“As someone who has pitched and both “embarrassed myself” as well as successfully convinced investors to invest in 2 of my companies, here are my observations from our January 16 Pitch Day.”
Betty Wong, serial entrepreneur and founder of Stage2 Startups
Sometimes you just have to “share your two cents!” At the January 16 pitch event hosted by Stage2Startups and Founders Live NYC, we had a standing-room only crowd practice their pitches. The founders of the following companies presented – Wordy Toys (who “won” the audience selection), Inkondo, Skip the Layover, Chase & Pappi and Ad Salience. Precious Williams, the #killerpitchmaster, who supported herself through winning 13 pitch competitions and is currently a “pitch coach” and author, was also available with her insights. Here are my key takeaways:
- Have a clear “ask or call to action” along with how people can contact you at the end of your pitch. Regular Stage2Startups attendees may have noticed that I always announce the next event and send a follow-up “thank-you” email with a survey and contact information. This is the same idea – make sure you figure out a way for people to get in touch with you and give them something to do.
- Be as concise and to the point as you can…this is hard for founders because they are so invested in their idea and want to share everything about their concept. That’s why the 60 second (or in the case of Founders Live – 99 second) elevator pitch is magical – it really makes you focus. Note that in a recent Stage2Startups event, we had investors share their “brand” and the focus of their investments, and they had problems too, which is why …“practice does make perfect!”
- Have some statistics to support your opportunity or your proof of concept. Whether it’s explaining how much money you are saving or the size of your market (give those investors $ to dream of!), the mention of money helps potential investors and staffers to understand the opportunity. Basically, they want to know the market is big enough and your tests have not been limited to your friends and family.
- Play up your first to market differentiation or establish why you are unique among the competition. People like to know there is competition because it means there’s a market. But if you are first to market, you need to demonstrate what makes you different – and better. For example, before the Apple iPod there were lots of ways to record and create mixes of music, but the iPod was the first music recorder that was small, easy to use and visually attractive.
- Make sure how you make money is obvious, otherwise it just takes away from the Q&A session. Sometimes founders get so focused on the product or the end results, they don’t think about the money. For most pitch competitions and investors, it’s all about the money!
- “Pitch as if your life depends on it” – this is definitely a “Precious Williams” concept, but I think the enthusiasm she is talking about really does come out if you focus your effort. Personally, I like to pitch when I’m hungry, as I know the reward will be available when I’m done. But enthusiasm is the key, because people like to feel you have the energy of your convictions.
- Be yourself. I find that if I pitch in front of a crowd, I always freeze, but if I am in a conversation with others, I always get the time I need (hours of VC time), if not always the money. I think being personal counts, although some people are naturally out-going and they tend to benefit more when taking the stage. While I would love to be or have the energy of my friend, Precious Williams, I am actually just me, Betty Wong, and on my good days, I think I can get across my point as well as anybody.
Bottom line, being a founder requires a lot of different skills, but being able to clearly pitch “why you” to potential investors or customers is among the most important.
For more information about Stage2Startups events, visit http://www.stage2startups.org
For more information about Precious Williams, visit https://perfectpitchesbyprecious.com/about/
For more information about Founders Live, visit http://founderslive.com
Copyright© 2020 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong