More than a dozen Northern businesses got the chance to bid for Royal approval in Sunderland today.
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, visited Sunderland Software Centre as part of the Pitch@Palace national tour.
From an app that embeds educational info into on-line videos to a GPS system for locating lost children in theme parks and shopping centres, tech start-ups were given the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs and the Duke.
Fourteen businesses took part, with the best three chosen by a live audience vote going on to the Pitch@Palace Boot Camp, where they will receive business support, investment advice and pitch development before being invited to network and pitch at the main event at St James’s Palace on Tuesday, April 25.
Pitch@Palace is an initiative set up by The Duke of York to guide, help and connect entrepreneurs with potential supporters, in order to accelerate and amplify their businesses.
He explained the thinking behind the scheme, which has been running for the last five years: “The primary thing is two-fold. One is to showcase entrepreneurial activity in this part of the country - we do them all round the country all the time, six or eight a year.
Sometimes these ideas are trying to solve a day-to-day problem they have encountered or is local to them but then they do the research and discover a lot of other people have the same problem and they are providing a solution.HRH Prince Andrew
“Today is also about a train of activity that will lead to Pitch@Palace in April. Three businesses are going to go there today and the others will also have a chance through the paper sieve.”
Entrepreneurs were given just three minutes to make their pitch, with a bugler sounding the alarm when the time was up, and the Duke said it took real skill to cope with the pressure.
“It is a lot more difficult than people actually realise,” he said.
Many people started out with a business idea, but some things set entrepreneurs apart, he added: “They have passion.
“They are passionate, they are determined, they have got an idea.
“Sometimes these ideas are trying to solve a day-to-day problem they have encountered or is local to them but then they do the research and discover a lot of other people have the same problem and they are providing a solution.”
The rise of on-line trading had turned even the smallest businesses into potential exporters, he said: “As soon as you have a presence on the Web, you are international - there is no alternative.”