“The startups who give the best pitches are the ones who do the best job of filtering the advice they receive before taking the stage. In order to do this successfully, I recommend you start blowing up “advice” balloons.
Serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Just Eat, Marc Wesselink, shared the pitch advice above with our team at Tradler and the other startups participating in this years accelerator at Startupbootcamp Smart City & IoT in Amsterdam.
Marc, who is also a Managing Partner of the program, went on to add, “After each piece of feedback you receive, blow up a balloon and assign a color representing their advice, and assign a color representing their experience. When you have finished collecting feedback, and blowing up balloons, your job is then to look up and see which color and size dominates the sky. If you see a pattern of big green balloons, that is probably the best advice to heed when moving forward with your pitch.”
In short, according to Marc, the future success of your pitch is determined by how well you categories your advice “balloons” by size and color.
This recommendation kicked off a conversation regarding other great pieces of pitch advice the founders have come across at SBC. Below are their balloons.
Clearly define your desired outcome before structuring your pitch
The story you want to tell only becomes relevant when the audience connects with your objectives. To accomplish this we recommend clearly identifying your ideal outcome, whether that be securing an investment or getting on the radar of your dream investor. Then designing the rest of your pitch around it your “true north.”
For every pitch we give, we first ask ourselves, “When we have finished speaking, we want the audience to X?” This could be as simple as joining us on our journey as an investor or advisor. However, it needs to be very clear and having a “true north” will ensure you are giving the right information, to the right people, in a context that is aligned with your company goals.
Record yourself, record yourself and then record yourself again
When pitching to investors, the best version of yourself must come through. From my experience building Transferhero, the best way to accomplish this is to record yourself. I did this daily for the two weeks leading up to my first big pitch and I accredit it for opening the doors that I can now walk through.
Recording yourself not only teaches you which words you may be using as a crutch (like, “like”). It also allows you to see in which areas you need to change your tone, how to use the power of silence to drive a point home and how to better use your body language to engage with the audience.
Surround yourself with people who are not afraid to rip your pitch apart
Prior to the last time we presented our company to a room full of investors we put it in front of the Managing Directors of Startupbootcamp. What they said in response was not pretty. However, we would not want it any other way.
The words, “Your pitch was terrible,” are hard to swallow. However, in order to get it right, it is imperative that you open yourself up to these uncomfortable conversations.
As entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to think what is clear to us, is clear to everyone. This is dangerous thinking, and the more feedback you open yourself up to, the better the odds of connecting with the right audience.
The best pitch in the world is worthless if given to the wrong audience
When starting out, many startups jump at the chance to speak to any investor. From our experience we have learned just how unproductive and time consuming this can be. Time is money. This applies not only on the investors end, but as a startup, also ours.
Do the investors have a reputation for investing in the area of our expertise?
What is the status of their past investments?
Do their passions and values align with ours?
We cannot recommend enough taking the time to ask these questions to ensure you are not holding your axe in front of the wrong tree.
Make sure you focus more on what you are doing instead of what you plan to do
The best pieces of advice we came across while perfecting our pitch seemed small to us at the time. However, since implementing the switch we have experiences big results.
Instead of having your default setting at, “We will do X.” Make it a habit of saying, “We are doing X.”
“We are working with three launching partners.” “We are selling our software in three countries.” This small change in language sounds more competent and confident, both of which are “must-haves” in the eyes of investors.
Play to your strengths and give your intuition the last word
Moving a startup from zero to one can be incredibly stressful. However, from day one we have also worked hard to create a fun company culture. We want this to show in our pitch in order to attract the right investors and advisors.
That being said, we have decided to disregard the advice from most communication coaches when warning of the dangers of adding humor into your pitch. Of course investors want to make money. However, we have learned first hand that they also want to work with people and teams they connect with on a personal level.
Never forget that the investor — investee relationship is a two way street. From our experience, staying true to our mission and showing our personality has been one way for us to stand out. This has helped us tremendously to attract investors who share similar values and goals.
Spend more time on the first sentence than you think you should
Famed advertiser, David Oligvy said, “80 cents of your dollar should be spent on the headline.” Just like in print, the best presentations grab the attention from the audience from the word go.
From our experience the best way to accomplish this is by studying the work of people like Steve Jobs. “Today we reinvented the phone.” ”1,000 songs in your pocket.” If you combine these thought provoking statements with strong visuals you will have the attention you were looking for.
Simple is king. And please, no bullshitting
Early on in our journey we were told that when it comes to giving a great pitch to never use big words, and to never use a lot of words. This advice of always keeping it simple has served us well. It acts as a reminder that the entrepreneurs who make the strongest connections may indeed think like scientists, but speak in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.
We’ve also learned it is best to keep the charts with “projections” based on how you “feel” the market with take your idea at home. This is a personal preference. However, by building castles in the sky, instead of sharing your reality you open yourself up to a potentially disastrous question and session.
In short, the best pitches tell investors exactly what they need to know and not a word more.
And there you have it, eight “advice” balloons from the teams participating in this years accelerator at Startupbootcamp Smart City and IoT. Now all you have to do is follow Marc Wesselink’s advice and look up at the sky to see which ones work best for the mission of your startup in order to nail your next pitch.