Catching Up with Our 2019 PitchFest Winner!
Pitching your business to investors can be a nerve-wracking experience for entrepreneurs. It takes loads of courage and a dose of vulnerability to ask savvy investors to take a chance and invest some of their hard-earned money in an idea that’s likely been your sole focus for months, if not years.
Mohammed Asaduallah, CEO of Benji, a financial solution that finds tax write-offs for Canadian freelancers, and the 2019 SAAS NORTH PitchFest winner, remembers how nervous he was before he took to the PitchFest stage last year.
“I pitched on Day 2, which worked well as I could watch some of the other pitches. When it was my turn to go on stage, I was so nervous – my heart was beating fast, my palms were sweaty and the auditorium felt so big,” he says.
Despite running out of time to complete his full presentation, Mohammed’s pitch was impressive enough to win the attention of the panel and he was invited back as one of two finalists in the “pitch-off”.
“I practiced my timing over and over again to make sure that I could get through the whole pitch and tell the story of Benji. When it came time to deliver it, I was even more nervous and I actually don’t even remember what I said. I think I blacked out!” Mohammed remembers. “The experience was amazing though and when I won and the crowd was cheering, it was an incredible moment.”
"The 2019 SaaS North PitchFest was a fantastic showcase of up-and-coming Canadian SaaS businesses and stories like Mohammed’s demonstrate the hard work that founders put into their companies. We’re excited to support the event again this year and bring Amazon’s approach to innovation to help Canadian companies looking to scale up and tackle the unique challenges of SaaS businesses,” says Mark Smith, Sr. Manager of Startup Business Development, Amazon Web Services, Inc.
As the 2019 PitchFest people’s choice winner, Mohammed received the grand prize of $10,000 cash from Amazon Web Services and a video package valued at $10,000 from Simple Story. Today, Benji is live online and open to the public, with a customer base that is growing monthly.
“I came up with the idea for Benji based on my own frustration of trying to find a simpler way to prepare for my freelance taxes. As I talked to other freelancers, I realized there was an obvious need for an automated process that automagically finds tax write-offs by sifting through my bank transactions. I am not a developer, so I invested my tax refund and some savings to hire two developers to build a prototype.”
The boost from PitchFest also provided Mohammed with the means to invest in Benji's marketing efforts to further the growth of his business. In fact, he will soon be launching a podcast with an accompanying blog called “Freelance Canada” that specifically focuses on covering the unique challenges faced by Canadian freelancers.
What advice does Mohammed have for entrepreneurs considering PitchFest 2020?
“Go for it! Apply to be part of PitchFest. It gives you an opportunity to promote your company and to network with people. You’ve got nothing to lose and it’s an incredible experience,” he says.
Start-ups can apply to be part of PitchFest 2020 before August 25, 2020. This year's prizes include:
- $10,000 cash prize provided by Amazon Web Services
- Up to $100,000 in cloud credits provided by Amazon Web Services
- Full-service virtual IP manager (VIPM™) valued at $10,000 provided by Stratford Intellectual Properties
- Custom explainer video package valued at $10,000 provided by Simple Story
5 Things to Incorporate into Your PitchFest Presentation
Advice from our 2019 winner Mohammed Asaduallah, CEO, Benji
- Take the audience on a journey with your story. Show them the problem, why it is worth solving and highlight your solution.
- Make every word count. Keep your positioning simple and make sure your message is clear to every single person in the audience. Choose quality content over quantity.
- Mind your pacing. Don't try to rush through your pitch. If you can't fit everything in the allocated time then cut down on the content. This'll push you to prioritize the most important parts of your business.
- Give in to the pressure. Channel your nervous energy and get yourself hyped up before you start to pitch. Your passion and excitement should be heard in your voice and seen in your body movements.
- Practice, practice and then practice some more. Record your pitch and play it back to yourself. Rewrite it as many times as you need to. I have at least 20 recordings of myself practicing my pitch before the event.