After seeing hundreds of startup pitches at startup competitions and Startup Weekend events, I’ve come to realize that there are three types of pitches that almost always win. When I refer to winning pitches, I am being agnostic to the industry or technology and referring more to how the pitch is actually delivered. Here are the 3 types of winning startup pitches:
Tech that knocks your socks off
The easiest to describe is tech that knocks your socks off. This type of pitch puts the technology up front and is heavily focused on the demo. The demo is staged in such a way that a story is being told. This is typically like a Steve Jobs presentation when he’s showing off the latest iPhone/iPad. Another great way of showcasing this is to get some sort of audience participation. I still remember this presentation that was done during Startup Weekend Mobile back in the Summer of 2010, with a company called Flout. It was basically twitter with a geofence around it (people outside of a certain geolocation could not see these tweets). The beauty of this was that the presenters asked everyone in the audience to use it, and they displayed the “Flouts” on the screen. Everybody got it and used it, and the screen lit up with all sorts of crazy comments, including a few comments that caught the presenters off guard (the epic “peeeeeeniiiiiisssssssss” Flout).
Another more recent example of this was from the Mega Startup Weekend Mobile Track winner, Predict Gaze. They built a technology that tracks eye movement while you are watching a video on the iPad (using the front facing camera). Based off of the eye movement, they are able to predict when a user lost interest in a video. Their demo was excellent because they had charts that showed at what point people lost interest, and they did the demo in real time.
On another hand, these types of presentations always suck without the tech. Many times, people just need to see something to believe it, so in instances where you don’t have the technology available, you will likely lose your audience.
The tear jerker
The tear jerker pitch is one that involves a personal story. We saw two of these at Mega Startup Weekend, Family Ease, a Windows 8 application that helps with the child adoption process, and Eyes on Demand, an iPhone wristband attachment that helps the blind “see” by using the iPhone’s camera and sending that image to a loved one who can guide the blind. Their goal is to be “Onstar for the Blind”. The reason these two pitches were successful was because it dealt with a personal pain. The leader of Family Ease struggled while adopting her child and wanted to help other families through the process. The leader of Eyes on Demand built this product for his blind Mom. Both of these team leaders did an excellent job at presenting the issue by really getting the audience to feel the pain that this product is solving. They did a fantastic job, blending tech with emotion to win.
Lets face it, the ratio of males to females in tech is pretty sad. Although we are seeing improvements, as of right now, some of the best pitches I’ve seen involve some form of bromance. This is when long-term friends get together and build something awesome. In many instances you can tell immediately that this team gels well and is able to execute because of their deep understanding of each other. In instances of Startup Weekend, where most of the teams are formed on the fly, you can sense that some teams have more of a bromance than others simply by watching how they execute. You may not have the best idea, but by just having an awesome team you execute better and faster than the rest. The ideal team or “bromance” would include a developer and a designer, or a developer and a marketer. I saw this with the gaming track winner at Mega Startup Weekend, Stinky Da Vinci, where the team dressed alike and really had a great balance of talents including a marketer, a designer, a developer, and a hustler.
These are the top 3 types of pitches that I’ve consistently seen win. I am sure there are other types, but they are rare. Have a look at some top pitches you have seen and see if you see these qualities.
If you don’t have a bromance, a super sexy technology, or a good emotional story, look a little deeper and ask yourself why you don’t have these qualities. Maybe by fixing these points in your pitch, you can have a winner!
Post contributed by Ahmed Siddiqui, who coordinates the Startup Weekend events in the San Francisco Bay Area, and also founder of Go Go Mongo!, a game company that inspires kids to eat healthier. He can be reached through twitter: @siddiquiahmed