Entrepreneurs, imagine a magic elevator ride, that when the doors slide shut, you have two minutes to attract an Angel that grants you one wish. As you’re riding up, enticing the fickle Angel to come closer, your Angel flies away leaving you with nothing more than Angel dust. This happens more often than not, and entrepreneurs are left not with Angel dust but with pain and frustration.
The elevator pitch can be the most important, not to mention the most nerve racking, most rewarding, and possibly most devastating presentation of an entrepreneur’s life.
Last Thursday, July 26, Springboard Enterprises hosted The Dolphin Tank™, a forum where CEO’s of 11 female founded startups were selected to give a two minute pitch about each of their ventures. Amy Millman, President of Springboard Enterprises, Dan DeWolf, Member, Mintz, Levin, Cohn Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. and I were panelists who offered the CEO’s constructive criticism and connect them with investors that may be interested in helping them out.
We call this pitch process The Dolphin Tank™. Dolphins are social mammals. They travel in schools and swim with humans and have even been reported saving us from drowning. Dolphins are truly the diplomats of the sea. The women at Springboard Enterprises, we consider ourselves the dolphins of the VC world. Unlike some of the sharks out there that will rip entrepreneurs to shreds (ehhrm… Mark Cuban), we give entrepreneurs advice on how to make a pitch really “pop.” So the next time they have the chance to enter that magic elevator, they’ll know what to say to make that Angel stick around.
All 11 of the women who presented in the Dolphin Tank have already accomplished so much. Each has fashioned a new product in a budding field, utilizing the most cutting edge technology — products that are changing the game in retail, finance and mobile applications. I am proud to know all of them and am sure that each will be successful in their own right.
All the pitches were well done, some better than others, but there are some major things that I saw missing that I want to point out, to help all budding entrepreneurs. On an elevator pitch, you have less than two minutes and often, less than one, to get us interested as investors. What do you really want to say about your product?
In two minutes, you’ve got to get to your point across to us clearly and quickly. Think about if you were actually riding up an elevator. You’ve got about 40 floors to captivate us. What have you said by the 4th floor? The 14th? What have you actually said by the 40th floor that will attract this Angel?
Some things you need to point out right away. Introduce yourself and the product you’ve created, in one sentence. Tell us, what problem does your product solve? What is the opportunity that’s available? By the 4th floor, you should be talking about your product in more depth. Start weaving your story and get us interested. As much as VC’s like stats, we like pretty words just as much. Get us hooked on your product. Show us your vision.
Then tell us, what are the benefits of using your product? Briefly, how does it work? Make sure you emphasize what your top differentiator is. Some VC’s hear hundreds of pitches per week. They have probably heard of something similar to your product. You need to make it clear what you do, why you exist, and how you are different. This is what you want to have said by the 14th floor.
Time ticks on, and it feels like not enough seconds exist in a minute. But slow down, continue to tell your story. Tell us a little bit about the market place. Who are your main competitors? Who is your target customer? Why do your differentiators matter to your customer?
Make sure you reemphasize your advantage. And most importantly, tell us how it is monetized. This is the most important aspect for any VC. Many entrepreneurs are eager at this point to start rattling off data points. But watch yourself; limit it to two or three great stats that show the potential of your company. Highlight some really good data and a scalable business plan, and you will have investors asking “Where can I sign up”?
Before all is said and done, the most important thing to get across for an entrepreneur is what you need from the investor. Whether this is, “We are looking for some financial help to expand our marketing campaign” or “We need some funding to hire an in-house tech team,” tell us your most pressing need as a business. Make sure you get the name and contact info so that you can reach this person again, and thank him or her for his time.
And that, entrepreneurs, is how you ace an elevator pitch. When the doors open again, you will walk out feeling like an Angel just granted you your wish.