I recently had the chance to talk to Dave Haynes from the London-based pre-seed and seed fund Seedcamp. He was in charge of organizing the Seedcamp pitch competition during Slush 2015, where the Estonian startup Greenhouse CI won.
I asked Dave about what makes a successful pitch. He said: “We choose teams who have a great product, who can explain what they are and what they do succinctly and in just a few minutes. We look at the team itself, the specialisms and the characters, and how they drive the idea forward together. It’s important to show those you’re pitching to the real you, without making it your main theme. Triin Kask from Greenhouse CI (winner of Slush Seedcamp competition 2015) and her team did just that.”
Although the idea of pitching in front of potential investors and indeed critics, fills many entrepreneurs with fear, there is one piece of advice that really makes sense: Don’t sell yourself and your business, just be yourself and show what your business has to offer investors and customers alike.
In May there will be two important startup events in CEE: infoShare (18.05-21.05) in Poland and Latitude (31.05-1.06) in Estonia. Both events have pitch competitions. Below you’ll find some summarized advice on pitching from my conversation with Seedcamp’s Dave Haynes. Good luck to all the startups that are attending a pitch competition soon!
1. Don’t make your pitch only about you
It sounds horrible, but people don’t really care about what you think and feel, or how good you reckon you are. They’re not overly fussed about the ‘passion’ that you’re shouting about.
But they do care about themselves, especially their money. Will your product make them happier, healthier, more attractive and more importantly, a tidy profit? What problem do your potential customers have that they will happily pay someone to make that trouble disappear? Because if you have identified that the money will flow and then investors will be happy.
No one cares that you’re the best. But they will care that you know how to make them richer. The more you relate your product or service to their return, the more investable you will be.
Who would you rather have turn up at your burning house – someone who explains that they’re an amazing fireman or someone who actually puts out the fire? Put out that fire!
2. Speak the language
‘O.M.G. It’s like totes amazeballs how you can plan for a totally dope retirement by releasing the equity in your house’.
Okay, you may not be selling peace of mind to old people, and I hope that you don’t speak like a reality TV star with a head injury. But my point is that your pitch isn’t going to work if people don’t think that you’re the same as them, or have the ability to string a sentence together.
By communicating with potential investors or mentors using the same language that they speak every day, you will show that you understand them. Which shows that you understand the problems and worries of your customers – and that you can sort them.
As a new company, it’s likely that you’re solving a problem that you have experienced yourself. So it should be easy to slip into the mindset of your ‘normal’ customer. But it will be worth extrapolating beyond yourself, or else you’ll have a customer-base of one – you, and no interest from those watching your pitch.
3. Features: snooze button included
Don’t bore your audience with features, stun them with results. This is harder than it sounds, so I’ll paint a picture. You’re launching a new sound effects app. You’re really excited because the app emits ten different funny and embarrassing noises and makes it sound like they come from different directions.
If you try and sell the app on features. you’re going to advertise a: ‘Touch screen operated, multi-directional noise emitter, with ten comical sounds.’
So what? So, perhaps it’s better to think about reasons why people might use the app: ‘Embarrass ten people by making them sound like they’re making strange noises’
What does the user hope to achieve? Perhaps they’re amusing their ten-year old cousin at a family party. So the result would be: ‘Make your 10 year old cousin love you forever’.
If that’s something that’s important to your target audience, then you’ve got their interest. It’s the same with your pitch!
Even if you’re going to pay some clever guru type to help you craft your pitch, make sure you have thought through these three “secret” hints.
If only so that you have answers when your very own ‘Dragon form the Den’ asks you variations on these. Or if they try and bang together an ‘I’m the best’ pitch and convince you to throw money at them, you can guide them in a more constructive direction.
Don’t forget: Pitching is an art, but it’s an art that anyone can master. As well as the ideas above, there are the basic elements to pitching that most people have come across.