Adventures of a Pitching Coach in Slovenia

It all starts with a conversation, and so it did this time. During the first edition of the Wolves Summit in Gdynia, Piotr Bucki had a chance to talk to Jakob Gajšek – co-founder and Head of Venture Relations at ABC Accelerator in Slovenia.

Photos: Sinisa Kanizaj

When he mentioned where he came from, various iconic stereotypes implanted by many friend travellers came to mind: Small, yet beautiful country, amazing views, good economy and the language that sounded somehow familiar to the one he spoke – Polish. Piotr felt the positive vibe, but no way was he going to associate Slovenia with a blossoming startup scene. Little did he know that soon he was about to change his mind.

Piotr Bucki

Weeks passed by and Piotr had a chance to talk with Jakob again. This time via Skype (the startup that comes from an equally exotic and relatively small country – Estonia). Jakob said we should do something together – being a communication junkie Piotr offered his help as a pitching coach for the Slovenian Startups. After all, that is what he does – Piotr helps entrepreneurs hone their message; he does it by putting the science (cognitive psychology and neuro-sciences) into practice.

He gladly accepted the offer. Piotr first reviewed the pitches of all startups from the first ABC acceleration program, the feedback he provided (that you can also find here link: proved to be helpful. Even though he is not known for sugar-coated messages, nobody punched me in the face. Time flew by and when ABC Accelerator started their second acceleration program – this time dedicated to health and living solutions – he gladly jumped on board, this time in person.

Piotr Bucki at Nervteh

What struck me most when Piotr came to Slovenia, was the quality of the startups and hard work they maintain daily with the mentors at the accelerator. As a pitching and communication coach he always has to remind people how important the three Ps – passion, preparation & presence are. The guys and gals in Slovenia did not have to be reminded of the need to work and practice their pitches relentlessly. Be it workshops, one on one sessions or just conversations on the hallways, they were always ready to work on the big picture and the details.

Piotr came to Slovenia 37 days before the final Demo Day and they were already quite advanced with their narratives and pitch decks; but most of all they were well advanced with their products. He always says that a great pitch won’t save a lousy product but a bad pitch can bury a decent one. The good thing is, he didn’t have to worry about the quality of the products. All they had to do was to work on selling the idea, and that is where his cognitive insights, neuroscience and fMRI-packed-labs came in handy. Working with startups like NervTEH, Kripto, Mogy, Sportly, Moneyrebel, Homey, Vismedic and PointMe was a blast. But even more surprisingly, working alongside their pitch coach on site, Filip Dobranic, was the privilege. Why? Because never before in his live did Piotr have a chance to work alongside such an insightful and focused communication professional. Now he understood why the first batch of startups he reviewed was so well prepared. They were simply lucky that ABC accelerator has provided them with such a professional.

Pitch session

Working with startups on a pitch is a constant loop of pitching-feedback-pitching again. The startups Piotr worked with in Slovenia this time all had quite good narratives, but quite good is not good enough. So we’ve had to work on perfecting the stories, turning the sentences into powerful weapons of mass persuasion. Piotr obviously had his types – after all he is just human.

NervTEH stole him, as anything with the word NERV in the name would. This immersive VR simulator with applications varying from teaching drivers how to drive in any conditions before they kill on the road, to even diagnosing the cognitive potential in various situations, was bound to steal his heart; and it did, but so did the others.

Homey, a great communication tool for families to finally get those chores done, using the one natural way the kids communicate now – picture snaps.

PointMe – a mobile app helping brands nurture the loving relationship with their fans, with rewards for creating user generated content.

Vismedic – working hard on providing safe and private online access to the global network of health professionals.

Sportly – an app that helps fitness professionals focus on what they do best, freeing them from a constant burden of planning, budgeting, booking and promoting their businesses.

Moneyrebel – so much more than just a money tracing app with extra help of virtual financial advisor and power to educate the 67% of financially illiterate people around the world.

Mogy – a great app to help fitness trainers and gyms, not only stay in touch with their clients via one channel but to motivate them daily with a set of more than 800 different exercises.

And Kripto – the startup that finally convinced me there is future for bitcoin arbitrage trading; and that this future can be bright, with their system providing safe and predictable results for professional bitcoin traders.

Most of the above-mentioned startups had a story to share and support their message. Like the dramatic cancer survival stories of Vismedic CEO, intriguing discovery stories of Kripto’s CEO and countless user stories for the purpose of clarifying the concepts and schemes, but it was not only the stories they worked on. The main thing was to make the startups understand what they are really doing and to sell that idea to the audience. In other words, to make them understand what is it that they are offering. Of course the teams of the second batch pampered by the ABC accelerator team, knew what they were doing. They were creating apps, platforms, offering solutions etc. But in his communication training he wants more. He wants the essence that the audience can relate to. Mainly Piotr wants to hear the big idea, and that is what keeps on working. With PointMe, instead of saying that we are creating an app that can help digital marketing, we came up with the statement that they’re helping brands nurture the love of their hardcore fans with a simple reward system. Namely, we concluded that we make the love between the brands and fans happen. With Vismedic, we concluded that we’re more than just a telemedicine platform, but a tool connecting the patient in need with a global network of doctors in a world where diagnosis is crucial and time is of essence.

Pitch session with Piotr Bucki

The startups of ABC accelerator have grown in Slovenia, but they are not only of Slovenian origin. They operate or will operate on a global market and Piotr hopes they will succeed. They have made the first step. What they need now is hard work, good mentors and the attitude that is a mix of humble and brave. As a pitching couch Piotr is always obsessing about the key messages. The global one – the one idea they want to spread virally and the key messages of every section of the pitch. He has one piece of advice for them all: Be crisp-sure of what you are doing and do not shy away from saying proudly that you are changing the world. After all, startups are there to solve the problems, the burning itch of end users who will become (hopefully) paying customers.

Pitch session in progress

What Piotr likes is the attitude of the startups that come from countries with potentially small internal markets. Slovenia, the Balkan region, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are small but interesting countries to look out for. This adventure with Slovenian based ABC Accelerator is over. He enjoyed it. It made piotr think again, that with the right people and the right environment it is easier to work on ideas that may one day change the world; or at least make it easier to operate in. He will keep an eye on Slovenia and the region. He has the feeling that the startups of both this batch and the first one will surprise us, just as they surprised him.