“Get a pitch coach!” declares Fleksy Co-Founder Olivier Plante in no uncertain terms. “Get help with telling your story in the right way. I’ve had a coach for three years now. On top of that, I prepare around 60 times before pitching.”
Plante’s meticulous approach to pitch preparation might go beyond what some founders are willing to invest, but he should know what he’s talking about. After all, the Canadian was the man to pitch Fleksy’s secure keyboard to glory at GovTech.Pioneers at Palais Wertheim last May. So those applying to join us at the Vienna City Hall on April 2nd (or Pioneers ’19 on May 9th-10th, for that matter) might want to listen to the advice he shared with us in this exclusive interview.
Another thing Plante and the team at Fleksy have learned over the last nine months or so since victory? The reality that while impressing a high-profile jury certainly gives a validation boost for your business model and plenty of investor exposure – the Fleksy team secured $800K in equity crowdfunding late last year – the road forward will probably still be a long one if you’re selling to governments.
“Brace yourself for a very long sales cycle,” he advises, having spent so much time selling the concept of a secure mobile keyboard that can integrate with existing public sector messenger systems. “Be patient and focus on what the government tells you. If they say ‘This isn’t for us,’ then try to understand why. If it’s not the right moment, why? What is their process? Reduce your sales cycle as much as possible, because not focusing on that will inevitably kill you.”
Thanks to that attitude, Fleksy is set to finally go live with a government project next month. This March they expect around a quarter of a million state employees in South Africa to start using the secure keyboard in their internal mobile messenger systems. Africa, it turned out, was the right place to get a (relatively) quick first customer in the bag.
“In Africa it’s fast because they don’t usually have procurement threshold,” says Plante. “Thresholds present a big challenge. Finding that information from the government isn’t easy either. Nor is it easy to find the decision-makers.”
Now that Fleksy is really in the game with a first big deal, Plante hopes things will get easier as the copycat effect kicks in. Different client profiles are already coming onto the radar, including those requiring a full package of messenger service and keyboard.
“We’ve seen demands from military divisions. That’s a big chunk of tech capability – we’d be moving to 512 encryption level with a custom messaging app, which is very hard to achieve.
“We’d be creating a new type of product, where we would find a partner with encrypted messaging capability and present that with the keyboard. That would be a completely new project that doesn’t exist anywhere.
“If something happens in that field, it’s a lot of money and recognition. We will go with the most innovative governments first. The ones in the northern European countries are faster than those in the Latin countries. And in Africa it’s faster than anywhere else! We’re de-prioritizing the ones that take a long time.”
While they do just that on the public sector sales side of things, Fleksy appear to have made a smart move in simultaneously applying their product to a totally different market. They’ve developed a keyboard that allows consumers to access other apps and services in the same screen. Their answer to Microsoft SwiftKey and Google Keyboard has already had a quick win of its own – it comes as standard on Verizon’s Palm phone.
Could your startup be the next big thing in Govtech? You have until Sunday February 10th to apply for this year’s GovTech.Pioneers on April 2nd. Click here if you want to follow in Fleksy’s footsteps!
GovTech.Pioneers is supported by STARTeurope, the Austrian PPPI Service Center (IÖB), Federal Ministry of Finance, City of Vienna, the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, the Austrian Federal Computing Center (BRZ) and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT).