The 120 Second Investor Pitch Exercise
Recently, I've stumbled on some great quote coming from Andrea Barrica, Venture Partner and Pitch Coach at 500 Startups:
What you need investor to know is that this is a great market, and you can do that in 30 seconds.
Simple ideas go viral. Simple ideas carry immense power. Yet, boiling down your complex technology or product idea to a few snappy lines isn't always that simple. However, as Andrea implies: "If you can't explain it to me in a minute, you don't understand it well enough."
And there's more truth to that – investors spend just 3 minutes and 44 seconds on average on your pitch deck even if you were granted the luxury to speak for the whole 10 minutes.
You have less time than you think to impress. Don't waste it on unnecessary details. Go straight to the point instead. Start refining your startup pitch by writing down the answers to the next three Ws:
What's my big market to disrupt?
You know there are 150,000 seniors in your area living alone. You came up and spoke to Jim – a former high school principal and an energetic widower. His kids live 400 km away and visit him once in a few months. While Jim is pretty active, knows how to use computers, and even teaches PC classes for other seniors once a week, he still feels very lonely at times. He wishes there was something to help him connect with other elders in his area and organize more events together.
That's a cute, but long story. Here's magic advice: shrink it to a few compelling lines.
"10,000 calls come to a senior loneliness hotline each week in my town. 150,000 elders live alone in the area. But technology can help them beat isolation. Already, 38% of the surveyed seniors said that they like using Skype and some other apps for communication with their families…."
Why now is the best time to launch?
Instill the FOMO filling within your business pitch. If your idea doesn't take traction right now, someone else will implement it and gain the profits.
When pitching to investors, always outline that your target market is ready for the proposed solution, and there's no better time to launch it than now.
Here's the continuation of your story:
"…And another 45% said that they'd love to discover new technology for communication, yet they find most of the existing ones too complicated. Their family and local community establishments don't provide this kind of education. Emily, 68, wants to understand how chat apps and Skype work and connect with other gardening fans, but she doesn't know whom to ask. If she were offered a simple solution today, she'd be even ready to pay for it between $2 and $10….".
A memorable startup pitch is an exercise in empathy and storytelling.
Why this idea matters?
Andrea mentions that many founders start with a sales mindset and build their pitches around customer value, acquisition, and their delight. Yet, while those numbers matter as well, everyone has gathered in the room for a good story. A magical story.
Own your story. Be brave enough to push it forward and speak why it matters to you personally and why you are the right person to implement that idea. You can make an actual change with your idea.
"….Yet, I don't think we should charge anyone for their desire to learn and make contact with other human beings. Living in isolation and experiencing loneliness leads to earlier death and a variety of health problems, as the research proves. For two years in college, I volunteered in a nursing home. I offered my companionship for free to a dozen of people and gathered more stories and unconditional gratitude than during the rest 25 years of my life. I taught eight people to use Skype and Whatsapp and showed them how to connect with their family and message their peers. The product we offer will make even further impact. We'd like to connect more volunteers and active seniors like Jim, the high school principal with people like Emma and other curious elders. We want to create a simplistic digital environment, which makes modern tech look like a simple and exciting place. Five-year-olds can use video conferencing, and sixty-five-year-olds can do that too".
In conculsion, your investor pitch should be like a 120-seconds movie teaser – intriguing, action-packed yet leaving the audience with a desire to learn more about your startup idea.
"Explain it like I am five years old" pitching exercise
This pitching exercise is meant to remove the complexity of your idea.
Look, if a kid can understand your business concept, your end-users surely will understand it as well. For starters, head to Explain Like I'm Five Sub-Reddit – a magic well of complicated wisdom explained in a simplistic manner. Browse through some threads to get a better idea of the explanations offered. And here are a few more critical lessons from Pitch-a-Kid – a Texas-based organization connecting entrepreneurs and…kids to assess their pitches.
With any pitch, the entrepreneur has to find a way to take the audience through the journey so the audience can easily relate to the idea or the problem that is being solved.
A story is your most powerful asset to capture the audience's attention, lead them on a journey, and help them understand your key idea.
After all, humans are storytelling animals. This seamlessly non-essential habit has survived and thrived through the years of evolution.
There's undeniable magic weaved into a good story, right?. As Jonathan Gottschall puts it in his book: "Story is the grease and glue of society: by encouraging us to behave well, story reduces social friction while uniting people around common values. Story homogenizes us; it makes us one."
Use Simple Analogies and Metaphors
Investors are tired of hearing, "My company is the Uber for something.", but there is a good reason why entrepreneurs should use this analogy.
An investor, a customer, and a kid can instantly understand what you mean – a disruptor, a revolutionary idea, a better way to offer a good old service. Remember, an investor you'll be pitching to may not be an expert in your industry or familiar with the everyday jargon. Explaining innovative tech concepts indeed can become challenging in this case. That's where analogies roll in.
For instance, let's talk about recurrent neural networks – artificial neural networks, which use their internal memory to process arbitrary sequences of inputs. Does that sound understandable to you? Do you feel intrigued by the concept? Nope. And neither do I. So, how about this version instead?
"Our technology is powered by recurrent neural networks. Think of them as very smart and small brain cells, which have their own short-term memory. You can train them to remember and recognize various patterns. For instance, to tell apart a dog from a cat after you've shown them 20 different images. The network will remember that cats are usually smaller in size, have different facial features, and cuter small ears. And the best part is – this recognition can happen with exact accuracy and at least five times faster than ever before."
The key here is to avoid sounding too patronizing with your explanation — something neither kids nor adults love.
Peer Pitching Exercise
Clarity and memorability are the two key elements of sticky pitches. After all, top VCs listen to at least 50 pitches per week and even more during pitchfests and other dedicated events.
There's a good reason why Michael Harper, founder of Bigcommerce, a $75 million-backed company says that pitching on Mondays is the worst. The majority of VC partners meet up on Monday mornings to discuss the potential deals and decide on investments. If you pitch later in the day, you'll have to wait for a whole week to receive their decision. Additionally, your idea may get lost and forgotten in the bunch of other business pitches delivered that week.
So, how do you blend in the stickiness into your pitch? I've recently found this great exercise coming from André Knol, Co-founder, and CEO of Innoleaps called "Peer Pitching." Here's how it's done.
Make two teams. You can invite some startup friends over or split your in-house team into two groups. Now, set the timer for 5-10 minutes and let each team deliver the prepared pitch. Have everyone else listen carefully without taking notes. Next, take a 30-minute break, drinks some coffee, and chat about other stuff before returning to the arena.
Here comes the good part:
Your teams should exchange leaders, and the assigned person has 10 minutes to deliver the new pitch for the competitive team without any further consultations. Once the timer buzzes – present your new pitch the best way you can for the opponent.
The particular value of Peer Pitching is that it allows you to understand better, which information sticks and which facts the audience retains. Seeing your story told from another angle also offers you a fresher perspective on your key metrics, general storyline, and the presentation bottlenecks.
30 Word Answers
In 30 words or less, describe your venture. Sounds easy? Well, after those first 30 words, you can only speak again when your viewer asks you a question. And you only have 30 words to answer it with.
This exercise takes some practice, but it is ideal for thinking about the information you need in your pitch. Use your 30 words to encourage your viewer to ask another question, try to shape the direction of their questions until you have included all the key points you want an investor to know.
These are exercises from Stanford's renowned d.school, a course for startups and would-be entrepreneurs.
1. The One Word Summary.
Find one word that describes everything you want your audience to understand, think, and feel about your venture.
For BaseTemplates, that word might be: Comprehensive
2. The 3-Act Pitch.
Turn your pitch into a three act story, using no more than 30 words for each act.
Act 1. We meet our hero.
Act 2. We discover a problem.
Act 3. Our hero finds the solution.
For BaseTemplates, this exercise might look something like this:
Act 1: Vasyl is a presentation designer, he works with startup founders and industry leaders to create beautiful and clear presentations.
Act 2: Every conference Vasyl visits it's the same thing, a parade of boring bullet-point presentations. The problem is, not everyone knows where to find a professional designer to help him improve his pitch.
Act 3: So Vasyl made an affordable template that allows anyone to design an eye-catching presentation. Now there's no excuse for a lousy pitch!
3. The Five-Star Review.
Imagine you are your venture's customer and you are writing a 50 word, five-star review of the business, its products or services. What would this person say?
4. The Obituary.
This exercise isn't for everyone. Imagine it is 70 (80, 90, 100) years in the future. Your venture was more successful than you could ever have imagined and you are writing your obituary for the Wall Street Journal. Describe your company, the impact it had on the industry and its legacy.
To wrap it up:
Clarity. Simplicity. Memorability. These are the cornerstones of great investor pitches.
Strip your story of the flair. Eliminate the weak parts and practice, practice, practice before delivering your pitch to the actual audience. And good luck on your Big Day! Let the magic happen!