This weekend I helped coach a bunch of founders who will be presenting their startup pitch at Startup Riot this coming week. I hope my time with them was helpful, but even if it wasn’t, it never hurts to get in some reps when you’re preparing for a pitch. Since I saw a whole bunch of these in succession, I thought I’d share 3 suggestions that I (and the other coaches) made most frequently:
Give An Example — You’ve probably heard someone say their startup is“the Uber of X” or “airbnb for Y”. You’ve probably even laughed at a few of them…..I mean, “Tinder for Dogs”. Really? But that person is trying to give you a quick explanation of their startup using examples that you understand….no matter how odd. When pitching, you’ve GOT to get the audience understanding what you’re doing QUICKLY. Like in the first 15 seconds quick. A few startups did a great job with this and didn’t have to use goofy examples like Tinder for Dogs. They said things like “today when you need to do X, you have to use Y. Our product helps you do X better because our product is faster, cheaper, cooler….than Y”. Startups are subject matter experts on their market, most others are not. If the audience doesn’t know what you do by slide #2, you might lose them.
Leave Them Wanting More — This particular event setup is a 3 minute pitch, with 3 minutes of Q&A, and then each startup mans their own booth at the event. In any pitch, especially short ones, pacing is key.You’re not going to be able to cover everything you want or answer every question. You need to finish each of the segments with the audience wanting more. At the end of the 3 minute pitch, you want the judges eager to ask more probing questions. At the end of the 3 minute Q&A, you want the judges (and audience) saying “Damn…I’ve got 20 more questions I want to go ask them at their booth!” At the end of the event, you want attendees going to your site to sign up for a trial/demo of the product and investors asking if you want to talk further. No one’s going to invest or buy from you just by hearing your pitch. So don’t try and cram too much into the pitch. Set up the pitch to leave your audience wanting to hear more from you.
If You’re Raising, Be Specific — If you’re pitching, there’s a good chance you’re pitching to raise capital. If you are, don’t shy away from that and don’t be vague. When I asked some of the founders during coaching this weekend if they were raising, unfortunately a number of them said “we might do a seed round later in the year” or “I think we need between $200k — $600k” or “we’re probably going to need an investor so that we can hire more team members”. The best response I got from one of the presenters went something like this “we’re raising $350k by April 30th to bring on 4 more developers and 1 QA resource. That will give us enough runway for the next 12 months and will get us through our first two pilots who’ve both agreed to be a references for our product.” I have no earthly idea if those numbers, dates, and events have any accuracy. But they’re specific and show that the founder has attempted to understand what level of investment they need, what they’re going to do with it, and where it should get them. That specificity inspires a ton of confidence.