionals and angels
PitchedIt is free for start-ups to use and the company will makes its money through commission on successful fundraising rounds. The company is using a crowdfunding model but its approach is slightly different in that start-ups can opt to raise either from professional/angel investors alone or choose a hybrid combination where half their round comes from professional investors and half from retail/public investors.
PitchedIt earns 2 per cent on angel investments and 7 per cent on what’s raised publicly. The company is also developing a SaaS subscription revenue strand which will give users access to more elements on the platform.
PitchedIt has been started with sweat equity and about €60,000 between founder and angel investment. And, like the start-ups it’s working with, the company is in fundraising mode and looking to raise about €420,000.
It is starting its campaign to recruit start-ups, investors and mentors in Ireland but Halligan says the ambition is to make PitchedIt a resource for the international start-up community once the necessary regulatory approvals are in place.