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Meet the judges choosing the next Tech Innovator in the UK

KPMG UK tech innovator: meet the judges

After months of searching, the wait is nearly over to find out who will be crowned KPMG Private Enterprise’s Tech Innovator in the UK.

As we celebrate ten years of our UK Tech Innovator competition, championing the best of British technology, we are now just days away from our final on 24 July.

Nearly 400 innovators stepped forward to enter their business into the competition, representing the huge diversity of exciting new technology coming from regions across the UK.

Having pitched their way through to the final, our eight tech businesses are ready to present their innovation to our panel of judges.

The tech industry moves quickly and as the overwhelming response to our competition proves, it is hugely competitive. Being able to differentiate your business, your founders and your innovation are key to success.

So, what makes a great pitch? What do our innovators need to deliver in order to take home the Tech Innovator in the UK crown?

I caught up with three of my fellow judges to get their views on what makes a successful tech startup and what they’re hoping to see on the night.

There’s still time to attend virtually and watch the finals live – you can register here.

Danielle Hook – HSBC UK

Danielle Hook is a director in the Technology Sector and Growth Lending team for HSBC UK, with a particular focus on helping ambitious technology scaleups to deliver on their growth plans. 

Before moving into the Technology Sector & Growth Lending team, Hook has worked in the banking sector for the past 10 years in leveraged finance supporting private equity funds and the businesses they invest in. 

What makes a successful tech startup?

Danielle Hook: For me, a successful startup is either a disruptor challenging existing business models or is defining and creating a new market through its innovation and technology proposition.

The team is the other key ingredient – having the energy and resilience to drive the ambitions of the business, also providing leadership that defines a clear purpose and strategy – knowing when to pivot and when to stick to the plan. Resilience is key, as there will inevitably be failures and mistakes along the way – those start-ups that succeed will have successfully overcome and learnt from those difficult moments.

What are you hoping to see from the TIUK finalists?

DH: Bold and game-changing technologies that have clear market potential and scalability that will enable them to become a tech titan of the future.

What makes a perfect pitch?

DH: The ability to articulate the business’s proposition and purpose concisely and clearly – how it differentiates itself and why it is the winner in its market. I also want to get an insight into the business culture, values and people, as this is what customers, employees, potential funders and the market will buy into, which will be crucial to future success.

Oliver Yonchev – Flight Story

Oliver Yonchev is an entrepreneur, speaker and CEO of Flight Story, a company founded with Steven Bartlett.  Flight Story exists to help keep brands at the forefront of what’s possible. Offering a range of marketing services to disruptive brands, emerging technologies and the finance industry. 
Previously, Yonchev was managing director of Social Chain AG, a world-leading social media and e-commerce company. The company grew from a UK startup, to a 1,000+ employee, $750m+ revenue business that operated across 21 locations. 
For a decade, Yonchev has been at the forefront of digital marketing and transformation, helping guide the management teams of many of the world’s most successful companies, including: Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, TikTok, Twitch, Apple, Disney & Uber to name just a few. 

What makes a successful tech startup?

Oliver Yonchev: A successful tech startup, like any company is defined by its people. A great founding team will have a complimentary set of skills across product, commercial, operations and marketing.

Beyond a great team, successful companies stay focused on core value proposition. Starting with the problem they’re solving, being clear on who they’re solving it for, and having a plan on how they’re going to do it.

Then they hold that plan loosely, consistently using feedback to reiterate their way to success. Lastly, great start-ups have a great story. Whether they’re raising investment, selling to a customer, or convincing a new team member to join them, a clear and compelling story is a superpower.

What are you hoping to see from the TIUK finalists?

OY: Ambitious ideas, solving real problems. I’m hoping to see ideas that go beyond the functional benefits of a product and show potential to be a brand.

Lastly, I’m looking to see creativity in product development; for example, features that aid growth, etc.

What makes a perfect pitch?

OY: I need to leave a pitch having no doubt why a company exists, the problems they solve and how they’re going to solve them.

Priya Guha MBE  – Merian Ventures

Priya Guha is a venture partner at Merian Ventures, investing in women-led innovation. She is an advisor to Kheiron Medical Technologies and Gallos Technologies, a member of the Investment Governance Board at Future Planet Capital, a NED at Reach PLC, UK Research & Innovation, the Digital Catapult & GB Badminton and Adjunct Faculty at the Ashridge Hult Business School.

She was previously GM for RocketSpace, launching its UK operations. Guha used to be a career diplomat, most recently as British Consul General to San Francisco and previously in India and Spain.

She sits on the Royal Academy of Engineering International Committee, Althea Foundation Board, Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates advisory boards. She is a trustee at TechSheCan. Guha was awarded an MBE in 2021 for services to international trade and women in innovation.

What makes a successful tech startup?

Priya Guha: A brilliant idea, strong team and execution. The latter is key.

What are you hoping to see from the TIUK finalists?

PG: Clear articulation of the problem they’re solving for, how they’re in a different league to the competition in addressing it, strength (and diversity) of their team, USP of their product and their market traction including how customers feedback. With data to back everything up.

What makes a perfect pitch?

PG: Vision, passion and direction. An ability to switch seamlessly between a high-level statement to comprehensive grasp of the detail. And a narrative communication style that connects them instantly to their audience.

Dominic McGregor – Fearless Adventures

Dominic McGregor is founding partner of investment fund Fearless Adventures, and ex-COO of global marketing agency Social Chain. 

Post-exit, McGregor founded Fearless Adventures alongside partners David Newns and Charlie Yates to invest and drive growth in leading entrepreneur-led ecommerce businesses. Through this venture, McGregor is passionate about using his experiences of building and scaling a successful business to support other entrepreneurs on the journey. 

In early 2021, McGregor was appointed by the Cabinet Office as a government policy advisor looking at social media and digital communications. He is also an entrepreneur and mental health and sobriety advocate.

Sarah Abrahams – KPMG

Sarah Abrahams is part of the leadership team for KPMG Acceleris and has over 16 years of experience in supporting high-growth businesses to secure VC funding rounds from seed to Series A and beyond.

She was previously head of raising finance at Cooper Parry and national head of growth finance for Grant Thornton’s Corporate Finance business. Abrahams was also a NED for the Mayor of London’s “Greater London Investment Fund”, a £100m fund-of-funds investing in London-based technology startups. 

The final of the UK Tech Innovator on 24 July is open to the public to watch virtually, who are also able to vote for their winner. You can register here.