Life’s a pitch

CivTech Demo Day is fast approaching, where each founder has 10 minutes to pitch the product they've spent the last three months building to a room full of customers and investors. So this week has been all about helping them get in the best possible shape to sell themselves.

Johnny Watson of StreetChange, who won't be looking so relaxed on the day

Johnny Watson of StreetChange, who won't be looking so relaxed on the day

The classic, tried-and-tested 10-step approach to pitching goes something like this:

  1. Intro / elevator pitch
  2. The problem
  3. Your solution
  4. Size of the market / opportunity
  5. Demo
  6. Proprietary tech / protectable IP
  7. Commercialisation / route to market
  8. Your team
  9. Past / present / future
  10. Summarise / Ask

I don't advocate following that structure to the letter (investors have come to expect it and you always need to find a way to stand out) but I think it's a brilliantly robust starting point. Here are three reasons why:

Don't state credibility, build it

Whether you're pitching to an investor or customer, they'll switch off if you begin by telling them how clever and successful you are, or showing them a list of the big companies you've worked for. Everyone tells them that and, let's face it, nobody's going to go around telling folk they're mediocre.

What they do want to hear about is your knowledge of and insight into a real, quantifiable problem. Then they want to hear how your product or service solves that problem, and that the problem is so universal and/or big that anyone able to successfully fix it is sitting on a gold mine.

Convince them of that and they'll be excited about the opportunity in front of them. Their minds will then shift to evaluating whether you're the people most likely to solve the problem. This is where you start building credibility by demoing your awesome product, introducing your brilliant team, the happy customers you already serve, previous investors, and so on.

You'll need a slightly different twist when pitching to customers but the approach is exactly the same: show a deep understanding of a pain / problem they suffer, and how effectively you can solve it. Convince them you're good, reliable people and you've probably got yourself a sale.

Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you've told them

By starting with an elevator pitch and ending with a quick summary, you have three opportunities to tell the audience the things you most want them to remember.

Ask for something

You'd have to be a sadist to enjoy pitching, so why put yourself through such a gruelling experience without getting something back? Be absolutely clear and direct about what you want and why you want it. Tell investors how much you're raising and what you're going to spend it on; tell a new customer why you want to work with them and what it's going to cost them.

If you're vague, you're confusing. Nobody likes to be confused.