Web Summit 2019 is starting this Monday, November 4th. It’s going to be one of the major tech conferences in the world, again, this year.
Dozens of thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, advisors, executives and startup enthusiasts flock into Portugal for three days of conferences, product demos, networking, and the occasional drink (or two).
And, of course, startup pitches. What would a technology and entrepreneurship fair be without this excruciating exercise in concision and persuasion.
Last year, we attended 80+ pitches (including the Finals) by startup founders and half a dozen conferences with VCs on how to pitch more effectively.
> What can you learn on pitching from Web Summit 2018 that will help you in Web Summit 2019 – and beyond?
What’s Wrong With Most Pitches?
Many things can go wrong when you pitch investors.
Those who come all the way to Lisbon are usually very experienced and have seen many successful startup founders pitch before. Consequently, they have high standards.
And what were these VCs complaining about the most, last year?
They didn’t understand either what the startup being pitched was doing, how it was going to grow, or both. The pitch was very often too high-level and not crisp enough.
Why does it happen?
In our view, it generally comes from a lack of perspective, a lack of empathy, and a lack of preparation.
You, as a founder, are often so focused on your never-ending daily tasks that you fail to provide enough context to your listeners. As a result, they don’t understand critical points such as the urgency of the problem you are trying to solve, what differentiates you from competitors, or how you make money.
At one WebSummit 2018 pitch masterclass, the jury urged technical founders to back up a little and tailor the content to non-developer audiences.
An effective way to explain what the solution does is to use a business case from one customer.
Ten seconds are enough! Don’t use jargon; tell a story that everyone can understand.
Many founders ignore not only how venture capital works, but also what VCs are looking for in their first meeting with founders.
They are not trying to make sure your code works or whether your financial model’s assumptions are correct.
They have a checklist in their head that they need to fill out to decide whether you are worth spending more time with.
VCs are extremely busy, and time, not capital, is often their scarcest resource.
If you have mere minutes to make a difference, you should do all you can to stand out and make VCs want to know more about your startup.
It is why another piece of advice from a Web Summit 2018 pitch jury was to start and finish with “getting attention”.
One jury member even pushed founders to be bolder and talk about their traction early on.
Investors have no clue where you stand in your development, so make sure you tell them if you have a prototype already, for example – or sales (even better!).
Ask yourself this: how long did you spend putting together the pitch deck? Five hours? Ten hours? Twenty maybe?
How many times did you pitch it to your co-founders, friends, and family members?
Good pitch decks take weeks to create and need continuous improvement. They evolve almost every time you pitch them, and so does your performance.
Don’t check your notes. You need to learn your 60-second pitch so thoroughly that it becomes natural.— TytchMe (@TytchMe) November 6, 2018
Jury members were adamant on this point.
They insisted on rehearsing not only to respect the time limit, but also to tell the story as naturally as possible.
Some founders were checking their notes, others reading their slides, and quite a few of them stopped mid-sentence as they didn’t remember the rest.
Hey, we get it. It’s stressful, and not everyone reacts well to public pitching.
But you’re here for a reason. Practice will also help you overcome your initial fear.
Besides, when you read your slides, VCs will do, too. And will not listen to you. Most people can’t do both and will be attracted by the words written on the slide.
What Should Your Objective Be?
Many founders believe the pitch is their chance to say all they can about their startup.
However, cramming as much information as possible in the hope that investors will find what they are looking for is an unrealistic objective, given the time you have (generally 30 seconds to 3 minutes).
The whole point is to explain, as simply as you can, what you are doing that nobody else can do, and how you will achieve your goals. You need to create an urgency for the VCs to book a meeting with you, and pronto.
But first, you need to cover the basics: what you do, who your customers are, where you are in your development curve, and so on.
In less than 60 seconds.
At TytchMe, we believe – just like Eric Ries does – that entrepreneurship is management. It can thus be learned, including pitching.
Some people are naturally more at ease to speak in public. It is a fact. But what use is it if they are uttering hollow sentences?
VCs are no fools and prefer the less at-ease, but more thoughtful, pitcher.
It takes time, effort, and humility to create and deliver a good VC pitch.
The reward: getting that much closer to realizing your dreams.
Want To Go Further?
We have a whole online course dedicated to the pitch deck, titled “Create a VC-Ready Pitch Deck.”
It is a transformative experience that will teach you not only what VCs want, but why they want it. You also receive feedback online on your pitch deck pages from professional investors.
We run special programs for institutions such as business schools, corporate universities, and startup accelerators. Click here for more information.