11 point plan for a killer startup pitch (it’s not a TEDx talk)

Richard Lucas April 2017
I received this e-mail a few weeks ago from the organisers of a business plan pitching competition.

Request for help

“Dear startup pitching competition organiser.
My first reaction is  “NOOOOOOOOO”
“I’m too busy. My TEDxKazimierz event is only three weeks away.     There is a lot of great advice on how to pitch available on this top secret website here 

Having said that it’s good to ask for advice. I shouldn’t be too harsh,  I will share my thoughts in a blog post that is available to everyone, based on the hundreds if not thousands of pitches I’ve seen and read and the thousands of hours I’ve devoted to TED and TEDx – in recent years helping many TEDx speakers prepare “the talk of their lives”.

TEDx talks have only some things common with pitching.  Almost always TEDx talks are about an idea, and cover
Why the idea matters to the speaker
Why the idea might matter to the participants in the event and those viewing on line
Why the speaker is the (or one of the ) right person/people to talk about the idea
A call to action – what the speaker wants to audience to do about their idea.
TEDx talk are short, up to 18 minutes. A pitch will often be shorter. No selling is allowed in a TEDx talk though some might argue speakers are “selling” their ideas.     There is a lot of information on the TED.com web site here about preparing a TEDx talk. One of the reasons TED and TEDx are so successful  is that we pay so much attention to ‘speaker prep’. TEDx-s  invest far more time in speaker preparation than any other event  I’ve ever been involved in or heard about.
For those preparing to pitch in Startup Competition, here is some general advice based on my experience. I may be wrong. There are other approaches which for sure have worked. This is just my take (after nearly drowning in smug patronising BS and often laziness).

In general, your pitch should be grounded in terms of facts: supported by evidence, not your assumptions and beliefs.

Be respectful of your audience’s time and intelligence., Don’t waste their time with information that is not relevant. Don’t think you can BS them.

Do present your data in a way that would be acceptable to a school teacher (cite data sources , don’t show graphs with no axes, give time series and trends).   showing unlabelled graphs showing exponential growth gives the impression you think the judges are stupid

Know your numbers.  Be ready with answers to questions like “what do you value your business at” and “what will you do with the money if we invest”. Here are 11 points that make a good pitch for me.

  1.  Start with the problem your products or service solves. Imagine your product is a pain killer. What pain is it helping to kill.  Why is the product or service significant.
  2.  Explain why this matters (not to you, but the clients) and how big the problem/market is locally, nationally and globally.
  3. Give information about sales/clients, (or potential clients you have talked to if you product is not yet shipping) suggesting or proving that clients will buy your (proposed) solution.
  4. talk about markets and clients – say something intelligent about the types of clients you expect to have, which clients are priorities and why.
  5. Describe your business model. How much your product/service costs to make, and how much you are going to sell it for, and how much money you expect to make out of each type of client (estimated life time value of a client). If you don’t know, estimate it or make a comment about it and share your assumptions. “once we have traffic and users we will figure it out” is not impressive.
  6. Describe your sales and marketing processes (how you get your clients, how much it costs you to get clients (cost of client acquisition). If you don’t know estimate it, make a comment about it, show you know that this issue matters.
  7. Competitive landscape (after doing Google research in English) who are your competitors and potential competitors, who are key players in the “Eco System” of your market  and what your advantages are (cost, technology, business model, approach).  It makes you look lazy and ridiculous if a judge finds a competitor you are not aware of by searching on his/her phone while you are presenting.
  8. talk about what you believe are barriers to entry, (what Warren Buffett calls “moats”) that make it hard for other companies to copy you or enter your market if you start succeeding.
  9. How will have sustain your competitive advantage over time.  what do you have in terms of cost, technology, business model, approach, or people that will keep you ahead.
  10. Give information about your team, leadership and ownership. What makes them the right people. Who – if any – of your team is being paid,  what your monthly outgoings are, and how you expect to retain and attract talent.  If you have gaps in your team, be upfront. If you haven’t found a CTO yet, you probably shouldn’t be pitching, unless it is a competition where your goal is to find one.
  11. End games/exits. If things work out, what options will investors have for getting a return on their money.
Hope this helps.
Richard

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