Application Advice from the 2023 AXA Startup Angels

Starting up

14 March 2023

Over the past two years, the judges of our AXA Startup Angel competition have had a chance to perfect their judging capabilities. All of our judges have at least one AXA Startup Angel competition under their belt and some even have two – that means they know what they're looking for at this point! 

To help you wow the judges and have the best chances of success, we've gathered advice they've given over the years on how to approach each part of the application and what makes an entry a winner for them. 

Check out what Ian and Henry of Bosh, Raphael of the UK Black Business show and Sharmadean of the Stack World have to say about putting together a great application for AXA's Startup Angel Competition:

What's in a winning idea? 

Ian: In short, a great business helps people, solves a problem and fills a gap.

Sharmadean: We're looking for problem solvers, people who really thought about the need. I'm looking for people who aren't just solving problems for themselves or a really small group. If you’re only solving a problem for yourself or a small group of people then it's not very scalable. So definitely problem solving, definitely market research, and something that is scalable. 

Henry: We’re much more excited by someone who maybe hasn’t quite nailed the business idea, but have absolute drive to solve a problem. What makes a good idea is a founder who really cares about their idea but it’s also an idea that has a place in the market, it represents a novel way of thinking about the world, and it is a founder who is able to convey how they could turn that idea into reality. That’s the thing we really want to see and that’s the person we really want to help. 

Raphael: I’m looking for unique ideas. I want to see what problem people are solving. What’s the pain point that you’re looking to solve within your industry? How are you going to disrupt your industry? I’m someone who loves anything that creates a positive impact in the world and a lot of the ideas were businesses that were not only going to benefit the founder, but also would make a lasting impact on society and those around them. 

How to make a great pitch video: 

Henry: A pitch video is a short format, you don’t have long to communicate your business idea effectively. Think of it as an extended elevator pitch. Then try to do something to wow us to give you all the chance of winning. Show us a spark, some magic, something to make you stand out from the crowd. It will be really nice to see enthusiasm. To see the people applying who are brimming with enthusiasm and really passionate about the things they’re into.  

Start with your business’ why: what’s the purpose, what’s going to drive you to work the long hours required to get it off the ground? Show us you know what you’re talking about. What is your product and who is your customer? What customer need does your product solve? How are you going to bring your product to market? How are you planning to finance your business’ growth? Tell us about your numbers, what do you expect to make if your business goes according to plan? Do all of that in just a few minutes, and you’ll be in a good position to make the final shortlist. 

A few top tips for your making your video: it doesn’t have to be overly produced, but what we want to see is that you’ve got passion and a really great idea and a story to tell.

Raphael: I want to see passion in the submission videos! I believe whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. Be confident. Work on your eye contact, adjust your posture, and speak slowly and clearly. You have one opportunity to make an impression and win a sum of money that could potentially change your life. I want to hear what problem you are solving and what makes this idea unique. If you can portray this in your submission, you’ll have a very good chance.

Sharmadean: I know that recording your pitch video can seem incredibly daunting but relax! We’re all rooting for you, and we want you to win. Just imagine that you’re telling your business idea to a family member with passion and excitement – how you’re going to start this business and grow it. That’s what we want to hear and see.

Getting the written bit right: 

Sharmadean: To me, it’s the combination of creativity and commercialism. So having the creative thought, having the idea to put something out in the world, but at the end of the day, this is a business competition. It should be commercially viable. So that mix of creativity, and practical commercialism should come across in the written aspect.  I think the customer today wants to feel really connected to the businesses that they’re buying from, so brand is really important, too.

Henry: It would be helpful for us for you tell us in just a couple of words, what we can help you with?! Contacts? Advice? Fundraising? Anything else? We’re here to help, tell us how. This will also help us understand how you’re thinking about the next phase of your business. 

Ian: We want to be really sold on their abilities and impressed by their level of planning. You’d hope that the plan they’ve made, the figures they’ve worked out and their vision for their own futures and their vision is something that you get excited about yourself.  

Raphael: I would like to see a better breakdown on how exactly you are going to spend the prize money to elevate your business and how we can help you through our mentoring. 

Why should you enter? 

Henry: Do it. Just enter. It’s easy to do, it won’t take long, and it could be the best decision you ever made. So what have you got to lose? It could genuinely be the start of something fantastic for you. This could be the moment that you turn your dream into reality.

Sharmadean: People should enter because doing competitions like this and pitching your business forces you to refine your idea. And it's absolutely imperative in the beginning of stress testing with as many people as possible. So, entering the competition forces you to hone your idea for one. And secondly allows you to get critical feedback that's only going to improve your business. 

There are so many people who were told a thousand no’s and they’re the ones winning today, so don’t be scared, just apply. Right now is the best time to explore something that’s been on your mind and know that there’s no risk in experimentation.

Raphael: So many people sit on great ideas because of fear of failure, but how can you fail if you don’t even try. This opportunity does not come along every day so I encourage you not too miss out again on such a life-defining moment. Remember, the idea does not have to be perfect straight away, but it must have the basis of an idea that has the potential to be successful. If you’re thinking about entering, take that leap of faith and gamble on your dream. That idea that you just can’t stop thinking about might just change your life.

So, there you have it.

The best advice we have from our judges over the years on putting together a great application. If you’re still seeking out application advice, check out what our 2022 AXA Startup Angel Winners have to say about the application process here.

Business funding made easier with AXA Startup Angel

At AXA, we're committed to helping small businesses achieve their full potential. That's why we created the AXA Startup Angel competition, which helps support two new businesses every year with £25,000 funding, mentoring from business experts and business insurance too, so we can help set you up for success.