By Stephane Wyper, Senior Business Leader, Startup Engagement & Acceleration, Mastercard
I spend a portion of my time listening to startups pitch their businesses. While there is not an easy recipe for success every time, here are a few things that I find work well:
1. Make the complex simple
One of the hardest thing to do in a presentation is to take a highly complex or overly technical problem and describe it in easily understandable language. At times I have seen people make the fatal mistake of assuming that everyone in the audience is an expert – which more often than not isn’t the case. Keep the pitch simple, avoid detailed technical explanations, and use the ‘rule of 3’ for key points that the audience should know. You can then use the Q&A time to go deeper into the more complex areas.
2. Create an elevator pitch for the digital age
Everyone knows about the elevator pitch. But in a world of increasingly digital communication, even 60 seconds is too long. So I often advise startups to apply the ‘Twitter pitch’ approach – describing your business and what makes you different in 144 characters or less. This discipline forces startups to really hone in on their core value proposition. Think it’s impossible? Here are a few examples of it done well:
“We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket” (103 characters)
I know what they do (sell glasses) and what makes them unique (customer satisfaction + style + affordability)
“We create products that are easy to use and built on trust. When people put their files on Dropbox. They can trust they’re secure and their data is their own. Our user’s privacy has always been our first priority, and it always will be” (190 characters…ok so slightly more than 144)
I know what they do (store documents and data for all) and what makes them unique (privacy above all else)
3. Bring passion over intellect
I’m always impressed by smart people, but intellect without enthusiasm does not make the cut. Presenters that not only demonstrate strong strategic thinking but can also convey an emotional connection with their subject tells me one important thing – they care about its success. Bringing a personal sense of commitment in your pitch can remove any concerns an audience may have about your ability to execute your idea. I like to see people that I know will go above and beyond to tackle any future obstacles head on; between academic prowess and passion to execute, I’ll go with the passion to execute every time.
4. Giving no answer can sometimes be the best answer
Often a presenter will feel that they have to an answer to every question asked, even if they aren’t confident if what they’re saying is 100% accurate. My personal preference is “if you don’t know the answer then be honest about it.” The reality is that you will not be able to have an answer for every potential question no matter how much preparation you do. The way you respond to the question you don’t know can often be just as telling as the best answer to the question you do. This gives me insight into how I like to people approach a problem; understand it and commit to find an answer.
5. Shoot for the moon…and know how to get there
I am not a huge fan of door-to-door beauty products, but the one thing I do like is a quote by Mary Kay Ash: “Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.” The worst pitches I have seen are those that present a big vision with no idea of how to get there. The best pitches are those with the big idea and a clear path to achieve it. That’s what separates an idea from a strategy; anyone can come up with a thought, but a smaller number of people can also come up with a way to execute it.
Above all else, the art of the pitch is really about the individual, the points above can help provide guidance on things to consider – but the best pitch is the one that you feel most confident about giving.
Start Path is currently accepting applications for its winter intake – more information can be found in the press release here.