My week: Nadim Saad of FinanceACar

The entrepreneur on success at Seedcamp, a broken embargo and seeking investment.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Last week at Seedcamp was really enjoyable. Bizarrely enough, I’m an investor in Seedcamp, and have also sat on the judging panel for the past three years, so it was very interesting to be on the other side pitching my business FinanceACar, which is a comparison website for people looking to lease or buy a car.

It’s actually much harder than it looks. I have a lot of experience in pitching, so I wasn’t overwhelmed by that, but pitching your business idea in five minutes on the first day and then just one in the following days was really tough. There were a couple of toe-curling moments where at the end of a company’s pitch the organiser would say: ‘So what does your company do?’ Luckily ours wasn’t one of them.

For those who haven’t been to Seedcamp, you have to pitch every single day. So starting on the Monday you have to do a five minute pitch in front of some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs. So my business partner Mark Peatey and I pitched FinanceACar, then, once everyone understands what your idea’s about, you all go into meetings with five or six mentors in each room who give you feedback and advice. It’s great because you end up with really top guys who have a lot of experience giving you advice and telling you how you should run the business.

Then on the Tuesday you do a one-minute pitch to a different group of experts. This session was really focused on product development. And then on Wednesday it was a different group again – this time we were looking at growth and going international. The fourth and final pitch is on the Thursday, when you pitch to judges for a total of 15 minutes, including a Q&A session.

The judges will have mentored the companies across the week, so most of them have a good idea about the companies before that. This means that they have usually got a pretty clear idea of how you’ve learnt and evolved through the course of the week. Then on Thursday, the participating businesses need to shown that they have incorporated the feedback that’s been given over the course of the week.

Then on Friday, they announce the winners. And we were one of them! There are usually only five but this year there were ten, because the quality of entries was so high. Some may say that I had an unfair advantage because I’ve been involved with Seedcamp for years, but that’s not true: everyone else knows the judging criteria as well as I do.  The winning companies get €50,000 but there are all kinds of other benefits, such as companies offering discounts on services from lawyers and marketing specialists to Google. Which is all very helpful when you’re a start-up. That said, while the prize money will no doubt come in handy, we are actually on the look out for institutional investment right now.

The morning they announced the winners was pretty funny. The prize-giving was due to take place at 10am, but was delayed until 10.30 – by which time The Guardian had already broken the story on its blog. This meant that half the people in the room already knew who the winners were. The organisers didn’t realise at first and then suddenly everyone was asked rather hastily to shut their computers…

Nadim Saad is co-founder and director of the world’s first car finance comparison website FinanceACar

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