“In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land.” – Richard Feynman

Investors notice them from a mile away. They see these people at demo day after demo day. I’m not talking about serial entrepreneurs, rather just the opposite. I’m talking about the startup CEO who serially pitches for demo day checks and trophies.

Look, we can’t fault entrepreneurs for seeking out all avenues toward keeping their startup alive. I get that $10,000 to $100,000 in prize money is real money, and often enough to get the lights back on. But what if I told you there are startup CEOs who have totally lost their way, and are just pitching for the paychecks and karma?

These startups are often run like a “startup cargo cult” by a founder who has fallen into the cognitive trap that pitching constantly will somehow automagically lead their company toward billion dollar dreams.

Reality doesn’t work that way. Neither do businesses, and any success is made harder when a company distracts itself with pitch competitions and demo days instead of doing something that matters -delivering to paying customers.

Pitchcraft advises client founders to constantly re-evaluate why they are pitching. Is it for the publicity alone? Is it an ego thing?  Is there anyone in the audience whom they know will attend and want to network with? What’s the stated ROI of attending and winning the demo day? Confirming those details is one of the first priorities of pitching.