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Washington DC Autumn 2013
Sessions: 2013-11-19 - 2014-03-04
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7 Keys to Pitching Your Startup Onstage, by Founder Showcase Champion, Branden Spikes
This guest post was written by Branden Spikes, Founder & CEO of Spikes, who won the Grand Prize at the 12th Founder Showcase. Spikes creates security software for large corporations that virtualizes the browser in the cloud - making getting hacked by browsing the web impossible.
Shortly after winning the event, Spikes secured a $1mm funding round.
So how did they make such an impactful impression on stage? Read on..
"Showcase contestants have no doubt already studied the boilerplate tips on how to give a great pitch, and ideally, graduated from an accelerator like the Founder Institute. From my experience in winning the 12th Founder Showcase, I hope to provide you some of the less obvious insights and advice you have not already learned.
Here are seven juicy tips on how to deliver a great onstage pitch, from one entrepreneur to another:
1. One sentence to rule them all.
You’ve got to have a great introductory statement, and you likely have heard of simple formulas like “My company X is developing this thing to help so-and-so solve some problem with our secret sauce.” In case it’s not obvious why this is so important, here’s my explanation;
You have a very short timeframe to communicate a lot of important details to the investors, so you need to minimize the amount of time they are asking themselves “What is this, really?” Every second that ticks by that they don’t understand this is time they are spending wondering, not listening, not getting it, and getting frustrated. Boil it down to one sentence quickly and succinctly at the start, so you have their full attention later.
2. Pitch to yourself.
They say to “Always Be Pitching”, and practicing your pitch endlessly is certainly one of the most powerful things you can do to ensure success at the Showcase. My advice is to include yourself in who you’re pitching to. That is, once you think you have your pitch down, privately deliver it to a camera and play it back to yourself. Even in the act of recording it, you will be surprised at how many things you realize need to change. Then, when you watch it back, you'll find even more good stuff to improve. I recommend making those initial changes, and then pitching to yourself on camera a few more times until you’re completely satisfied.
3. Slide Design.
Slide order is very important, and most Showcase contestants have had mentors help organize their slides. The luckiest of them will have had advice on this from Adeo Ressi, the world’s foremost authority on slide order.
However, when you get the order down, you still need to focus on how they help you communicate. Human beings can’t read and listen simultaneously with great comprehension. So, if you want them to hear you, have little or no written words on the slide. If you want them to read it, only say enough to back it up. Avoid unnecessary words, frivolous headers and footers, or busy data charts. Keep it simple, and communicate meaning quickly.
4. Understand that there are two audiences.
You’ll want to address the audience primarily, but when you’re saying something the investor panel wants to hear, make a point to turn to them to say it. These few things should be the strongest points you need to make about your offering for investment. It could be some unique go-to-market leverage, evidence of explosive growth potential, or some big milestone recently achieved.
5. Show product in action.
Somehow I was able to win showing only 10 seconds of product, but those 10 seconds were of edited and high impact video, which fully demonstrated the product in use. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is, well, worth 30,000 words per second.
6. Show integrity.
Try to be endearing, naturally conveying the truth from experience, and with the confidence of talking to a close friend. Similarly, be friendly and fun, instead of dry and procedural. Try to elicit laughter at least once. But above all, you must make absolutely certain every fact is checked, and every statement is correct. If your competition slide is missing a key competitor, or your market research is off, the panel will tear you apart.
7. And one last nugget.
Consider putting customer quotes on your “Thank you” closing slide. This slide is often left on the screen for a long time after your pitch, and makes a nice backdrop to the Q&A and applause that follows.
Thanks for the great advice Branden! You can see a video of Branden's winning pitch above.
Applications for the 14th Founder Showcase Pitch Competition are closed, however several Demo Tables are still available. If you are interested in showcasing your startup at the event, click here to reserve your table today. The top Demo Table participants will be invited to pitch on stage in front of hundreds of investors and press as part of the Demo Table Competition.
This Founder Showcase will feature a series of "How-To" Workshops led by Phil Libin (CEO, Evernote), Nir Eyal (Acclaimed author and speaker), and Joe Abraham (CEO, BOSI). There are less than 50 tickets remaining, so register today.