Sunday, August 10, 2014

Story 5: After The Investor Panel Elevator Pitch

So I did my first solo pitch to a panel of investors at a public pitch event in Palo Alto.

I was an alternate pitch person initially, but the morning of the pitch date, our coach, Steve Austin from the “Idea to IPO” group, sent me an email saying that someone had dropped out from the lineup and I would be on stage. “OMG!”

It was the standard no-slide deck, 2-minute pitch format. We just talk for 2 minutes (no longer) and then there's a 4-minute Q/A from the investor panel.

I know we are all busy so I will boil this down to some key points that can make us successful in such a situation.

Lessons Learned

  • Anytime and anywhere, an entrepreneur must be able to instantly describe his or her business in under 2 minutes, at a party, dinner, etc. And we have to describe our ideas in a way that anyone can understand. After 2 minutes, if they need to ask “What do you do exactly?”, then that’s definitely a failed pitch. A 2-minute format is easy. Start with who you are, what you do or provide, benefiting whom, and a quick bit about your go-to-market strategy or how you plan to go to market. Create a 30-second version too!
  • Sell yourself as an integral, reliable, passionate individual about what you are doing. An investor must be confident that you will take their money and execute the plan to completion. This drives your pitch; it is more about the person behind it than any cool technology.
  • The investor that picks you will almost always be the final one you speak to. All the rest are failed pitches, technically. Most of us will end up giving a lot of pitches. So, let us simply unwind, imagine describing our business to a close friend, who does not hold a vested financial interest. Practice this with family, friends and colleagues. Ask them if they understand what you do and if they are excited. A simple 10-minute phone call would be all it would take to test this with many people.
  • The 2 minute pitch is simply to get the ears of an investor. Then the real talk will begin. Prove that you have done the research and spent some of your own money to prove the point. For most of us, this is easy: just write the software and show them. Three key elements most likely they will ask are: (1) the go to market strategy, (2) the business model, and (3) the competition. These were the top question items from the panel. You are expected to be able to answer these questions succinctly with actual numbers and without blinking! 
I highly recommend that you attend Steve Austin’s pitching workshop sessions that are put on by the Idea to IPO group. The head of the group, Rob Lau, also provides many other great sessions for budding entrepreneurs here in the San Francisco Bay Area.