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Why ICOs changed my mind about startup funding and how to master your pitch


I used to believe that startups should be able to succeed without funding. If you can self-sustain with an income stream that covers your costs and goes up and to the right, why do you need more? But after seeing the amazing innovations of companies and projects that are coming from the ICO market, I’ve changed my mind.

Whether you’re looking to do an ICO or traditional funding, the mastery of being able to deliver a succinct, informative and compelling elevator pitch is essential to getting the right people interested in you.

Here are my top tips for winning the attention of investors and cutting through the noise.

Keep your pitch short and sharp

There’s no denying that first impressions really count and you need to OWN the stage. Make sure you know exactly what you’re about to pitch. Usually, you’ll have the first 20 seconds to nail your introduction and in this time you’ve got to impress. If you can’t explain what your startup is all about in two sentences you may need to refine it. Remember to keep it simple enough that if you needed to explain to a 10-year-old, they could comprehend what you’re trying to achieve.

Lastly, if you’re able to convey to the investors that you are respectful of their time, they’ll interpret this action as your ability to treat their funding with respect.

Strip away the jargon

As an entrepreneur you will always be passionate about your project, and while you may want to be specific when explaining the ins and out of your startup, it’s important to keep your pitch simple. Investors will always want to see a return on their investment, so try to focus on the revenue that your product will generate and the potential ROI.

Remember to focus on the best aspects of your product and convey those points without using buzzwords and cliches. The aim of your pitch is to leave the investors wanting to know more. There’s no need to overshare unless you’ve been asked the tough questions.

Focus on your uniqueness

Investors are well-researched, skilled business people who can spot a brilliant idea from a business concept alone. Always on the hunt for the next big thing, investors have likely heard hundreds of business pitches, so what will excite them is your ability to differentiate yourself from competitors and the hundreds of ideas they’ve heard before.

You’ll need to research and identify who your competitors are, and think about your unique selling point is. Always ask yourself; what sets my product/idea apart from the rest? Why is my product necessary? Remember to stay away from the obvious, whether it’s the phrase you use or stock imagery that’s been used broadly to demonstrate your product.

Do your research

The success of your product/concept will be dependant on the demand for it. Who are your users? Does your product solve a problem for them or improve their lives? You need to develop a deep understanding your audience and leverage these insights to better market your product.

Online platforms such as LinkedIn can also be a great way to find and research groups who match your target audience.

Pitch perfect

Before the big pitch day, test your pitch on a handful of people to perfect the content and your delivery style. Based on your audience research, find someone with a similar background to the investor you’re pitching to. It’s good to pitch to range of people who understand your product and more importantly, those who don’t.

This will help you to practice your delivery taking into consideration your tone, speed and length of pitch, as well as allow you to nut out what you want to focus on. You will also be able to gauge people’s reactions and initial questions, which can point out the weaknesses in your pitch. This process may prepare your for questions you’ve not already considered or points that you’ll need to rethink to ensure you can clarify any points of confusion on the day.

Final words

Following your pitch, follow up with your audience, the investor or pitching committee, as the pitch doesn’t stop when you’ve left the room. Send a follow up email or give them a call within 24 hours and make sure you answer any questions they have. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback  good or bad – and use the opportunity to reflect, take it on board and learn.

I will be joining the judging panel for the Cisco Start Challenge, – an initiative that invites selected Australian small businesses to pitch their idea in exchange for a $40,000 digital transformation – and I will be considering a strong pitch for the winner entry.

If you’re a business owner looking to stay ahead of the technology curve, you can enter the Cisco Start Challenge by submitting an application by 15 June 2018, explaining in 50 words how Cisco can solve your business needs through a digital transformation.

Fred Schebesta is a co-founder of finder.com.au and HiveEx.com