Rollo Wenlock was dogged by a stutter into his mid-20s, sometimes finding it impossible to say his name.
Now his ability to deliver a pitch has helped win him an all-expenses-paid trip to Startup Tel Aviv, Israel, to represent his Wellington company Wipster.
“For people who stutter, generally the words they find the hardest is their own name – so you’d call someone and get stuck on your own name. You’d end up not wanting to call people,” he said.
But last Friday Wenlock’s pitch had his name unanimously chosen over nine other New Zealand applicants to travel to Tel Aviv on September 13.
The trip, paid for by the Israeli Government, will cover Wenlock’s flights, accommodation and entry into Startup Tel Aviv, where he will have the opportunity to pitch to potential investors.
Wenlock said his stutter meant he spent a long time trying to work out how to communicate with people.
He said Xero CEO Rod Drury had a similar story. “He’s got a really debilitating stutter and he’s had to overcome it – and now he is one of the great public speakers.”
Wenlock founded Wipster in late 2012, with a name derived from “work-in-progress”. It allows people to collaborate on video production online by clicking on video frames to add comments to editors.
He said the trip to Tel Aviv would be another opportunity for him to network for Wipster, which is looking to raise more than $2 million by mid-2015.
One of the competition judges, CreativeHQ chief executive Stefan Korn, said Wenlock’s pitch had the most impact of the finalists.
“His pitch was very professional, very natural, and he was able to demonstrate tremendous expertise in the domain he was working in.”
Korn was aware of Wipster as it went through the Lightning Lab Accelerator programme, where startups are mentored for 12 weeks before pitching to a room of investors in Wellington.
Wipster raised more than $600,000 of investment in 2013, with investors including the ICEAngels, AngelsHQ, Forbes contributor Ben Kepes, and Xero chairman Sam Knowles.
Israeli ambassador Yosef Livne agreed Wenlock was the right person to send to Tel Aviv.
“Rollo is a very exciting young man. He’s easy-going and he will impress a lot of people, and he looks as though he has no problem connecting with people.”
This story originally appeared in BusinessDay.