What I learned when pitching at Ultralight last week
Last week I presented vehive to an audience of over 200 at the UltralightStartups pitch competition. Alas, I didn’t win best pitch, although the feedback that I did receive was overwhelmingly positive.
The only reason you did not win is because you went last.
You looked and sounded very sharp.
Of course it makes me blush, but got me thinking about what I did well and what I did poorly. Because if we can’t learn from our own mistakes, the road to success is too expensive.
Here is the feedback that I received from the panel of well known and respected entrepreneurs and investors (from left):
Mark Wachen from DreamIt Ventures
Micah Rosenbloom from Founder Collective
Art Chang from Tipping Point Partners
Gil Beyda from Genacast Ventures
The goal, of course, is to stand out from the thousands of start-ups that come across the investors’ desks. The first 10 seconds you get with an investor as as crucial as they are on a first date. Yes, first impressions matter.
Here is what I took away from the event.
Know what your business does and how to explain it. Everyone writes and talks about this. It’s hard to summarize ideas, business models, and expectations when you live and breathe all the intricacies of a business. Unfortuantely, as entrepreneurs and presenters we only have about 10 seconds for the audience to decide if they will pay attention or if they won’t. And if after 10 seconds they do not know what you are talking about, they are gone. So if you don’t get past your name or business name in first 10 seconds, it’s over.
Dress for success and speak to impress. This is a first date strategy that helped me win over my wife. Enunciate. Project. Look nice. Smell nice. The role of an entrepreneur is to gather people behind an idea, a business, or a cause. If I don’t come across as intelligent and appealing, then chances are that recruiting a team and your first customers will be an insurmountable challenge.
Bring a fan club. Yes, the more people you have on your side the better. Make them tweet, post on Facebook, ask questions, and applaud. The more of an impact we make on the audience, even if it’s only perceived. Performers and comedians use this strategy all the time. And what is a entrepreneur but a performer. I used to perform as a comedian and would plant random friends with a nice laugh in the audience. It helps the rest of the audience if they don’t feel like they are the only ones enjoying the performance. Same with investors.
Know everything. Yes, everything. At these events, it’s hard to gauge the expertise of the investors. One of the panelists is an investor in Uber, and knew the industry well. Sure it’s easy to prepare for easy questions, but there aer some smart folks are attending these events and the ones on the panel are even smarter and you just never know what will come out.
Have something to show. Words can convey the message very well, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
Know what you are asking for. A pitch is not just a demo or a product presentation. You are not marketing your product, you are pitching your business. The presentation should let the audience know exactly what you want them to think about and what questions to ask. In 2 minutes, it’s tough to talk about everything, but you got to lead the horse to water.
So why didn’t I win (or why I believe I didn’t win):
I didn’t have anything to show. The site is still in development and no one from my team was there to walk the audience through the service while I was presenting.
No fan club.
The folks that did win had amazing products, even if their pitch was not ideal.
What I will continue to do:
Present vehive in such a way that will allow investors and audience to understand the idea and ask more insightful questions.
Know my competition. Everyone has it, don’t deny it. Just talk about it and what makes my business different.
Tell the audience exactly what I am looking to get out of this presentation. In this case, I was looking to raise $300,000 and that was included in my first and last sentences.
So what now? Follow up, follow through, and more pitching.
What are your thoughts on pitching at start-up events?