It was nothing short of incredible. I felt like Harry Potter in the opening scenes of the first movie when Hagrid shows up with a mushed birthday cake and says, “You’re a wizard, Harry.”
"Me?" the stunned boy responds. "I'm... I'm just…. Harry.”
Well, there I was... just Sarah... on stage before a room of 400 people, including HRH The Duke of York, telling them how, by harnessing technology and good old-fashioned narrative, I intend to #TurnHistoryOn to reverse the threat to cultural literacy and #MakeHistoryMatter.
But in the earliest drafts of my pitch, I failed to even mention my name...
My pitch@palace mentors -- called "elevators" by the Duke's team -- told me straight: "in a 3-minute pitch it’s all about convincing the judge that you matter, that you're the one with the chops, and the nerve, to pull it off."
So, 15 drafts later, here’s how my pitch@palace speech began:
Your Royal Highness, Ladies & Gentlemen,
Imagine a mash-up of Horrible Histories and Pokémon Go and you’ve got Time Traveler Tours: story-driven interactive treasure hunts to historic places enhanced with gamification and augmented reality experiences. We marry the power of story with the magic of touchscreen to #TurnHistoryOn.
I’m Sarah Towle, a career educator and long-time expat. I spent 3 decades in classrooms on 4 continents teaching children and young adults. I know how kids learn.
My elevators said to then focus in on the problem I aim to solve...
Traveling the world while bringing my own child, I became increasingly aware of the lack of quality content dedicated to engaging youth and families in discovering history, together. I made it my mission to address this gap and to ensure that no young person says, “History is boring!” ever again.
Because many do find history dull. Who can get excited about memorizing names, facts, and dates?
Next, they said I should explain how I intend to tackle it. They advised me to allude to the event that originally sparked the idea, because that's a great story all by itself...
Yet, when told through the voice of the characters who lived it, history becomes sticky: remembered, rather than memorized.
What’s more, we all learn best through play.
In 2010, I tested my concept with the toughest possible audience: 48 teens. They saw the future before I did -- that it would make a great series of travel apps: A new generation of guide for the next generation of traveler.
Then, they said I should throw in some solid statistics to prove that there is a market...
Now, student and family travel has grown every year since 1990. In 2015, this segment accounted for roughly 1/3 of the world’s 1.2 billion tourists. For families, city destinations rank right behind beach holidays in popularity.
...to state the primary desires of that market's audience...
What do parents seek in a city break? Unforgettable experiences that bring their families together.
...and how I intend to address their need:
Time Traveler Tours put the story back in history, then put history in their hands with self-guided mobile treasure hunts narrated by yesterday’s most colorful characters, brought to life with challenges and hunts for historical artifacts that, using augmented reality, unlock the secrets hidden beneath the surface of a place.
I was advised to then flaunt my bona fides, so the judges would see that the idea has some longevity and has already experienced some success:
Our 1st story tour, of Revolutionary Paris, has been downloaded 5000 times and earned numerous accolades -- without any marketing. It’s brought teachers and parents to my door begging for more.
And then give them a chance to peer into the future:
We’ve answered that call. Next week, on 21 March, we launch our 2nd Story Tour in collaboration with an award-winning children's author and prominent cultural institutions in Florence, Italy:
Buried Alive: The Secret Michelangelo Took to His Grave takes you to the 16th century in the company of the Renaissance man himself. But you’ll have to download it to discover his secret!
In the final furlong, I referred to Team TTT&T as "dedicated evangelists," and mentioned how much money we've raised thus far through crowdfunding and family & friends. Which brought me up to the all-important ask:
We’re now working on story tours to London, Boston, Berlin, Barcelona, Cuba, New York, and Washington, DC. With investment of 150K, we can scale more quickly and deliver interactive story apps, both branded and white label, for cities, museums, and travel companies of all kinds, in languages from English to Mandarin. Then replicate these stories across multiple formats for additional markets, such as education and trade.
The real problem, of course, is that Cultural literacy is at stake. We believe we have a solution. We hope you'll agree to help us #TurnHistoryOn!
Men in kilts... drumroll please...
In the end, Time Traveler Tours did not advance to pitch at St James Palace on April 25th. But we DID win an invitation to attend that night to work the crowd of potential investors. The truth is, just getting to this week's BootCamp was a huge win: we were one of only 42 startups all over the UK to be selected. I created a great pitch, which I nailed within the 3-minute time limit. And I gained further confidence, from the feedback of elevators and others, that our concept not only touches hearts and minds but is a viable business proposition as well.
What's more, I get to hit up the Duke of York for one special favor, which I will begin to think long and hard about after our next big event...
The launch of Buried Alive!
More on that, anon.