Friday, November 30, 2007

Brussels Sprouts

Well, I’m back from sunny (make that grey and wet) Brussels, having attended ‘Caps & Closures 2007’.

It really is too early to answer the question I was asked more than once at the end: ‘Was it worth it?’

To put that in context, it was often preceded by another that I had posed to me at the beginning: ‘What are you doing here?’

My answer to both was/is the same: ‘I’ll let you know when the cheque clears’.

All it takes is one. But when I walked in, saw the format and the presentation slide document... I almost turned straight around to hit the bars (which are pretty good).

It’s hard to be all things to all people, and when you are at the annual conference of those on the planet whose life revolves around the bits that top bottles and jars, you pretty much know what to expect, but there were some unpleasant surprises.

First up, over the majority of the two days we were there to be talked at, and mainly by folk who had paid to give a 30 minute pitch to those who had paid to sit and listen to them. And I have to say that when I was on the nth ‘nozzle cleaning design’ I was glazing over a tad. Hence I was tasked with meeting and pitching to as many relevant folk as possible at the coffee break, lunch and post event.

I was also up against a bunch of guys who all knew each other, knew their topic backwards, thought of little else… and wore suits as opposed to shirts emblazoned with ‘ – home of the award-winning eco-cap design, the RE:tie’, and carry laptops and not pink Vac:Sacs.

Still… nothing ventured…

Actually, I ended up jotting down a lot of useful stuff to help enhance my pitch for the concept once back and can get in a room with those who can make strategic decisions… and sign cheques. Because, sadly, there were few… very few… of such folk there.

That said I do believe there were several who, if not in such positions themselves, were at least in pretty close, if only round the water cooler. And, best yet, for a collection of rather literal, often jaded representatives of a $400Billion industry who get pitched to an awful lot by crackpot inventors, all went from impatient cynicism to highly complimentary approval in the space of my elevator pitch (usually on a sofa in the lobby – maybe I should have tried the lift, it would be more private!).

I guess it was summed up by the feedback from a representative of Coca-Cola (who, sadly, use no packs that have a closure that can evolve into a RE:tie) who said he’d seen a lot, and this was one the best innovations he’d seen. But then I was also cautioned about the nature of the indus... beast I am trying to influence. You don’t easily steer something that cranks out units in the billions daily, and once you apply the corporate system to the mix you are talking many years for even the best to work through to production.

So a lot ahead still, but a good set of seeds have been sown and, if I may be slightly optimistic, have already shown signs of germinating.