“You should go for Pitch@Palace,” said our new Mentor. With long-awaited clinical evidence and economics confirmed at last, we were discussing Forte Medical’s potential and need for acceleration, influence across the areas of medicine pertinent to our work, and investment to enable us to achieve our goal.
Curious, I visited Pitch@Palace online to find that The Duke of York was up to SME-friendly things of which I was unaware and it dawned on me that a downside to keeping one’s nose to the grindstone is missing powerful lateral opportunities – and this was most certainly one. Meeting the immediate, often onerous day-to-day needs of an SME can steer focus away from the bigger picture, something I have always considered myself on top of… lesson learned.
The tone of voice and intent of Pitch@Palace appealed. I applied, never thinking that specimen collection would really catch the notice of those seeking ripe-Royal opportunities around small business. A week later the email landed, inviting Forte Medical to take part in Pitch@Palace On Tour near Belfast; stage one of the selection process leading potentially to a presentation at St James’s Palace to Prince Andrew, leading figures of business, finance, life-science and more.
Preparation switched in; what to say in three minutes? How to structure the single slide representing my messages – and those of the business – during the pitch? The Team and I sprung into action. Stage one: slide content was considered, agreed upon and submitted. Stage two: our communications guru organised an hour’s top-level media training. Stage three: we fine-tuned the script. Stage four: rehearsal to guarantee a three-minute delivery. Finally, trains, flights and a night-before hotel were booked at budget prices; I was all set.
Northern Ireland has become familiar territory since my partnership with Other Half. His family reside here and although it felt strange to be visiting without him or them involved, there was an important logic to this enforced independence. When visiting I relax to the point of seamless somnolence: You work hard all the time, they say. When you are here, you must rest. R&R would simply not do on this visit; a hotel it had to be.
The irony of the restless night that followed, did not escape me; I reached for my specs and phone to check the time and tune into R4’s Today Programme; it was 6.45am … and time apparentlly for the arm of my reading glasses to part company with its frame. I lay back to the 7am news, feeling implicitly that Sellotaped specs was not The Look required for this morning.
Leaving the Belfast Ramada early, my friendly cabbie knew of a retail park, which opened at 8am; we swung by and the efficient staff at Boots kindly read out the magnifying strength of the most appropriate frames, for dear reader, the letters and numbers were but a blur. Duly equipped, I was delivered to Hillsborough Castle and a warm welcome from the Pitch@Palace team, a small army of kindly serious and super-efficient women who made us all feel somehow at ease.
The room filled with people; networkers making the most of the opportunity to dissipate pre-pitch nerves. Conversely I sat apart, watching the crowd and enjoying the anomaly of this formal event taking place in the Royal Family’s Northern Irish sitting room, for we were surrounded by the kind of framed snaps one might find in any home. The familiar faces on show however, belied any impression that we could be anywhere but a Royal household; better still, we were surrounded by astonishing classical portraits of majestic ancestors … and I’m sure I spotted a Constable too.
My reverie interrupted, we were ushered in to the presentation room unlike any other I have seen, for the stage featured a pair of substantial and impressive thrones set off rather nicely by a large backdrop of the embroidered Royal crest. Not your average piece of corporate theatre, then.
The next hour felt timeless; I was second on and quickly fitted with microphone, led “backstage”, announced, counted in … and my pitch was live.
“65 million is a big number. Astonishingly it is the number of urine specimens used for clinical analysis and diagnosis every year in the UK … yet up to 73% may be contaminated, yielding no information, no diagnosis and no accurate prescribing.”
Over the next three minutes, I articulated the Forte Medical mission; to focus on the taking of clinically proven, super-accurate urine specimens, a woefully overlooked area of medicine. Used for diagnosing myriad complaints from the common urinary tract infection to bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, antenatal complications and more, this specimen enjoys no protocol to guarantee diagnostic accuracy, leading to mixed growth (contamination) variance of between 0.38% and 73% across the UK. This makes accurate diagnoses from urine a misguided and undeserved national lottery.
Blood, I explained, commands unquestioned, diligent collection. Being deemed less important bodily waste, urine attracts little respect despite being an equally important window to human health.
Current inaccurate and messy collection methods encourage the spread of bacteria and viruses across hands and environment, ending up on door handles, floors and more. Clinicians insist that there is no evidence to demonstrate that this lack of hygiene is a problem. Until the nasty stuff enters the body, it is not deemed a risk – but broken skin, fingers in mouths and basic cross-contamination opportunities belie these views, reminiscent of a time when surgeons and doctors did not believe they should wash their hands when touching or having touched patients. That was the 18th Century; have we really come no further with medical attitudes to hygiene? Do we have to wait for serious new bugs to arrive in and spread from our bodies before this process is taken seriously? Does basic common sense have no place in modern medicine?
“If you think about it, expecting a lab technician to determine a patient’s condition by analysing a contaminated urine specimen is like asking a detective to solve a crime by surveying the scene through a dirty window.”
Forte Medical was founded on Peezy Midstream, an award-winning product with global potential, made in the UK and we have new devices in the pipeline. Having waited some three years for the current clinical evidence needed to convince the healthcare powers that be, we are pressing for the establishment of a much needed urine collection protocol. With further investment to focus on sales, export, tooling, volume manufacture and more, Peezy Midstream will bring integrity to this area of clinical work and patient care in the UK and throughout the world.
My three minutes over, applause rang out and the coffee break brought interesting conversations with potential investors, life-sciences and point of care diagnostic people, pharmaceutical executives and others gathered there by Pitch@Palace to assist with the growth of UK talent and business.
This arena was so much more than I could have hoped for; our message was heard and appreciated by the right people. I have done many such presentations, yet rarely do I experience quite such a response.
The rest of the day was more in focus than at the start. More relaxed, I listened to the remaining eighteen pitches, the quality higher than I had encountered elsewhere. The light-bulb ideas outlined in that room were many and varied, yet without exception, brilliant. Approaching 2pm, the event drew to a close; the judges had judged and the shortlist of three was announced.
“Forte Medical” they said … and I rose to my feet, dazed, amazed and delighted.
This unexpected success will take me to a Boot Camp, where together with those shortlisted from this and other On Tour events, our business plan will be scrutinised. We will meet Mentors and Advisors and have the opportunity to be shortlisted yet again for the final pitch at St James’s Palace on 2nd November. If chosen, we would present to The Duke of York and 299 others; an audience made up of many more receptive and interested individuals, like those present today.
Being part of this positive, constructive and nurturing programme for young and small British business is something to be more than proud of.
To The Duke of York: I salute you.