Lord Sugar's decision to invest in Joseph Valente's fledgling plumbing business is a vindication of the young entrepreneur's hard work and perseverance
Photo credit: Boundless
City Hall was the setting for the final two candidates in this year's series of The Apprentice. Joseph and Vana had to prove all of their business skills and the viability of their proposals in order to persuade Lord Sugar to part with his £250,000 investment. As always, previous candidates came back to assist the finalists and, as always, key business lessons were learned.
Know your market
Romain Bertrand told Vana that she could potentially launch her app with £250,000 and she really ran with that. As the marketing director of eHarmony, Bertrand is better positioned than most to advise her on how to grow her business and she did well to seek his guidance.
Joseph knew his industry back to front because he’d been working in it since the age of 15 and that came across. However, his experience was in the domestic market so he chose to attend a focus group with business leaders to better understand the commercial market. This was move was highly commended by Karren.
There's no question that knowing your market inside out is essential, especially when you’re seeking investment and know that your business plan will be questioned in detail.
The perfect pitch
Pitching can be difficult and there was no doubt that the candidates would be nervous given the scale of the venue and having come so far. Three things can make pitching so much easier: knowing your business, being yourself and articulating your vision in a clear manner.
Vana nailed this: she delivered a superb pitch, was clearly plausible and her team had produced an excellent video. By covering off the funding question, she hoped to make it clear she was going to build a minimum viable product and then go to the investor market to raise more capital.
Joseph was confident on the face of it but his lack of experience showed through. He recovered this with a clear demonstration of his passion and how hard work and motivation had brought him to this point. Both had obviously prepared their pitches and this came through.
Tell the story behind the brand
Part of what was so appealing about Joseph’s brand was the story behind it. He had grown his business from the age of 15 – when he had been excluded from school –and his personable way of communicating that endeared him to his audience in the final presentation.
Meanwhile, Vana told her audience that she had been in the dating industry for two years and therefore knew it. I have no doubt that she was a very viable candidate and a very intelligent business person but, at the same time, she didn’t exude the experience and passion for her industry that Joseph did.
Communication is so vital to the success of any business task and particularly when pitching a new idea, the ability to tell the story behind the brand is both a valuable asset and important advantage.
The final result
In the end, Joseph won the investment and will go on to build his plumbing business with the support of Lord Sugar. The decision was, for me, the right one. Lord Sugar speaks so much about his own humble beginnings and his choice to invest in Joseph exemplified this.
To put his money into a service business will tell a great story for Sugar and add credibility to his beliefs that hard work and perseverance can grow a profitable business. If Joseph can deliver on his plans, which I think he will with the support of Sugar as a mentor, it will reflect very well on both of them.
Lord Sugar, realistically, was unlikely to invest in a tech startup like Vana’s. He likes the Apprentice winners to start quickly and have something that can create revenue within a year. Vana’s dating app needed at least £1m and the dilution of existing shareholders was never going to be a winner.