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Tuning fork

I’ve been researching how modest startups in Silicon Valley pitch their ventures. It doesn’t take long to discover the ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs to speed pitch their ideas in group settings. Here are my early takeaways on effective presentations.

DURATION. You can literally pitch several times a week in the Valley. There is a wide range of event management styles so, depending on the event, you might only get 30 seconds when you were promised 1 or 2 minutes. Just be prepared.

NARRATIVE. Your story needs a beginning, middle, and end. Open strongly and finish with a flourish.

EMOTION. Make sure you coat your pitch with emotion even if 90% of your content is left-brained.

BUZZ AND HYPE. There’s a strong aversion to buzzwords and superlatives. Use plain language. Go here for more on this. If you just can’t help yourself, the jargon you do use better be correct and in the right context.

THEIR MONEY. Remember, an investor considers whether to move their money from somewhere and reallocate it to you. Never underestimate how interested they are in their money. Explain how you’ll be able to scale up to a business big enough they’ll care about.

WHAT/WHY/WHO. Clearly describe what your company does, why you’re doing it, and who you serve. Don’t get so wound up that your audience, while seeing your obvious passion, can’t figure out the problem you’re solving. If your product is new be sure to describe or demo how it works.

REPLACES/IMPROVES/COMPETITION. Describe what you’re replacing or improving. Even if your idea is easy to understand, use examples or anecdotes to create a clear picture. If your idea seems like a stretch—or if it’s old—expect to hear about it on the spot.

BUSINESS MODEL/SPECIAL. What makes you special/different/unique and how do you earn your money and manage your costs? In longer presentations, you’ll need to describe your finances to date and 3-5 years ahead.

$ OPPORTUNITY/SCALE. Know your total market size and the size of the segment you address. If you already have customers, talk about them. How will you acquire new customers and at what cost?

SITUATION/TEAM. Nothing you want to do is going to be easy. Who’s on your team and what’s in their track record to suggest you can make it happen? Where are you in your development cycle right now and what/when are your next few milestones?

THE ASK. Be clear about what you want. If it’s $1M, fine. If you’re just looking for a co-founder, make that clear too.


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