When autism support startup Xceptional got a surprise visit from Princess Beatrice, just days after meeting with her father Prince Andrew, founder Mike Tozer learnt sometimes the best way to get connections is simply to ask for them.
Prince Andrew, the queen’s third child, met Tozer on a scheduled visit to Sydney’s Fishburners co-working space, where Xceptional is based.
Tozer knew Princess Beatrice — the queen’s granddaughter and cousin to Princes Harry and William — does charity work with adults with disabilities, and took the opportunity to ask Prince Andrew for an introduction.
Tozer also handed the prince a printed letter explaining what Xceptional does, and reiterated his request.
“We had done our homework and worked out she was someone that would probably be impressed with what we were doing,” Tozer tells StartupSmart.
“I asked if he would connect us with her,” he says.
“He responded positively, but didn’t make any promises.”
So when Princess Beatrice appeared in the Fishburners workspace two days later, Tozer “had no idea she was coming”.
At the time, it wasn’t common knowledge Beatrice was even on Australian soil.
“We were a little less prepared,” Tozer says.
That said, the founder is well-versed in handling potentially-intimidating situations.
Just last month, Xceptional was one of four not-for-profit startups to take home $1 million in grant funding from Google, after pitching to a panel including Google executives and Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel.
Gaining the attention of the royals may not be a million-dollar investment, but for Tozer, the exchange with Prince Andrew, and then Princess Beatrice, represents a wider lesson about doing your homework and putting yourself out there.
If you find a connection point, he says, and research the interests of anyone you’re meeting, good things can happen.
“A big part for me is finding people around you who have got more experience, or have done things before,” Tozer says.
In this case, Tozer asked his uncle, who has met the royals before through his work with schools, for some tips on what to do.
It was his uncle who suggested he give the prince a printed letter, and ask after Beatrice.
“In this day and age, in the startup world, very rarely do you actually physically write a letter,” he says.
But, for startups, there’s a lot to be gained by “just putting yourself out there”, Tozer adds.