And that is a wrap!

The 2020 CRL Demo Day with the year we had obviously had to be taken virtually, which meant it could have gone two ways, but having attended the event and speaking with a number of people who also did, to say the day was a success would be an understatement.

With introductions from a number of team members at CRL including Toby Kress Managing Director at CRL and Programme Director at Plus X, the event was set up nicely. Toby said: “The six companies on this year’s Accelerator programme have travelled further and achieved more at this stage of their journey than any we have worked with. To do this during 2020 is particularly impressive and every single one of them is on track for major future success. We couldn’t be prouder of them."  

The feel to Demo Day was very professional as the startups on the cohort had the chance to pre-record their pitches across a number of different locations. Melissa the Founder of Warner Patch a medical augmenting decision making device for clinicians by enabling remote continuous monitoring for high-risk chronic patients explained that she was able to film her pitch in the Royal Academy of Engineering House. “We had a former actor come in to help us with speaking in front of the camera, and aided us with the script and key message we were trying to portray, and it was amazing to have the whole day in the Royal Academy of Engineering House to ourselves, a great experience.”

A lot of time and effort had gone into the videos, as the startups wanted to ensure the right message was portrayed of their business, and their time on the cohort. Lottie Whyte, Co-Founder of MyoMaster explained: “The pre-record has been a lot of fun, and the process of preparing, writing the script and thinking about how best to tell and communicate our story has been really effective, and good process to go through. I think it's a great opportunity to tell our story.”

Mira Nameth, Founder of Biophilica, a leather-like material made from urban plant waste, also really enjoyed the process as she said: “Because of lockdown we had to deliver our pitches on the camera, but this meant we have also filmed a leather worker, making the bag so we can really show the process of how this material can be applied to real products, something you wouldn’t see in a real life Demo Day pitch. We have also been working on our investment pitches, so that is ready to go, and as we have had a longer period of time, we have a version the whole team is happy with.”

Matt Anderson, the Founder of Cryogenx said it was about showcasing the development's everyone has made in the last nine months. "It is a great opportunity to show the world. CRL has done a great job in being responsive, and it's definitely the best case scenario. 

"It really allowed us to rethink the role of a typical Demo Day pitch as such. Normally you would have a PowerPoint presentation and deliver it to a group of people, but here we had the ability to pick what we wanted this video to convey, and hopefully that will help the number of us who are actively seeking investment."

Mat Hunter, Co-CEO at Plus X said: “Necessity is the mother of invention and we expect the startups we support to embed that thinking in their business by finding deep user needs. Little did we anticipate that we would have to employ that mantra ourselves as we created our first virtual demo day! Not only did the videoed pitches convey the concepts more powerfully than ever before, but the virtual platform allowed many more investors and supporters and future entrepreneurs to join us. And at this time of great challenge, the founder’s visions of a world made more sustainable and healthier through their products must give us hope that an entrepreneur-led and innovation-led recovery is possible.”

This year's cohort

As this year has been full of surprises and changes, there was at some point hope of doing a small, intimate in-person event, however, it seems the format of this year's Demo Day worked just as well, if not better. Liam Murphy, Co-Founder of Stix, said about the event: "Because our Demo Day is not like previous ones, there hasn't been a build up to it, and there won't be an audience. However, instead of doing it live you get the chance to practice, and there seems to be a bit of a weight lifted by already doing the bulk of the pitching on camera.

"We were able to get footage of the product being used and played with, and the reactions of the children's faces whilst using it was great to see. We had done so much preparation for speaking to the camera, but of course when you sit down to actually do it, you just forget everything. It happened to both myself and my dad (John Murphy, Co-Founder), but we did get there in the end."

This year’s CRL cohort was slightly different to other years, for a number of reasons. Of course, there was COVID-19 that came along, and changed plans slightly, but it was very refreshing to see not only CRL itself adapt and accommodate changes everywhere possible to ensure things could carry on as smooth as possible, but also the see the startups essentially pull their socks up, work on their projects as much as they could, and where they couldn’t completely pivot and create a brand new business - like Soapstone. 

Pete Barr and Eli Heath, started the CRL with their startup Enayball, a social enterprise startup to enable people with disabilities to draw, and express themselves through art, and ended with Enayball and Soapstone, the sustainable way to keep germfree. Speaking to Pete on Demo Day he said: "Demo Day and our video pitch for us is about showing our journey, it looks at Enayball first, and the describes the time line on what has happened. It is about showing the world both products, and why we decided to create Soapstone."

However, 2020 was also the first year we saw Mouser Electronics, the worldwide leading distributor of semiconductors and electronic components sponsor the programme and play a big part along the way.

Commenting on the success of Demo Day, Mark Patrick, Technical Marketing Manager, EMEA, Mouser Electronics said: "Not only was the content excellent, with just the right length and pace, but the digital platform enabled the move from physical to virtual event beautifully. Being able to jump into sessions with the individual Founders immediately after the event was especially valuable."

In a year where online events have been, shall we say extremely popular, understandably, the CRL Demo Day seemed to provide everything it needed to and more, with a number of attendees, describing it as one of the best online events they have ever been to.