First 5 Rules About Pitching Your Startup No One Has Told You Yet

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If I had a dime for every startup I met that had a truly unique and interesting product but lacked story-telling abilities, I would be able to buy all those startups out myself. Many entrepreneurs mistakenly focus their resources on adding more features to their platform, as well as business models. That is definitely NOT what a young startup should be focused on.

The two first areas to which a startup should dedicate their energy in the early days are product/execution and story-telling/pitching. We will focus on the latter for now.

Here are five basic guidelines every young startup should follow when creating their deck, telling their story and polishing their pitch.

5 Practiced on Your Grandmother? Great, Now Practice on a Four Year Old!

So you have managed to simplify the pitch to the point that your grandmother can understand it. Fantastic. Now go get your four year old nephew and see if the pitch is interesting enough to him, for him not to fall asleep half way through. You see, a startup pitch is not fundamentally different than a good kid’s story. It has a beginning in which you define the setting (the problem you are solving), a plot/storyline (how you are going to solve it, what your product is, and who the team behind it is), and then there is the climax/end (the potential market, the go-to market strategy, and what you need from the person to whom you are speaking). This should not be a bedtime story, it should be a “Read me another one, dad” kind of book. If a four-year-old doesn’t find it interesting, time to go back and practice your storytelling abilities including your voice, the speed at which you speak, and the body language that accompanies your pitch. Get moving, you have you work cut out for you.

4 No One Likes a Copycat

Seriously, this is one of modern life’s greatest mysteries. When you call yourself the “Foursquare of…” or the “Facebook of…”, what you are essentially saying is “We did not have enough creativity among the team members to think up something original so we took something that exists and ever so slightly tweaked it. Really nothing too unique here. Can I have your money?” Sound like a good pitch to you? Didn’t think so.

3 Start with Why I Should Care

Listen, I am no psychologist, but something tells me that when you are pitching your product, you have a very short time slot to capture your audience. So how do you do that? By focusing on the person to whom you are speaking. Why should they care? How does your product make their life easier? That is the very first question you should answer in the first 30 seconds. I would recommend starting the pitch with the words “So you know how ”? Then explain how you solve it.

2 Take it Down a Notch!

You are releasing a product, a little humility might help. If you are calling yourself a revolution, you are doing something very VERY wrong. I get it, you need to communicate that you are the next big thing, and that the person you are pitching to NEEDS your product, but instead of using words to communicate that, how about creating a product that will sell itself? Seriously, open your deck right now and delete the following words “Revolutionary,” “World-changing,” and while we’re talking about words to delete, please don’t use the words “Boom,” “Pivot,” or “Disrupt.” Thank you.

1 Practice on Your Grandmother. No, Really!

What is the obsession with buzz words? Can someone tell me? Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter who you are pitching to, investors, bloggers, whoever, NO ONE likes buzz words. Simplify the pitch to the point that literally your grandmother would get it. She might not be familiar with the tools and products you describe but she should be able to understand the concept. If you are creating a “Platform to facilitate better user engagement on the web, which in turn will boost publisher revenue and revolutionize the internet” then you are also “Enabling content-creators to receive valuable feedback from their readers.” See the difference?

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