This post is for entrepreneurs who’ve had to painstakingly craft an effective 90 second elevator pitch to raise money from investors, and for those investors who’ve had to sit through what I’m sure have been both killer and horrid elevator pitches over the years.
Two weeks ago I was flattered to have my startup, WeMontage, be selected as one of 15 companies to participate in an “Elevator Pitch Olympics” (EPO) at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, which was sponsored by the Wisconsin Technology Council. Initially, I hesitated to participate, but after thinking about it for a second I quickly realized I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The reason I hesitated is because I initially thought an elevator pitch competition in which no real money is awarded would not be a productive use of my time. After all, I’ve got my head in the weeds trying to get these darned Ukrainian developers to finish the last few minor changes to the WeMontage website, so I can finally release the beta.
Boy, was I wrong.
The EPO is like the tv show, Shark Tank, minus the über “prickliness”/”slimyness” of the judges. Oh, and there’s one other difference: no one on the panel invests! But the panel is comprised of professional investors who score your pitch and provide extremely valuable feedback. And did I mention you get the practice of pitching and controlling your nerves in front of 500 people?!
Elevator Pitch Resources
With a quick Google search you can find a few dozen resources that help you prepare an effective elevator pitch. I used an Inc. article as a guide, but I found this article most helpful. I also referenced this handout I received at a panel discussion about elevator pitches at last year’s WI Early Stage Symposium:
I mentioned there were 500 people in the audience; it was probably more like 750! Here’s a pic I took from the back of the room. Gulp!
I was in awe of the size of the audience, entertained by all the nervous body language of some pitchers, and amazed at how composed and effective other pitchers were.
As for me, I was totally nervous. One woman sitting next to me who already completed her pitch, which, by the way, the judges weren’t too keen on for some reason, said to me, “Don’t shit yourself.” To which I replied, “too late!” Ha!
My pitch went over well and I received mostly 3s and 4s from a scoring system of 1 thru 5. I was pleased with this result given the visual nature of my product and I didn’t have any video, pictures, or slides to show them (props were allowed but no use of the projector).
There was the one judge who, after I explained how I got the inspiration for WeMontage from an episode of HGTV and mentioned I have a patent pending, blurted out, “you know they’ve patented that, right?”
My response: “who?”
His reply: “the people on HGTV?”
Me: “what exactly have they patented?”
Him: “the whole thing?”
Me: “what do you mean?”
Him: “oh, I’m just kidding! Hahaha!”
Seriously, dude? What a jackass.
Here’s a youtube video of me practicing my 90 second pitch for the 50th time (no exaggeration):
Whaddaya think? Good? Great? Sucks? Lemme know by leaving a comment.
The Answer To The Question
I got a lot out of this experience and am thankful I was asked to participate. It’s incredibly difficult to distill your biz’s story down to 90 seconds and explain what you do, why it’s different, who the competitors are, how you’ll make money, and what the market opportunity is.
I also got to meet entrepreneurs who are working on some pretty kewl start-ups. For example, I met the founder of a company, Iristocracy (love this name!), which is building technology that lets you virtually try on a pair of glasses while sitting at your computer and see how they look in 3-D, from all angles. How kewl is that?! Actually, they won the competition.
I met another guy whose company, Novo Luggage, solves the problem of your luggage looking like everyone else’s at the airport by letting you add a custom skin to it.
So, are elevator pitches a waste a time for entrepreneurs? Absolutely not!
Have a thought about elevator pitches, how to best prepare one, or their effectiveness? Please share by leaving a comment.
Suerte! (Good luck!)