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How to put together a great start-up pitch for the next potential investor you meet

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To be effective when pitching your start-up “you have 20 seconds to be compelling or you might as well go home”. That was the core piece of advice that Bill Reichert from Garage Technology Ventures, a Silicon Valley based VC Fund, highlighted in his presentation at the 2016 StartCon Event that ran this past weekend in Sydney.

What this essentially means is that you have 20 seconds to get them to say “Wow” and ask for more, otherwise you have lost your audience. Whether that be an investor, customer, potential employee or business partner. In order to achieve “wow” there is a simple framework that all effective communicators understand.

As Bill put it, an effective communicator engages three body parts:

  • The Head – You have to say something that is clear, logical and makes sense to your audience.
  • The Heart – Human’s don’t make decisions with their head. We do what we want to do, not what we should do. We are not logical. We at not rational. And we have emotion (yes, even VC’s).
  • The Gut – Human beings in every interaction have an immediate gut level response. It is either going to be positive or negative. But to get more time your pitch needs to pass the “gut check”.

Diving into this methodology a little deeper Bill highlighted that as an entrepreneur he thought the best pitch was a legal argument. One that was logical and fact based. When he became a venture apitalist he was waiting for someone to tell him the “secret algorithm” or the way VCs uncover truly great companies. In return however he learnt that VCs don’t invest with their brain, they invest with their heart. They need to fall in love with the deal. And only following that do they need to have enough of a brain to convince their partners on why the deal makes sense.

How to talk about your start-up

In order to take this information and turn it into something actionable for your start-up Bill said to start with the heart. It is the most important element to pull on when pitching someone about your company or idea. To achieve this Bill provided this guideline:

  • The first sentence should be a clear statement on what you do better than anyone else.
  • The second sentence (to get the heart beating faster) should identify the compelling benefit you offer and to whom? I.e. What is the big idea behind your company?
  • The final sentence should combat any potential rebuttals and call out how you are different to your competition.

While Bill highlighted that this was an effective framework to use, he stressed that it was a guideline only and that other pitch structures can be just as effective. In particular, the ability to tell a story or create an analogy (as long as it didn’t stay with, “We are the Uber of X”).

Even if you already crafted a pitch for your start-up, there is a lot of value in re-examining how you present your startup or idea using the framework outlined by Bill. At the very least you should have an honest conversation with yourself and your co-founders and ask, “Are you getting to wow?”

Paul Towers is a the Founder of Task Pigeon, a web app that makes it simple to create, assign and manage the tasks you and your team work on each day. Paul also founded Startup Soda, a daily network of newsletters that highlight the best articles, blog posts and tactical resources from start-up ecosystems around the world.

Paul Towers task_pigeon founder

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