How to make the perfect PIVOT East 2015 application

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Are you an East African startup? Are you thinking of applying for this year’s edition of mobile startups pitching competition PIVOT East? Keep reading to find out how to hone the perfect application to give you the best chance of being one of the chosen 25 startups to pitch at the event.

Disrupt Africa reported late last month applications had opened for PIVOT East 2015, with innovative startups having until April 30 to submit their proposals. Applications are open to residents of Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda.

PIVOT East aims to catalyse the growth of mobile startups in order to consolidate the gains of East Africa’s mobile developer and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The key objective for this year’s event is “to facilitate discovery of the next wave of high potential mobile startups in the region”.

The competition has five categories – Mobile Finance, Mobile Enterprise, Mobile Entertainment, Mobile Utilities and Mobile Society and Governance – with each category featuring five finalists who will pitch to an audience of investors, development partners, government representatives, operators and other key mobile industry players from East Africa. Finalists will receive training and coaching on how to pitch to investors.

Each application is set to be assessed by a panel of industry experts and investors with wide expertise in entrepreneurship, business development, software development and investor relations. So what are the judges looking for when it comes to applications?

Problem and solution

The first key point is to identify your problem and customer segment. What problem are you solving for what particular customers, and is it worth solving in the first place? How big is the affected market?

Once you have defined this problem, it is vital to define explain exactly how you will solve it. What are the top features of your solution that specifically address the problem, and how can you prove that they work?

Focus on the revenue

You might fix a serious problem, but if you can’t prove you can monetise it then you will have a problem. You need to tell the judges exactly how you make money by providing the solution given the current nature of the marketplace. What research and experiments have you conducted, and what were the outcomes? How will you diversify revenue streams?

What is the technological advantage, and what is your competition?

Explain your tech, in detail. What exactly is technological about it? How is it unique in any way. Why is the technological solution and revenue model expected to work?

You also need to analyse your competition, if it exists. If there isn’t any, why not? If there is, name them, and explain how your product is differentiated from them. Can they do anything you can’t do? Is there enough room in the market for another alternative?

Customer acquisition strategies

You need to tell the judges who your early adopters are going to be. What customer segments are you prioritising, and how do you plan to reach them? You can have the greatest product in the world, but if you can’t get it to potential customers you’re doomed. What channels are you going to use? Will you pay for marketing, or utilise free services such as social media? How will you provide your customers with a gratifying experience, and make sure more people sign up.

What is your team?

The composition of your team is very important indeed. Who is in your team, and how are the skills of the team’s respective members complement each other? It is vital that your team structure is suitable to delivering your business goals, while members of startup team need to have a sense of commitment to the project. Show the judges the skills and experience your team has that will make your startup a success. How invested are members? What skin do they have in the game?

Do you have traction? Have you achieved anything yet?

If your business has achieved anything yet, say so. Judges will be looking for proof of concept, and if you can show you have achieved something already then shout it from the rooftops. Do you have paying customers? How many? How many downloads, pageviews, requests? What is your gross monthly revenue? What have your customers said about the project? Do you have any intellectual property assets? What key partnerships, investments or awards have you secured?

What does the future hold?

You need to map out exactly what the future holds for your startup, and what investors can expect to gain from putting money into your business. What are your projections for growth within the next 12 months in terms of revenues, users, customer discovery, development, partnerships and investments? And, most importantly, what will it take to achieve these desired milestones?

Good luck!

Follow the above advice, and you should be well on your way to honing a strong startup profile, not just for the competition but also in terms of developing a business model going forward.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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