Home Articles It takes 100 cups of coffee to refine your start-up pitch

It takes 100 cups of coffee to refine your start-up pitch


We’re lucky enough to meet a lot of passionate entrepreneurs at Pollenizer and I love it. Exciting ideas, real belief and a twinkle in the eye that says they’re ready to take a risk to make it happen.

I just wish they’d care a little bit more about the story. It would make the listening and getting pumped up about it even more enjoyable.

What’s the issue? Mainly that it’s a rolling essay more than an exciting tale of opportunity. It often starts in the middle, jumps back to the start, goes to the middle again in more detail. More detail. Another feature. And often forgets the ending all together.

I often joke that it takes 100 cups of coffee to get a new start-up funded. Not because the investor is one out of 100 but because it takes a long time to get the story polished.

My quick tips for refining your start-up pitch:

  • Tell the story a few times to people who get you and see what parts excite them and what parts confuse them.
  • Take that story and put it in a single page, like our executive summary. If you can’t tell it all in one page, then you haven’t thought it through enough.
  • Start telling it again with a five minute limit. Ask people to repeat it back to you and tell you what they heard. If it’s not simple enough and clear enough, then you’ll get Lithuanian (or Chinese) Whispers back to you.
  • Go to networking events or trade shows. Not to find money, but because that’s where people ask you “So, what do you do?” You’ll fumble over it and they’ll ask lots of crazy questions, but you’ll hone your skills.
  • Revisit your one pager.
  • Make up a simple presentation following Guy Kawasaki’s rule of pitching. Don’t break any of the laws. None.
  • Line up the coffee. Get a list of people you want to pitch to and start with those that you (a) don’t care about their response and (b) have a good chance of providing good feedback. So don’t start with Sequoia, Ron Conway or Morten Lund.

It takes patience and it takes a very, very rare skill of being able to listen to people and ignore them at the same time. Why? Because their feedback is real, but people’s feedback can also dissuade you from building something amazing just because they couldn’t see it or it could distract you from what you can see by adding some stupid twist that is more about them than it is about you.

Tough. But welcome to the job.

Enjoy! And try not to have all 100 cups on the same day….

Mick Liubinskas is one of Australia’s leading web strategists, having served in head marketing roles at Kazaa, Zapr and Tangler. He now runs Pollenizer, the business incubator he co-founded with former-Kazaa colleague Phil Morle.