An important part of the Hy! show in Berlin on Sunday 2 June was the startup competition. European startups were invited to send their pitch. From the applications five companies were chosen to pitch their solution to convince the jury they would make best use of the € 30.000 and Hub:raum support. Some pitches were really great, but most of them were not clearly following the regular pitching guidelines which irritated at least some jury members. What lessons can we learn from this?
A good story sells everywhere
After attending pitching session in The Netherlands, Poland and the US (Silicon Valley) I was curious what pitching in Berlin would look like. I was told it would be more strict and structured, but this appeared to be different.
The main take away: stories sell everywhere. If you know what you are presenting and you cover it with a convincing story you are on the right track. Most of the pitches at Hy! were really well done, full of humour (which was needed at this time of the evening) and informative, but in general not too convincing. The humour part was for sure important, it made us listen, but that isn’t sufficient.
What pain do you cure?
Unfortunately, too often it was not clear what the company had to offer. What problem would it solve for me? I felt like being presented a pain-killer, without feeling any pain. Why to use it? What’s the burning need?
It’s important to keep this as simple as possible. Explain your solution by focusing on simple user stories. Don’t overcomplicate things, because the audience/jury/investors might otherwise not get what you have to offer.
Too often you can see a startup tries to solve all world problems with one solution. First of all you won’t be able to explain this within a short pitch and besides, probably you won’t be able to develop this solution. Better focus also for the realisation of the first version of your solution on a small set of simple user stories. Develop a so called minimum viable product (MVP). Release this version, listen to client feedback and develop a new version, the lean startup approach.
Don’t forget about the basics
Apart from not mentioning the pain they were trying to solve, in general the presenters forgot to mention the market potential of their solution as well. This might be not that important if you pitch in front of a potential client, but for a future investor this is essential information. The market potential is more than showing some statistics, because mentioning big numbers is not sufficient. They first of all have to be realistic.
But there’s more. You will have to show how you will make your clients returning buyers. What will you offer them after downloading your app? What kind of a earning model do you see? What’s the roadmap of your solution, what additional features will you offer? This probably will give the investor more insight in the potential of your product that “big” market potential numbers.
Third party references
In general it’s not clever to give up about yourself, but when you are pitching it’s clearly not done. Investors, potential clients etc. are not interested in your marketing talks, they want to know what others think about it. Rewards in previous competitions, certifications and client opinions were used to convince the jury. In case you have many of them, I would not mention them all, but select the most important ones. You will probably understand it’s more powerful that you can tell “My client ABC managed to improve its profit by x% thank to our solution” than “Our solution will improve your profit by x%”.
Does your solution really work?
A picture paints more than a thousand words and this applies to your solution as well. You can talk forever, but a demo tells it all. We could see different types of demo’s at Hy! and some were really funny. But it’s not about fun in this case. You will have to be convincing. Performing a live demo is risky, but in general something fails. Apart from the fact you won’t have that much time available during such a contest, it just doesn’t look good when your demo is not too fluent. In such case it’s better to show a video of a real user.
Who’s doing it
Knowing the team make people believe you will be able to realise what you promise. Show who you are doing it with, what people are behind the idea and why!
What will you do with 1 Million?
Stunning was the fact that several companies didn’t know what they would use the € 30.000 for …… Lesson 1: Always be aware of your next plans and the amount of money you would need to get there. You have to be prepared for the question: “OK, how much money do you need?” and what you will do with it.
Add emotions, feelings and big words to your presentation
What probably surprised me the most were the words used during the pitches. Think about words like awesome, cool demo, stunning results, shocking, we are proud to show you, And that’s just the beginning (after for example showing already several amazing features). At first hand they might sound exaggerating, but they manage to attract your attention, give you a certain feeling about something. In the US this word usage is quite common and honestly I think it’s good to use this technique to make the connection with the audience.
Below I try to summarise the above by providing a possible pitching structure. This pitching structure was presented to us in Silicon Valley by Bill Joos. After visiting Hy! I believe it’s applicable everywhere. Some of the items are most relevant when you talk to an investor and may be less for a pitching competition. At a pitching competition I would replace the money needed with a plan how to make use of the money/support offered in case you win.
- Quick overview of your full solution
- Problem/opportunity, market size, other players
- Your solution
- Why your solution is so special
- Competition and how you differ
- How you will earn money, how to make your clients buy
- Market introduction and development plans (with market numbers)
- Current status of the solution, timeline
- Money needed
- Why invest in us?/Why we should win? Which is a summary of what you have told.
Hopefully the above was helpful. What else do you believe to make a pitch a good one? Please comment below to share your experiences/thoughts.