The Future Beyond Pitching

The Future Beyond Pitching

Update

“For entrepreneurs who don’t pitch well — or who don’t fit investors’ mental image of a successful entrepreneur — Demo Days may hurt more than they help…The Demo Day format is not ideal for investors, either. If you’re picking who pitches best, not who runs the best business, you’re not getting the best results.”


Pitching onstage has been a mainstay of startup accelerators and demo days, but things are beginning to change as investors realize that great pitches are not precise signals of great businesses.

Studies have shown that demo day pitches often favor articulate, male, native English speaking, and sometimes hoodie-wearing entrepreneurs from California. Now, more sophisticated investors are casting the search wider and examining startups run by women, older founders, minorities, and yes, foreigners! Investors are using more definitive ways to identify the right entrepreneurs with the strongest likelihood of success.

The “mock board meeting” is a step in the right direction. Ross Baird of Village Capital writes about the road ahead in TechCrunch:

We learned the single activity that had the best results for entrepreneurs was building one-on-one relationships between entrepreneurs and investors.

So instead of “Demo Days,” we changed the signature activity at the end of programs to something we call “Investor Forums” in order to provide initial diligence for investors, help startups improve their business and provide an environment for investors and startups to get to know each other.

First, we invite investors to meet with each company in the cohort for 20 minutes and ask initial questions. Next, we host “mock board meetings” with investors and potential strategic partners, in which the entrepreneurs discuss and receive feedback on one strategic challenge. Finally, we host a dinner where the investors and entrepreneurs get to know each other better — a form of “soft” diligence.

This process is better for entrepreneurs, because it flips the power dynamic: Instead of standing onstage, racing through slides and being peppered with hardball questions, the entrepreneur and investor are sitting at the same table, the entrepreneur is leading the meeting and they are talking through the business as equals. And they get to show skills like critical thinking, relationship management and the ability to take and deliver on feedback: all more closely related to success than a slide deck.

Pitchcraft has always known that pitching is just a communication tool, a means to initiate conversations with investors. That’s why our coaching methods have focused on getting entrepreneurs past the pitch, onto more meaningful interactions, and away from the spectacle of the event. We look forward to adding in mock board meetings as well as other flight testing into our coaching services to help our clients succeed in fundraising.

Beware the Cargo Cult Pitch

Beware the Cargo Cult Pitch

Pitching, Update

“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.

Pitchcraft Online Course

Pitchcraft Online Course

Update

Pitchcraft’s clients are founders on the move, so we’ve launched our online course so that they can learn anywhere, anytime.

Check out our first free course, Y Combinator Primer, which curates some of the best advice and information about pitching at Y Combinator’s famous accelerator and demo day.

Link: Pitchcraft MOOC

Pitchcraft Seminar @K-Connector

Pitchcraft Seminar @K-Connector

Pitching, Seminar, Update

An awesome all-day seminar with the startups accelerating through K-Connector!

The 2016 K-Global Startup Acceleration program, called K-Connector for short, is a startup program collaboration between Rehoboth and NIPA (National IT Industry Promotion Agency). Over 10 teams were selected for acceleration, seed investment of $20,000, with investor-related business trips to Vietnam and China.

Pitchcraft and K-Connector worked together by mentoring the program participants and by helping them improve their pitch decks and startup knowledge prior to travel overseas. The startups needed to pitch in front of international audiences, some of them for the first time in their career. They needed to know how to speak in English in front of investors, judges, media, and other tech startup professionals. Pitchcraft coached each founder individually in hour-long sessions, and in the final all-day workshop, all the startup founders rehearsed their improved pitches for additional feedback.

  • Consulting type: 1:1 coaching. Seminar (all-day).
  • Results: 11 startups trained. Demo day pitch preparation.