Time's Up

The Rhein-Neckar Technology Ventures hosted their annual startup pitch event last week. Twenty passionate entrepreneurs presented their products to VCs and angel investors. These speed-dating sessions are great for entrepreneurs. It forces the pitches to be focused and on-point, which is actually no different than a standard face-to-face meeting with an investor. Five advice tips:

Tip 1: Get to the Point. 

Make your first sentence great, otherwise it's over. Most investors will mentally shut out your company if they don't immediately find it compelling. Of course they will want to learn more and ask questions, but you will not be memorable and nor will you get a follow up meeting.

Tip 2: Be patient.

You are going to get a lot of rapid fire questions. Some questions might not make sense, given the investor knows very little about your company. But based on your elevator pitch, many of the questions will be formulated on past experiences or other companies they know about. Do your best to 'translate' the question as it relates to your business when answering it. Don't get frustrated.

Tip 3: Listen to Advice.

But don't follow it. Listen and learn, you will be in front of people with experiences but following advice from every investors will have you bouncing around like a ping pong ball. Gather your thoughts after the event, evaluate the collective feedback and determine what advice is important for your business.

Tip 4: Use case.

No I'm not referring to slides of a pitch deck, I referring to a product demo or a simple graphic that clearly explains the value of the product. But most importantly, highlight the product in the most compelling use case. I'm often shocked at how many entrepreneurs don't do this. They talk about product features and specs, but completely ignore the real world example of why is the product needed. At the end of the day if no one uses and finds value in the product then the company will not succeed.

Tip 5: Personal Touch. 

Investors want passionate people that are truly committed to the business. Highlight how the product impacts you personally: it's an obsession for you. You had the problem and found no solution. It's a dream. Whatever it is, bring out a bit of you into the pitch.

In reality, the odds are stacked against the entrepreneurs and most if not all won't get funded. Many will get follow up meetings, but my guess is for advice, consulting and other work for equity scenarios (more on this soon). But to all the entrepreneurs: Practice makes perfect...Keep on pitching before your times up.