Week 7: Mastering Pitching

Week 7: Mastering Pitching

10-Jul-2018 by Ceylan Ersoy
This week’s sessions were all set to build up from the forthcoming book “Blitzscaling” by Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman and our mentor Chris Yeh, co-authors of the New York Times Bestseller “The Alliance”. Hoffman and Yeh defined blitzscaling as an approach to manage and maintain immense growth in the startup world. In order to create more value, the authors recommend “prioritizing speed over efficiency in an environment of uncertainty” in order to fully extend to the market and start scaling.  The book involves the blitzscaling framework, recommended business models and management strategies. As our startups proceed their journey within the blitzscaling framework in the Valley with a heightened level of immersion, we took this week to focus on our pitching and mastering the process.


Our first session lead by our mentor Jeff Abbott elaborated on comparative perspectives to design a good pitch. Building up from the framework offered by 500 startups, Jeff offered 5 key steps to distinguish good elements of a good pitch: knowing your audience, testing the water and then getting straight to the point, moving into numbers, telling your product’s story, and selling your team to the investors. Knowing your audience, understanding who you are going to engage with and adapting your strategy accordingly is highly critical. When interacting with a VC, startups should understand the VCs specific set of interests, whether they have a previous expertise, success stories or publish mission statements in their area. Considering logistics is also fundamental when getting to know your audience. Before going to a VC, make sure you know if their fund and lifecycle are in a position to invest in your startup in the first place. Considering all these, you need to make the conclusion of whether or not your startup is a good fit for them and whether they are a good fit for you, Jeff says.


The second piece of the puzzle is to test the water before getting right to the point. Beginning with a casual conversation could be useful in this respect because it gives the investors a chance to get to know you as a person. “They are not just investing in your company, they are investing in you” Jeff says. Engaging the audience as a person and not a presenter would be useful. Jeff shares the example of Scott Friend, who is the managing director of Bain Capital Ventures. According to him, Mr. Friend comes to pitches with two pre-planned questions: “Is this someone I would want to go to work for?” and “How good of an evangelist is this person going to be?”. Thus, starting with a strong tagline and knowing the most important things you want to cover in your presentation is critical. A good path to follow could be to introduce your company with maximum of 7 words that also gives hints about the company’s vision. The investors will want to know not only what you do, but also why to care.


Following these introductory steps, its time to move into the specifics and numbers to strengthen the presentation. According to Jeff, it would be useful to bring up company metrics early and specifically, especially if they are strong. However, it is significant to consider if the numbers you share support each other if your metrics can stand alone and if these metrics are industry standard metrics. You can conclude this section by highlighting potential growth by utilizing market metrics.


Jeff proceeded with how to approach telling your product’s story, giving the investors a glimpse into why they and other people should care about it. The vision the product offers might be unfamiliar or unlikeable to investors at first, Jeff says giving the examples of Uber and Airbnb. People weren’t really accustomed to the ideas of driving in someone else’s car or staying in someone else’s apartment for safety precautions. “We all know how those stories turned out” Jeff says. It is important to make investors understand what your product can accomplish, its features and its benefits to show how valuable this product could be. This should be followed by how this value will turn into revenue/profit and how your company will diverge from its competition. This section should be committed to manifest market expertise and highlighting competitive advantage and differentiation. Don’t forget to share whether your product is profitable right now through comparing metrics like CAC to LTV. Angel investors group metrics should usually involve a sound idea, a prototype, a quality management team, strategic relationships, and product rollout and sales.


The final section of the pitching presentation should be to sell your team to the investors since they are investing in more than a product. Showing them how special or promising your team is and what skills keep the company going would be helpful. “Companies can pivot all the time following opportunities, but the core team usually remains consistent” Jeff says. Conclude the presentation with a brief summary in a few sentences and give precise attention to the questions section. Staying confident, keeping your body language and voice natural is as key as conversing with investors as if you were talking to anyone. Finally, leave the room with a clean exit and a strong call-to-action, knowing what is going to happen next.


These week’s extended session was concluded with 1:1 sessions conducted by Chris Yeh. Each startup had the opportunity to pitch their product/service either in front of a crowd or in a private room. This was followed by extensive and highly useful feedback from Chris regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the presentations. To allow for more practical advice, Chris gave the same presentations using the same slides, simply adding and eliminating certain aspects of the presentation.


We are happy to leave behind another week of valuable sessions and presentations. Its energizing to see how the teams have grown so far, and exciting to wonder about the great prospects of their future growth.