Nailing down a short pitch for why someone should invest in your business will come in handy at some point, even if you never actually end up in an elevator with the venture capitalist of your dreams.
For about 30 startups at the Web 2.0 expo in New York last week, that point was Thursday’s Startup Showcase. Attendees, which included Tim O’Reily of O’Reily Media Inc. and Fred Wilson of Union Square ventures, had 50 minutes to check in with each startup and decide on a favorite. O’Reily, Wilson and a popular vote each decided on one startup that conveyed its idea best and in a short time. When Food52, Gympse and hour.ly were selected, they had a chance to give their pitches on stage.
It was, in short, an elevator-pitch bonanza. If contestants didn’t have advice about how to improve an elevator pitch before they started, they sure did by the time their 50 minutes were up. Here is what seven of them had to say.
Describe the Problem Your Company Solves
- “Keep it short, and make sure your lead-in deals with the problem you’re trying to solve.” — Jeff Evans, Co-Founder of MindSnacksSince Evans’ company makes mobile language learning games, he started his pitch by explaining that current language learning programs can be dull, expensive, and time consuming.
- “People have to have an idea of what the problem is and what the current solution is and why yours is better.” — Carl Leubsdorf, CTO of hour.ly
Get to Your Point
- “Know what you have to say and say it fast.” — Ben Hughes, Director of Technology at NabeWiseIn NabeWise’s case, this includes an explanation of why there is a demand for information about neighborhoods and how the company would monetize this site by charging real estate agents to be “neighborhood experts” and selling advertising.
- “Really brief.” — Patrick Swieskowski, Co-Founder of NiniteWe guess there’s something to be said for practicing what you preach.
Interact as Much as Possible
- “It doesn’t work quite as well in an elevator, but the way I describe the problem is to show a picture of my first apartment in New York. It helps people understand why storage in New York is a necessity, not a luxury.”– Daniel Hughes, Founder of StorageByMail.StorageByMail offers cheaper storage than is typically found in a big city by allowing customers to mail their storage to a warehouse outside of the city. Showing a crowded New York apartment helps investors visualize why there is a need for the service.
There’s No Replacement for Finesse
- “Practice, practice, practice on new people every day. You can’t develop an effective pitch by yourself…Everyone in my family has heard my pitch 100 times, and when their eyes glaze over I know that I’m doing something wrong.” — David Bloom, CEO of Naama NetworksBloom’s current pitch for his online food ordering site mentions that the first e-commerce transaction was apizza, but that since then restaurants haven’t done a great job selling online. It’s an interesting tidbit that prevents eyes from “glazing over,” as he put it.
- “Go for it. ‘Pretty good’ won’t hack. Pretend you’ll be rated on a scale of one to 10 after your pitch. Only a 10 matters. One through four is a one; you’re done. Five through nine is a five; they might remember you and say ‘interesting,’ but you’re done. Only a 10 is success, and hopefully opens the door to the 10 or 60 minute pitch. It’s not about batting average, it’s about home-runs.” — Bryan Trussel, co-founder and CEO ofGlympse.Glypse is another company that clearly followed its own advice, winning Fred Wilson’s pick at the showcase. Trussel says part of his successful pitch involves interacting as much as possible with the pitch recipient. For instance, he’ll often ask for the person’s phone number and send a Glympse to his or her phone as part of the pitch. “In 10-15 seconds, I’ve demoed the product, illustrated our key values…and had the person interact with our product on their personal phone,” he says. “And, they now have a permanent, visual reminder in their inbox or text queue for reference.”