Who runs the world? CEOs, and they move at a furious pace. Even if you have a foolproof idea for a business pitch, it’s hard to get 10 minutes with the backer you need to make your start-up dreams a reality. Time is money, and both are in short supply when you’re stuck at square one.
That’s where RunTheCEO comes in. The brainchild of Mancunians Alexander Howarth, 23, and Olivia Marks, 22, a West Hampstead couple who have been dating (and running) for five years, its model is simple: take a CEO on a 10km run through Hyde Park, where a relay team of budding entrepreneurs take it in turns to pitch their ideas over eight-minute stretches.
“I’m a keen runner and I was running one day with Olivia’s father, who has an accelerator business for large corporates. We were discussing how hard it is for small businesses to pitch their ideas to the top people within that sector,” says Howarth. “You can never really get to someone without them being in their office, or they’re in the boardroom, or distracted by their laptop.”
So the pair started their own accelerator, a literal one: no suits, just running clothes; no office, just fresh air; no distractions, just their undivided attention. Their launch event last month pitted pitchers from the health and wellbeing sector against Glenn Earlam, CEO of David Lloyd Leisure clubs, who used to run Tough Mudders and was able to stay the course. The best of eight pitches won a breakfast with Earlam to thrash out the details of an investment opportunity (it went to Charlie Krarup of MyChallengeHQ, which finds outdoor race or challenge events by your postcode).
“I think there’s a fear factor associated with pitching in the office,” says Howarth. “The suits, the waiting with the secretary, it’s tense — you’re hot, you sweat and get flustered. Obviously, you sweat when you’re running but the nerves are gone.”
Once you strip away The Apprentice-style levels of trepidation in the boardroom, he says, things get easier. “The advantage is that you get straight to the point because you’ve only got eight minutes, which soon fly by,” says Howarth. His tips? “Get out the most important aspects of your business — potential profit or turnover — and your USP to catch the CEO’s attention in such a short amount of time.”
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The next event is on April 27, with a yet to be selected CEO from the media or IT sectors. The plan is to limit entrants to a single sector for each run and put the pitchers through their paces beforehand — Howarth and Marks separate the wheat from the chaff, selecting eight from their pile of entries. “Make sure you do a bit of your own training too,” says Howarth. “Practise your pitch on the run.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff. This is the kind of business world leaves you breathless.
To apply, visit runceo.com