Perfect Your Elevator Pitch With StartupNation!

'Elevator Hall' by heiwa4126 on Flickr


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!

-Rich Sloan
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.


The Closet Entrepreneur

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  1. Aren’t you afraid when you broadcast your idea to the whole world, that someone will steal it?

    I met never get an idea this good again… I don’t want to ruin it. lol

    Would really like that laptop, though.


  2. @Anthony – I totally hear you and have had the same concerns in the past. Here’s what I’ve learned:

    1) An idea simply remains an idea until you act on it—only then does it become something tangible and valuable.

    2) What’s to stop someone from copying your idea once you’ve implemented it?

    3) In a world of 6 Billion people, there’s a good chance that someone else has the same idea.

    If you have something that you think might be worth it, I say go for it. 😉

  3. Just read the rules, and my Canadian citizenship ruins my chances at another cool contest.

    Thanks for the advice, you may hear of my idea soon!

  4. Andy


    Even though you aren’t going to be entering the contest, you might want to consider the following…

    Don’t horde your ideas. Saying, “I might never have an idea this good again” ensures that you won’t. Instead share your ideas freely – it leaves you empty, forcing you to come up with new ideas. It keeps your brain hungry.

    If you think your idea is great – act on it. Set up a meeting, force yourself to prepare. Do something every day towards making it happen, no matter how small. Then you’ll never go to sleep feeling like you wasted that day.

    Good luck.

  5. I’m going to let it out next Friday in a “Make a Business in a weekend” event!

    Hopefully I win the pitch competition and make it happen.

    Working on my presentation using
    Cool stuff, and just what I need right now.

  6. @Andy – Great advice, I especially like the keeps your brain hungry idea! 🙂

    @Anthony – Best of luck in the competition and let us know how it goes!

  7. There is an old saying, nothing happens till you act.

    Have 3 lines about your business, that no matter, where, when or what time you can verbalize. Also use unlike competitors who… this should be your USP- Unique Selling Point

  8. Hey Tomas,

    Didn’t win the pitch competition but a great idea still came out of the weekend!

    It is called and it puts your events on the map!

    We are alpha testing it in Halifax, NS but we were working hard on getting it ready for the world.

    Thanks for the advice guys!

  9. @Anthony – Hey, Waldii looks awesome! Please let us know when we can start using it! 😉

  10. You will be the first to know!

  11. this is a super cool idea, unfortunately I only found out about it today and its July 28. Will you be having another one in the future? and including internationals?

    I have two of the three things you asked for:
    1.) I have prestigious board members and;
    2.) I’m already selling 🙂

    Oh and did I mention, I
    1.)graduated CS from Cal and;
    2.) I worked for 8 years for various firms in the Valley

    does that make 3? 😉


  12. @Serge – I’m pretty sure there will be plenty of elevator pitch competitions by StartupNation, I would recommend checking out their site for updates. 😉

  13. Sam

    Excellent article about fine tuning your elevator pitch. I’ve been an entrepreneur (and now angel investor) for 15 years and couldn’t agree more.

    I highly recommend first fine tuning your pitch (and business plan and built a prototype) with angel investors and angel investor groups first before going to venture capital firms.

    Best angel resources in my recommendation are:
    ( and (PrivCo is free and includes Angel Investor groups, which are frankly better leads than individual angels. is primarily individuals, and also charges you to contact people directly). AIGs are better leads than individualpeople because they pool their money to make an investment so, say, a $250,000 investment may be made with 10 of the group participating at just $25,000 each. It’s a much lower hurdle to climb than convincing an angel to write a check for $250,000. Angel Investor Groups will typically hold periodic live presentations or will distribute new opportunities to their members via email monthly etc. with interested parties subscribing to an investment funding proportionately. It’s far more efficient. And the stamp of approval from say “New York Band of Angels” is a better endorsement for future investors than “backed by
    John Smith and Chad Johnson.”
    Just do a private company investor search, and select
    investor type “Angel Investor Groups”:
    PrivCo Private Investors Search

    Good luck!
    -Sam (NYC Angel Investor and Entrepreneur)

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