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There was nothing modest about this Startup pitch

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by Startacus Admin

Pitching your startup on stage can be tough going indeed - but here’s some startup pitch inspiration to keep all prospective 'startup pitchers' going, care of our very own co-founder, Alastair Cameron.

Alastair CameronI was reminded last week of an epic achievement at the first upSTART startup pitch competition that we ran and hosted at Digital DNA, when I saw the hashtag of  #RamadanMubarak trending.

In 2016, we were launching the upSTART competition at digital and tech event Digital DNA, Belfast - a partnership we had conceived with Gareth Quinn, Founder and MD of the event.

The proposition of the pitch competition was similar to what it is now. 25-26 startups would travel to Belfast, from NI, Republic of Ireland, and the UK, to pitch to win a £5k cash prize + a whole host of brand services and support.

We received a real range of applications, a number of real crackers, including startups that might be familiar to some of you now.

We shortlisted the startups and on the 8th of June 2016, they turned up at St George’s Market for the Digital DNA event and to take part in the pitch competition. It was a remarkably hot day for Belfast, and as the event was in an old market - water was a much needed necessity for all!upSTART 2016

One startup, Haute Elan, also known as MODLIST, was an innovative marketplace platform which housed large collections of luxury modest fashion designers from around the world.

Founder Romanna Bint-Abubaker, stood out.

Over the two rounds of the competition, Romanna was both professional, clear in her pitch, right to the point in terms of her business and it’s proposition - Haute Elan / MODLIST was targeting and would aim to dominate the $2tn Muslim consumer and wider Mormon, Jewish and non-faith modest dresser, and to be fair, really interested in the overall event itself and the other founders pitching.

There were admittedly some other really good startups there - some perhaps stronger in terms of innovation. But, in my opinion, none as simple in terms of gap in the market and potential scalability, as Romanna’s.

Romanna Bint-AbubakerRomanna was announced as the upSTART winner and I finally got to spend 5 minutes with her and it was then that Romanna shared her journey to Belfast. (NB. This is my summary not her’s)

Romanna had applied reasonably late in the process to upSTART.

When she was shortlisted, she left it pretty late to decide that she would indeed fly over to Belfast from London to attend and pitch at the event. She left it so late that flights were booked, but no hotel. She had assumed that she would be able to just book into a hotel in Belfast on her arrival.

On her arrival - she found getting a hotel so difficult, she realised that she may have to stay up all night, to then attend the event the next day.

But where to stay? She found the Belfast Mosque and decided that this would be her sanctuary until the morning. Whilst at the Mosque and praying, she met a Belfast family, who offered her a place to stay until the morning.

The next day, she turned up, pitched twice, pitching really well, and stayed on top form until she was announced the winner at around 5pm.

I asked Romanna to stay for a drink to celebrate her achievement and she, along with most of the other startups, stayed for a good hour or so to network.

But, while telling me about her tale, and me asking what she would like to drink, she let me know that as it was Ramadan she would not, and had not, had a Romanna Bint-Abubakerdrink or anything to eat all day.

So, when last week I was reminded of Ramadan and the fasting that occurs, I was reminded of the remarkable journey and achievement of Founder Romanna Bint-Abubaker and her journey and success, at the inaugural upSTART pitch competition at Digital DNA.

Last week I emailed Romanna, to ask if I could share her story, as apart from the few of us that were there, Romanna had, as far as I am aware, not shared her story much since. I think it is a story worth sharing, and one we can all take some inspiration from.

Romanna said of her experience:

“Ramadan may seem like the greatest challenge to many but for us it’s all about mind over matter, we still are the same people, we simply elevate our focus on our God during this month. The sacrifice I made to come was out of hope for an opportunity and that is exactly what upSTART at Digital DNA Belfast with Startacus gave me.

It didn’t matter how hard it was or what I went through to get to be with you on that day - I made it somehow, midnight in a city with no accommodation my Muslim side came in handy as I found a local mosque where an awesome local Irish family made me theirs. I will never forget the experience and opportunity and thank all the team from the bottom of my heart for their efforts in putting this event together.”

I look forward to seeing what stories are created at upSTART 18 and to meeting the startups that make that journey, be they from Belfast, Dublin, Manchester, London...

Cheers Romanna, a very worthy and modest founder and our first upSTART winner!


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Published on: 25th May 2018

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