Apply
Founder Institute Image

As a startup founder, you will pitch your business thousands of times to potential customers, partners, team members, investors, and more. However, crafting a strong 60 second pitch, or "elevator pitch," can be difficult if you do not understand your business well enough to describe it in a way that captures your audience. Given the amount of times you reverberate your idea, you’ll want consistency and a highly effective statement. A startup elevator pitch is one of the earliest forms of marketing you will create, and you need to nail it in the time of an elevator ride.

Begin by creating your "Startup Madlibs" one sentence pitch

When giving your pitch, you need to be efficient, concise, and hook the listener’s attention. The Founder Institute recommends anchoring your elevator pitch with our world renowned "Startup Madlibs" one-sentence pitch format described below. Then, you can build out the pitch into a 60 second pitch.

Remember: If you can't describe your business in one-sentence, then you don't understand it well enough. Taking the time to distill your business down to one sentence will help you build a strong foundation for your startup by giving you, and your audience, clarity.

Let’s start with Founder Institute Chairman and Co-Founder Adeo Ressi’s downloadable Startup Madlibs template to elevate your startup pitch. 

The Startup Madlibs One Sentence Pitch Format:

"My Company __(name of company)__ is developing __(a defined offering)__ to help __(a defined audience)__  __(solve a problem)__ with __(secret sauce)__."

Example: "My company, The Founder Institute, is a pre-seed startup accelerator that helps early-stage technology entrepreneurs build venture scalable businesses through structured programming, feedback and a global network of startup experts."

Breakdown:

  1. The defined offering must be easily understood (no technical jargon!) and specifically identifies your product. It could be a “website”, “mobile application”, “software”, or even a “community”. Don't say "platform" as it is not specific enough. If none of these terms seem quite right, think about how others would describe your offering or how you would simplify it for your grandma to understand.

  1. The defined audience is the initial group you will sell your offering to. While this differs if your company is a B2B or B2C company, place your emphasis on the initial group. Avoid scaling out your company vision beyond your initial startup idea, and instead state who your initial product caters to. Think about who your first customers are. It is better to say a specific person or title at a company that will purchase your product instead of "companies" in general. For example, your defined audience could be “midsize company HR managers” or “IT specialists at large organizations.” If you are a B2C company, think about the demographic you are targeting, examples include: “female college students in the US” or “single fathers aged 20-35 in the US.” The more specific you are, the better. It shows you understand your audience and how to cater to them.

  1. The problem you are solving connects the defined offering and the defined audience. It is the “why” behind the product and the impetus for someone to make a purchase. The problem, while specific to the audience, needs to be easily understood by people of all backgrounds. Some examples of problems are “save money on online purchases” and “improve workplace productivity.” Remember, most problems usually come down to "time" or "money".

  1. The secret sauce is what sets you apart from existing and potential customers, it is your “unique value proposition” and it is your differentiated approach to solving the problem. Some examples include “by sending automated email alerts based on analysis of highest response times" and “by combining subscription box products into one waste-less delivery.” Don't just say "AI". Take the time to identify what will get you to standout in the eyes of your customers.


The 60 Second Pitch

Remember, the goal of any pitch is to get to the next meeting.

This allows you to build relationships, which is how you ultimately "get the sale" or the investment. People buy from, and invest in, the people they know and like. Don't try to cram too much information in your pitches. Just give them enough information to highly pique their interest and ask questions in order to get to the next meeting. You can easily expand the one-sentence pitch to a proper 60 second pitch through the following framework:

Start with Gratitude

Start every pitch, speech, business meeting, and interaction with gratitude. Research shows this creates positive emotions in your audience, which is especially important at the beginning of your interaction. Most people will forget your pitch, but almost all of them will remember how you made them feel.

Introduce yourself

Say your name and give a one to two sentence background that creates instant credibility and answers the "Why you?" question. Answering this is an opportunity to describe your passion, competency, and personal experience behind your startup. Investors want to make sure you have "Founder-Product" fit, meaning you are the right person to launch this particular startup.

Example: "My name is Adeo Ressi, I am a serial entrepreneur that has created over $2 Billion in shareholder value across the companies I have founded."

One Sentence Pitch

Insert your Madlibs one sentence pitch so the audience knows exactly what you are working on and why it is special. This is the cornerstone of the pitch that allows the audience to contextualize the rest of your pitch. Most pitches lose the audience because the audience is left guessing what the person is working on, which leads to lack of attention and engagement. By setting the context and foundation of your pitch with a one sentence overview, it ensures they will be able to understand the rest of your pitch through the proper lens so they do not get confused.

Example: "My company, Founder Institute, is a pre-seed startup accelerator that helps early-stage technology entrepreneurs build venture scalable businesses through structured programming, mentorship, and a global network of startup experts."

Traction

If you have notable traction, you will want to lead with it because traction is how investors triangulate the validity of your idea. Remember, traction trumps everything. Do not bury it in the pitch. Bring it to the forefront. If you do not have traction, you can skip this section and move to the next part. 

Example: "To date, we have launched over 7,000 startups across 200 cities with a mentor network of 35,000 mentors."

Expand the problem

Expand the problem that your customer is experiencing. Note that all pitches should be presented with the perspective of your customer in mind, meaning, don't talk about problems in general, talk about specific problems your customers have, which makes it easy for the audience to understand why they would be willing to pay you for your product or service. If you have data, use it because it further validates the problem and increases your credibility.

Example: "We believe great entrepreneurs are everywhere, however, 90% of startups fail due to lack of training, mentorship, and networks that can fully unlock their potential to build world changing companies."

Big Opportunity

Talk about the big opportunity that your solution addresses, why it matters, and potentially how it works. You can also address why now is the time to build the company.

Example: Through our structured Accelerator programs, we scale the support of thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide, which will unlock technological innovation and economic value on an unprecedented level.

Ask

EVERY PITCH, MEETING, AND INTERACTION NEEDS AN ASK!!!! This is your shot to ask a group of people for help and support. Be very clear about the ask by only asking for one thing. Multiple asks will confuse people. Drive home the main point so people walk away knowing how they can help you. This should be centrered on finding team members, introductions to customers, or meetings with investors.

Example: "We are growing rapidly and ask you to introduce us to startup leaders who can help us run the FI accelerator program in their city. Contact us at future@FI.co."

Full 60 second pitch example: 157 words = 60 seconds

"My name is Adeo Ressi, I am a serial entrepreneur that has created over $2 Billion in shareholder value across the companies I have founded. My company, Founder Institute, is a pre-seed startup accelerator that helps early-stage technology entrepreneurs build venture scalable businesses through structured programming, mentorship, and a global network of startup experts. To date, we have launched over 7,000 startups across 200 cities with a mentor network of 35,000 mentors. We believe great entrepreneurs are everywhere, however, 90% of startups fail due to lack of training, mentorship, and networks that can fully unlock their potential to build world changing companies. Through our structured Accelerator programs, we scale the support of thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide, which will unlock technological innovation and economic value on an unprecedented level. We are growing rapidly and ask you to introduce us to startup leaders who can help us run the FI accelerator program in their city. Contact us at future@FI.co."


Three Rules to Follow

Keep it Objective, Keep it Short, and Keep it Simple. These tips will help keep the listener’s attention for the duration of the pitch. 

1. Keep it Objective

When you pitch, keep it objective. Even if your startup idea is "revolutionary" don't say that or use superlatives. SHOW us that it is revolutionary by describing it properly, which includes your traction. Ideas are not revolutionary. Execution is revolutionary. 

2. Keep it Short

The most important aspect of an elevator pitch is to keep it short. That’s the whole point of an elevator pitch, it’s not a conversation or a full blown presentation, it is short, snappy, and memorable. While it may be challenging to show restraint when talking about your idea, process, and passion, an elevator pitch needs to be efficient to be effective. 

3. Keep it Simple

Lastly, as stressed earlier, keep it simple. Avoid jargon and technical language. Don’t risk losing a listener’s attention by trying to appear smart. Nail the pitch to start a conversation. The goal of an elevator pitch is to quickly develop a shared understanding, and then gain ground for further discussion.

Once you have your elevator pitch ready to go, you won’t be caught stammering the next time someone asks you about your idea. This is a great way to gain the necessary feedback that enables successful startups.

*  *  *

Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $1.75BN in funding, and building products people love across over 200 cities worldwide.

See the most recent news from our Grads at FI.co/news, or learn more about their stories at FI.co/journey


Related Insights

More insights
Founder Institute Image
Founder Insight

Where Do You Fit In? A Founder’s Guide to Startup Roles

By Jonathan Greechan on Jan 16, 2024
Founder Institute Image
Founder Insight

What Pivoting is, When to Pivot, and How to Pivot Effectively

By Joe Garza on Apr 26, 2023
Founder Institute Image
Founder Insight

The 10 Most Popular Startup Revenue Models

By Joe Garza on Mar 13, 2023

Are you ready to apply to the world's largest pre-seed accelerator?

Apply to the Program