Pitching Your Startup: Understanding the Fundamentals

pitch your startup

I do not qualify to be an expert on pitching. However, being a part of a startup accelerator and seeing a lot of entrepreneurs pitch, I recognize the growing importance of structuring, analyzing and elevating a pitch.

Whether it is our internal pitching competitions amongst resident entrepreneurs or external pitching events, making the best pitch is an art every entrepreneur needs to hone.

Here is an understanding of the pitching fundamentals – different types of pitching and insights into what and how to pitch.

You pitch to investors or stakeholders to raise funds or get support for your business. But pitching your startup is an altogether different skill set that’s different from building a scalable business.

It does not come naturally but takes effort to refine to make it look natural and organic.

Pitch Types

High Concept Pitch – A single sentence that summarizes your business idea or startup vision, a High Concept Pitch allows others (consumers, investors, and the media) to instantly understand what your company does. This can be the same as your company tagline or something completely different, depending on the audience it speaks to.

For example, Youtube’s pitch “Flicker for Videos” speaks to potential investors, employees and the press, whereas, “Broadcast Yourself” is the tagline which speaks to the customers. On the other hand, Cisco’s “We network networks” speaks to both the investors and customers.

Elevator Pitch – Imagine you are stuck in an elevator with an investor, and you have got 30 seconds to convince him/her about your idea and invite for a longer talk. That’s your Elevator Pitch quite literally, in a nutshell. Essentially, it should have the High Concept Pitch included in it besides other major components like traction, product, team, and social proof.

The Pitch Deck

In a common pitch, which is not as short as the Elevator Pitch, you have the opportunity to use the presentation called the Pitch Deck. An impressive Pitch Deck is quite simple and minimalistic but uses many visual details.

Inclusion of free text as notes in your Pitch Deck is also important. Famous investors like David Cowan and Dave McClure recommend it to be about 10-13 minutes and should include every important information on your startup.

To spark your thought process, here are some valuable insights from Mike Raab of Sinai Ventures that are important for an early stage startup:

Stress on problem-solving: Investors may know your business well but you must assume they do not. Therefore, always over-emphasize rather than skim over the problem you are solving. Mike says, “Walk step-by-step through the problem: what do potential customers do/use today?

What is wrong with this process/product? What is the cost of the problem to potential customers (time, money, productivity)?

How much are people willing to pay for a solution? What is the overall potential size of the market for solving this problem, both today and in the future?

Early on in a pitch, investors should have an idea of the magnitude and urgency of this problem!”

2. Team: While providing your winning solution which is a multi-faceted explanation, the important aspect is the Team. Mike says, “What education/background/experiences uniquely qualify your team to win in this space?

You may also have recruited notable advisors who are established and successful industry experts, which — depending on their level of involvement — may lend legitimacy to your early-stage company.”

3. Competitors: Include honest and thorough information about your closest competitors. Mike says, “ Leaving a competitor out, or not having knowledge of a competitor that an investor asks you about is an immediate red flag that you’re either

(a) afraid of them (because they have superior product/traction?) or

(b) you aren’t well enough researched in your own sector. Relative to the competition, what’s unique about your product and approach? More than being unique, you should be able to explain why this particular uniqueness is an advantage (as opposed to being different for the sake of being different).

Research, market data, and early customer traction/feedback should be presented to support your product and approach.“

4. Passion: A must-have, but it should not look fake. As Mike puts it, “Excitement is contagious — and if you aren’t excited about what you’re building, it’s unlikely that investors will be.”

Author: Nisar Malik, Senior Manager – Viridian Accelerator Centre.

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