Eight Tips to Nail your Startup Pitch
Most people in the startup scene know Techstars as a global VC and accelerator program, but they might not know that the other half of Techstars is a community-driven program that is completely volunteer-basis.
That non-profit side is remarkable because it’s wholly defined by the people who put their energy into community-focused events, such as Startup Weekend. In 2019, Techstars ran 2 Techstars Startup Weekend Global Initiatives — one focused on sustainability and one on diversity, the latter with an angle of encouraging more female (identifying) aspiring entrepreneurs to start or join a startup.
As part of the diversity theme, Techstars Startup Weekend Berlin focused on encouraging women in the entrepreneurial space. This topic attracted about 30 pitching participants who self-sorted themselves into categories: business, developer, and designer. During the weekend–under the guidance of diligent volunteers– participants hatched ideas, pitched to the group, selected popular concepts, and formed teams. The teams then hustled to shape their MVPs, develop a rough business plan and refine their pitches.
With only 54 hours in total and the help of stellar mentors, participants rallied to present their ideas on Sunday evening. As a writer who profiles female role models, leaders, and CEOs, I’ve heard numerous pitches at Startup BootCamp, Frontiers Health, G4A and where I work at Next Big Thing AG. (Shout out to NBT’s venture development team who prepped me well!)
It was inspiring to hear from individuals and teams presenting solutions addressing a wide range of issues including childhood loneliness, the veracity of online answers to common questions, project availability for civil engineers, and nutrition in healthcare settings. The first-place winning team is developing a service to address a social need in our everyday lives, starting in Berlin. (See them in the final pic of the article.)
After listening to all the pitches, I distilled some recurring recs to share below.
Eight tips to help future entrepreneurs pitch their best:
- Start with a story: Powerful pitches draw in the listener and convey a real problem. If you’ve experienced it first-hand, it might be ultra compelling. But a story is not enough. Read on.
- Make a business plan: By all means, remember to include a 3-year plan, preferably in some sort of graph, or at least a spreadsheet.
- Establish your target audience: Who are you selling to or targeting: Is it parents of infants, teenagers, specific institutions, and where, in what country or region? Why?
- Validate your assumptions: Talk to at least 10–20 people over the weekend about your idea/product/service and take note of how many think it’s worthwhile to pursue, or what they would change.
- Assess the competition: You will be asked who it is, so it’s best to know in advance. Why does what you are doing stand a better chance of success
- Give the team credit: Briefly explain how everyone’s role contributed to your team/product/service or better yet, let them speak for themselves.
- Show your process: Share how you reached your conclusions, for example, walkthrough screengrabs of an app, or define the user journey.
- Be coachable: When teams are open to feedback, that shows up in a positive way. If you can listen to the mentors and apply their feedback, it’ll raise your chances of success.
Mentorship has its privileges
Judges drew from a well of experience, offering praise for noteworthy ingenuity and also tough constructive feedback to push the pitchers and teams. This included comments on specifying industry, adjusting go-to-market strategy, studying other examples of what’s worked or not, and seeking the right kind of partnerships. Some of the event prizes also involved valuable future mentorship sessions with key members of the community.
As a weekend organizer reminded, sometimes a 5-minute conversation with a mentor can convey 5 years of hard-earned learnings.
Framing the picture
During breaks in the presentations, the audience– including other Startup Weekend participants– spoke up about their recent experiences; they had discovered “child-like learning that was playful in a serious way.” Another suggested, “rely on the competence of your team.” One pitcher was grateful for the jury’s comments afterwards, saying she “thrives on feedback!”
These three comments are timeless reminders to continue experimenting, building trust with collaborators, and have a willingness to grow. If you want to keep up with these organizers check them out on either on Instagram or Facebook. Catch you next time and see the pure joy of 1st place!