Last night I attended a startup pitch event in New York where contestants had 60 seconds to pitch their idea, followed by 2 minutes of questioning by a panel of judges. Some observations on elevator pitches:
  • No slides (everyone got that right)
  • Get right to it, no uh oh, my background is, a small joke
  • Most important thing in 60 seconds: get people to understand what you actually do. When rehearsing the 60 second pitch (easy to do) test not only whether people like your idea, but more importantly, do they understand what your idea is. I struggled to understand about one third of the ideas, and I am used to deciphering startup pitches, so it must have been worse for other members of the audience. Luckily the panel of experts was helpful and dragging it out of people in the Q and A. Example: an in-restaurant ordering system actually turned out to be a $3,000 table where guest could order food using an integrated touch screen. 
  • Avoid going down a feature list, a user can do this, a user can do that, instead stick to the overall concept
  • Do end your pitch with something more uplifting than “That’ it!”, even if you feel embarrassed that there are still 25 seconds left on your clock. This is actually a good thing.
  • Tell people why the thing you do is so tricky. Example: nobody really got excited about a group video chat app until we learned that they solved a very complex technical issue in establishing a 1-to-many live video connection in 2 seconds 
  • Breathe, pause, speak calmly. It is better to skip a few points than speaking to rapidly, nervously.
  • In this case, the audience had a say in selecting the winner. They use different criteria than the professional VCs in the panel. For an audience entertainment value, or actually even the ability to remember what you were about after 20 pitches might be more important than the credentials of the founding team of your company. Pick the right battle, at the right time.

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