So, you enrolled your startup to a pitching event, what now?

February 20, 2015

We’ve seen thousands of pitches that could have been way better, so here are a few general tips’n’tricks for making your pitch stand out.

At a Startup Sauna local event, a great pitch is a guaranteed way to get the most value out of the event. A great pitch helps the coaches understand your product and business, which equals solid and to-the-point feedback. Impressing the coaches with your pitch helps to secure a spot at the 1on1 coaching sessions where you will discuss your business and its challenges for 20 minutes with each coach.

Here are our 6 golden nuggets of advice for preparing your pitch and getting the most value out of any pitching event.

#1 Stick to the format!

Most startup pitches tend to have the same structure and components, which are roughly the following:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Market
  • Business model
  • Team
  • Traction
  • Ask

Don’t try to differentiate by breaking the format (unless you know you can pull it off, playa), instead make sure that the pitch is coherent and each section stands out individually but is tied to the rest of the pitch. The coaches/judges are used to listening to pitches of this format and even expect it, so impress them with the content, not your innovative new pitch structure.

How to implement: Make sure your pitch covers everything from the problem you’re solving right down to the ask, e.g. the reason you’re pitching.

#2 Show us the product

The first question any judge or coach will ask after a bad (or even mediocre) pitch is “What the hell does your company actually do?”. That means the meagre post-pitch Q&A time is wasted in explaining things your pitch should’ve explained. Would you rather hear tough questions and valuable insights?

People often spend way too much time explaining the problem. A great way to approach this is the who-how-why approach. Who has the problem, how does your product solve it, and why would they give you money. A good slogan can explain both the problem, solution and the value you have to offer. For example, our fall 2014 graduate Mailburn described their business as “Making email as easy as instant messaging”.

Make sure your value proposition is loud and clear. For example our fall 2014 graduate Rephop simply states: “We save up to 75% of the CFO’s time.” Now that’s shut-up-and-take-my-ridiculous-megacorp-money -valuable.

Simply explaining your product is not enough, the audience needs to be introduced to your product’s market. Give them realistic market size and growth estimations. Show them that you intimately know your competitors, and how you differentiate not just locally but also globally. Name dropping local taxi apps to international judges is not cool. Show them you have heard of Uber as well.

The cherry on the cake is the traction your product has already garnered. Show the audience exactly how many users your application has, what are the engagement metrics and how are these metrics evolving. Tell about your pilot customers and go into detail how much revenue they bring in.

How to implement: Include a rock-solid explanation of the problem you are solving and your exact solution. Explain your value proposition and show that you’re at least 3rd-base-intimate with your market and metrics.

#3 Explain why YOU have the right team

When it comes to the team, rather than showing CVs, explain why your team is the most competent in the world to solve this exact problem. What is the unfair advantage your team has compared to others?

How to implement: Explain the relevant experience and expertise your team has.

#4 Ask for something

Why did you get up on the stage today? Nothing is more awkward than ending your pitch without asking for something. Looking for an investment? Ask for it. Do you need connections in the pet food industry? Ask for them. Is your team missing a kick-ass online marketing wizard? Tell it to the world. You’re not going to get those things without asking.

How to implement: Make your second-to-last slide all about the ask.

#5 Practice

The main purpose of a pitch is to get someone interested enough for them to want to hear more or tell others about your product. Beautiful slides are not enough, the delivery needs to be spot-on as well. Don’t just memorise the lines, make sure you understand your product completely. Only then you’re ready to deliver a clear, crisp pitch to remember!

Practice, practice and practice is what makes a perfect pitch. If you know your pitch in and out, there’s no need for bullet points and you can impress the audience with an awesome slide deck. Make sure to take your time, be clear and don’t panic (we’ve seen worse pitches).

Remember, you might be hearing your own pitch for the 1000th time, but for most of the audience it’s their virgin voyage. Hastily improvising can sink your pitch faster than the Titanic (and you won’t get the old school car action with Kate Winslet), so stick to what you have prepared. Even though it’s your 1000th pitch, you need to have the same enthusiasm and energy as you did the 1st time!

How to implement: Know you product. Craft the perfect pitch and slides to match (no bullet points!). Practice your pitch, line for line until you can recite it in your sleep. Pitch with enthusiasm and energy; the audience needs to see you are passionate about your product.

#6 Be honest

Why did you come to pitch tonight? We bet the reason was honest feedback and advice in addition to the $10.000 cash prize.

Honesty will get people genuinely interested in your product. Showing your true metrics and real progress provides the coaches tools to give you rock-solid, valuable (and sometimes brutal) feedback. By being honest, you will learn so much more. So if you just went from 10 users to 20 and then to 40 during the last two weeks, don’t call it 100% growth week over week.

How to implement: Stay away from bullshit metrics and share your strengths and weaknesses.

Huge thanks to our awesome coaches Mike Bradshaw and Aape Pohjavirta for contributing their ideas to make this blog post.

Want to meet Mike or Aape in person? You can meet Mike at our events in PragueKrakow and Zagreb. You can enjoy your fair share of their coaching in the Startup Sauna acceleration program, but to get in you need to apply. You can do that by attending one of our local events or by filling out the open application.