I’ve given elevator pitch advice in the past, but I thought you might enjoy some tips from a seasoned entrepreneur who eats elevator pitches for breakfast!
I would like to introduce you to Rich Sloan; he is the cofounder of StartupNation and a lifelong entrepreneur who has raised over $70 million in Angel and early-stage venture capital investment for numerous consumer and tech companies.
Rich is currently seeking submissions for StartupNation’s 2009 Elevator Pitch Competition, and he wanted to share his insight on how to perfect your pitch.
The Closet Entrepreneur
Why Should We Care About the Elevator Pitch Contest?
Rich: The StartupNation 2009 Elevator Pitch contest is an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to get their business opportunity in front of a panel of illustrious Venture Capitalists who collectively manage over $1 Billion in seed funding.
Currently, it’s very difficult to get access to these investors and StartupNation is using its power and relationships to the advantage of the contestants.
That’s Nice, but What if I’m Not Ready for Funding?
Rich: You should still submit a pitch! The contest is a perfect way to learn how to create a great elevator pitch; we want everyone who participates to emerge with a sharper and more effective elevator pitch.
Plus, this is no time to be part of the audience; it’s time to step up on the stage and throw your hat in the ring—you’re going to learn much more by being fully engaged than sitting on the sidelines.
What Do Most Entrepreneurs Get Wrong When It Comes to an Elevator Pitch?
Rich: First of all, they don’t create an elevator pitch. They assume that they’re ready for show time by creating a business plan or a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation. The reality is that you’re never going to get to the audience unless you’ve got that killer elevator pitch.
Second, most entrepreneurs overlook using credible information. I’ve been a venture capital investor for many years and have looked at thousands of deals, and credible information in my book consists of third-party data such as:
- Real-world tests of your business concept in practice
- Sales figures showing a path to profitability
- A Board of Directors who bring their own measure of credibility
Ideas are a dime a dozen, so the moment I hear people say “my product is selling” or “my service is live and here’s the data”, it puts them in a different league because my risk profile for this individual goes way down due to the third-party validation.
Last but not least, most entrepreneurs are not willing to brag about themselves. This is a time when you have to lead and you have to impress. For example, you need to be able to say…
- “I have 15 years of experience in this industry.”
- “I know everyone in this industry.”
- “I know everything about this industry.”
- “I have XYZ talents, capabilities, et cetera.”
If you can’t say that about yourself, then you need team members who can bring that to the table so you can brag about them—a credible Board of Directors can also bring that halo to your business opportunity.
What Makes an Elevator Pitch Special?
Rich: Passion needs to be in every single elevator pitch; that’s just universal—you have to be real and you can’t be superficial.
Remember, you’re talking to another individual so try to keep them engaged and focused on your message—you can achieve a likability through a variety of social skills including simple things like humor.
Also substance, smarts, and confidence are key—if you immediately demonstrate command and control of your business sector, then investors are more likely to want to affiliate with you.
I’ve learned as an investor that you have to surround yourself with entrepreneurial superstars; and even if I’m not the right person to drop a half-million dollars into their business, I’m still likely to introduce them to one of my venture capital or angel investor friends who might be more suited.
What Are the Contest Details?
Rich: Your pitch can be in video or audio form, and up to two minutes in length—of course one minute is always better than two. You must upload your file by March 20th, 2009 to be considered for the contest.
Once you’ve submitted your pitch, we’ll give you promotional links that can be placed in your e-mail, website, Facebook page, et cetera—the links will also allow your friends and contacts to place a vote for your pitch.
Our panel of venture capitalists will review the top 100 vote getters and pick five winners from the group. The winning five will then have the opportunity to present their business solution to the panel of venture capital investors.
In addition, each of the five winners will also receive a Toshiba Satellite Pro S300 laptop computer and a GoToMeeting Annual Plan with unlimited usage, free of charge. Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., and GoToMeeting are also sponsors of the Elevator pitch contest.
Any Startup Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs?
Rich: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, stop standing on the sidelines and get into the game! You can learn more rapidly and gain more traction by just getting started!
Lifelong entrepreneur and StartupNation cofounder
Be sure to visit the StartupNation site for more information on the 2009 Elevator Pitch Competition. While you’re there, check out the submitted pitches and links for more information on creating a great elevator pitch.