A few months ago I participated on The StartupBus, I’ve written about how much of a great experience that was. But I never went into the details of what I took from it.
Funny, Jeduan introduced me the first day saying “She’s good at talking”. Time proved that to be very true, I became the on-board pitch assistant. We were working against the clock so coming up with good pitches was not an easy task, this post is a summary of all the advice I could possibly give if I was helping you make an awesome pitch.
I’ll play on my strengths, so I won’t focus on the financial (go to the VCs or the seasoned entrepreneurs for that, they’re usually quite approachable and do this on a daily basis) or technical stuff; if you want to come up with a good deck, I recommend the following resources:
Lulo’s Blog (he’s a rockstar pitcher, so read that too!)
I believe a great pitch comes from answering the right questions, it’s important to answer them with a broad audience in mind (from your mother to Sequoia investors), so keep the language as simple as possible. Remember Einstein’s words “If you can’t explain it simply enough, you don’t understand it well enough”:
NAME your project:
WHAT YOU’RE SELLING:
When pitching to investors (on a Startup Weekend or Startup Bus like scenario, where getting paying customers is very unlikely) you can focus on ONE of three things:
- Traction – if you’ve managed to get masses directed towards your product you have to say this FAST and emphasize, I’d drop it right after the name and url
- Team - if you haven’t gotten traction yet, but you have an amazing team, make sure you play on that, I put a section below in which you introduce each member’s strengths, make sure to make it count. You’re the team to solve the problem, that’s why you should get money!
- Idea – I wouldn’t recommend this, since it’s quite hard to sell an idea, but if you think it’s genius. Go for it!, just know the chances of getting money or even attention are slimmer. You sell your vision and how the world will be changed when it comes to life.
The questions you NEED to answer
Give us two sentences on the passion and values that drove you to create what you’re creating
Tell us about the pain, the SPECIFIC PROBLEM you’re solving
Tell us how you’re fixing the problem
Here you talk about how your client interacts with the product, for example if you’re building a dating site for dogs you say, we bring lonely rascals together with cute lonely single females, producing the world’s cutest puppies.
Describe the details of your product
The kind of platform, technology, etc; going back to the dog example: we built an amazing mobile platform where owners can browse profiles of other dogs and contact them via direct messages and forums.
I’m hoping that my dog example clears the confusion between the how and the what, if it doesn’t comment and I’ll come up with more random examples and creative explanations.
Why are you rock stars?
Name each member of your team and tell us what he is GREAT at (evidently this being what they’re working on)
Tell us why you’re the right team to take on the challenge (no need to trash the competition, just work on your strengths)
Size of your market:
WHO needs your product, describe your ideal target costumer
HOW MANY of them are there?
WHERE are they located?
WHO are you competing against, and WHY will you eventually beat them?
Tell us what your first niche will be and how you’ll take it over
Explain how you plan to grow out of your niche and onto bigger things
Tell us how you plan to conquer them all
Tell us where you see your project in 5 to 10 years
Show me the money!
Does your business model have a name? (freemium, pay-as-you-go…)
WHAT EXACTLY will your customers PAY for?
HOW MUCH will they pay?
What are your costs for the entire first year of operations? Break them down to specifics, and compare them with your earnings.
If someone was to write you a check right now, how much would you want it to be for?
How will you use it?
The awful truth: If you can’t answer the previous questions, it means you don’t have a clear project in mind. As the hustler of the team you need to know all of it up and down, if the rest of your team knows and understands it as well as you do, that’s CEO material right there! That’s what communicating vision is all about.
TAKING THE STAGE
When you’re up on a stage:
- Stand still, people dancing and fidgeting around look ridiculous and nervous, if you’re going to walk do it on a straight line across the stage. Stand, turn, walk.
- With your hands make a square in front of your chest, try and keep your hand gestures within that box. If you’re pointing to something behind you, do it with the hand that is closest to it, don’t cover your body or face by using the hand that’s in front of you. Your gestures should be as open to the public as possible, this shows confidence and gets attention.
- If you’re bringing the whole team up, spread them out, so the stage looks balanced visually.
- Speak clearly, enunciate, be loud, make sure the people in the back of the room are hearing and understanding what you say,
- Speak with conviction, even if you are making a mistake, say it like you mean it. There’s always time to correct yourself, saving face if you have a major nervous break down is harder. Besides, the energy you transmit to the public will impact how they receive you and your product, so make sure to sell it, to make them believe YOU believe in it (if you wouldn’t buy it… Why would anyone?).
- Fuck the language barrier!, even if you’re speaking in a language that you’re not particularly good at, communication is not about speaking perfectly, 80% is non-verbal, so don’t concentrate on your shortcomings, concentrate on communicating how great your team and product is.
- Own it! Speaking in public is like singing in the shower, you need to believe it and put on a show. Make that stage your bitch! and make the crowd remember you. Investors see pitches every day, you want them to remember yours, not boring the socks out of them is a good first step.
- Practice Practice Practice! Great speakers make it seem so easy, if you’ve done it a hundred times: you will too. Make sure to get people to criticize you, an interesting exercise is to get others to pitch back at you once you’re done. This will give you insight on the message you’re sending and give you new ideas.