When I started going to China for business I was amazed how many “helpful” people who I found at events with US Business people. They all knew people, in my industry and especially in the government. It was later that I discovered that those weren’t the real people you wanted to meet. But they were the people who knew how to find the brand new, “fresh off the boat”, business travelers to China. The same is true in the startup ecosystem…
The Startup Ecosystem
At the Founder Institute, everyone pitches their idea every week to the group and the mentors. Just a one minute pitch, then a chance to get some feedback and get scored by the mentor. Early in the semester, the scores are low because the pitches can be really bad. The problem is, if your pitch is really bad, it doesn’t matter what the idea is, because no one will understand it but you.
How do you know your pitch is bad?
You should be able to make your pitch in a minute and then wait for your audience (Mentor, Investor, etc) to ask you questions about the idea – after all you’re either after their feedback to improve your idea or their money to invest. Don’t you want to know what they want to know?
If you can’t do a one sentence pitch go to here. You don’t need a PowerPoint to explain the problem and solution, the market and your financial model. Start simple – it’s hard enough. Death by PowerPoint is not an option!
None of your friends can repeat your idea back to you
Your friends are finally at a point where they just nod and smile to appease you. Ask them to repeat your idea back to you. If they can’t repeat it back to you, or you don’t understand what they are saying it’s not their fault, it’s yours. You need to make your pitch simple enough so it can be repeated… Let’s move this concept forward a few years into your future to make it really important.
You have a big meeting with a “Top Brand Name” Venture Capital Firm. You walk into a huge conference room and get the card of a young guy or gal that says “Associate”. In the casual banter of rapport building you find out that she or he has been at the firm for three months. Here’s the conflict: They see dozens of deals per month, your ability to get your deal in front of a Partner or better yet the Partner meeting is based on this Associate’s ability to repeat your idea to them and not look like an idiot. More simply put, their career at the Firm is based on their ability to not look stupid in front of their boss. Do the work for them, make it simple for them to repeat.
Your mom tells you it doesn’t matter if she can repeat it back to you she love you anyway!
There’s a few minor exceptions to the rule – but if you’re not explaining fusion or molecular biology even your Mom should get it…
Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt, HikingArtist.com