Is Your Startup Pitch Venture Ready?

The Pitch Checklist

How do investors evaluate your startup company? Let me take some of the mystery out of the process and tell you one approach. It’s not the only approach and different investors will put different weighting on different parts of your company. The goal of the post is to help you be self-aware and ask your yourself if now is the right time to pitch your idea to investors for funding. This is a different process then pitching your idea for validation.

Please remember that your personal/business need for investment is not at all correlated to your ability to actually raise money. Your business may require money. But the stage and traction of the business will be what is required to actually raise the money.

The following are listed in no particular order – think of this as a set of criteria as a whole. First the list, then the breakdown, with examples of the reason for the scores. This scoring applies to “Venture Scale” companies, not all companies. Venture Scale is where an institutional investor (investing other people’s money) can get a 10X-100X return on their investment. Other investors may look for smaller returns, but in general VC’s are looking for the potential for outsized returns.


All scores should be ranked on a 1-4 scale. I know my statistics friends will hate this method because there isn’t an odd number and the range is so small. By contrast, using a Net Promoter Version of 0-10 implies a level of precision that isn’t useful at this stage. Using 1-4 eliminated the middle score of human nature, being nice. Providing a “3” on the equivalent 1-5 scale doesn’t provide any useful feedback to the team. Founders will read the middle score as a false positive. In Seattle, it’s called “Seattle Nice”, people don’t want to give you honest feedback. It’s hard to give and many founders don’t take it well. The Founder Institute did a 1-5 Scale at but asked mentors not to use the three.

This is by no means is Quantitate Venture Capital. There are areas that can be measured for investment. However, this process is simply assigning numbers to predominantly qualitative criteria. Even so, it’s a critical qualitative measure.

  1. The evaluator hates (strongly dislikes) your idea – hate is such a strong word… so think of it as a “1”
  2.  We don’t like it – not as negative as a 1, but still… you may have missed something in your pitch or a major milestone. Think about attending a Pitch Clinic or “6 Month Startup – Ideation to Revenue” and get some coaching.
  3. We like it! That’s not a 4, we don’t love it, but it’s a good place to start!
  4. We Love it!


Judging Criteria

Event Name: _________________________

Event Location: _________________________

Event Date: _________________________

Company Name:
Event Name:
         Evaluator 1
Domain Experts Diversity Serially successful Founders From great companies Functionally competent (hacker, hustler, designer/marketer)
Big “category” Idea Early/Late continuum Technically Achievable “Pain pill or vitamin” In our investment thesis
Customer first focus Clear Value Prop Design/Ease of use Clear launch and scale offering
How big is the market – TAM/SOM Unmet customer need How many incumbents Nascent Go-to-market system
Barriers to Entry Differentiation Well funded competitors in Crunchbase
Business Model/Finance
High transactional value Clear Profit Model Capital Efficient -anything about previous financing/cap table? Scalable No “Bad” things on Cap Table
Customer adoption Customer Engagement Early Revenue Know the Unit Economics
Emerging innovation “Meta” factors are favorable Established demand
Intellectual Property
IP Required IP in process
                                                                         Total               9-36

Notes on Scoring Examples

The examples below are just that, examples. Each investor is going to look at your startup company through their own lens. This is designed so you can both do a self-evaluation and understand how you will likely be judged. Scoring high does not mean they will invest in your company. Investors tend to invest in markets they know. For example, if your business is a B2C game and the investor does enterprise software. I’ve also found that people seldom invest in markets that are new to them, in one case I was running a company in China and investors were either intersted in the country or the business but if they didn’t know China they wouldn’t invest.


  1. Solo Founder or Part-time founder. Investors don’t like solo founders. It has nothing to do with how amazing you are personally, mind you. We just know that it takes more than one person to build a company. Solo founders tend to auger in on an idea vs feedback from the team when it’s time to make a change.
  2. Incomplete team or not balanced (lacking a tech or marketing role). Offshore development with no plan to bring on as employees
  3. A balanced team with complementary skill sets, market experience, startup experience. Some track record together.
  4. Experienced startup team with industry experience,

Bonus points – well balanced in gender, diverse. The data shows that diverse teams produce better results. Also, an early stage investor is going to be with you for 7-10 years so likability matters.

Negative points – married co-founders? Sorry, though I’m a fan, investors view it as a compounding risk. A relationship ending poorly is the fear, real or not. Just know what you’re in for, you don’t have to change, but that doesn’t’ mean the investor will view you differently.

Big Idea/Problem

  1. You’re doing the next “Groupon” or insert any other crowded market of competitors (Food Delivery, Home Repair, Travel Rankings). You’re solving a problem that isn’t really a problem. I love the internet connected belt idea, not.
  2. You’re a feature of someone else’s product or a tool. It doesn’t mean you are a bad tool, but it likely won’t be Venture Scale. Think plugins for WordPress or Shopify vs Shopify itself.
  3. Good market, though not huge, could change a market but not the world. Think about a product that has a limited geography, e.g. only Brasil and Portuguese.
  4. Disruptive ideas are very unique. When you find an idea that really could be a $1B idea it’s special. Big market with the right timing solving a genuinely big problem.

Bonus points – unique ideas are amazing and every idea is crazy right before it works. Excitement is valuable as people like to rally around a great idea.

Negative points – Your Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), no real investor is going to sign an NDA unless you have a cure for cancer or a real scientific discovery. Don’t worry about someone stealing your idea, worry that you’ll waste three years of your life not discovering that your idea had a fatal flaw that other people could have shown you.


  1. A concept on a napkin – the concept might be interesting it’s just that, only a concept. No working prototype – there are a number of ways you can get a prototype showing for cheap. Here’s a link to a Series of posts for how to build an MVP starting with a specification.
  2. Working prototype, but ugly. This is where the developer is the designer. Think about a home that has pipes and plumbing showing in the walls because the plumbing design (code) was so awesome it didn’t’ need an interior designer. Functional but ugly seldom gets a second chance. Minimum Viable Product (MVP) show’s what’s possible. At very least a PowerPoint demo including design.
  3. All of the pieces are they and your gaining valuable customer feedback from people. Basic functionality should be included, not just a WordPress site.
  4. Function and design, it works and it’s beautiful. MVP moves to KAP, Kick-Ass Product. You’ll know it’s a KAP if people go to download it after you do your demo.

Bonus Points – you’ve taken customer feedback and built an email list of prospects that give you feedback and have a regular cadence of shipping (two weeks). That email list should be growing every week as you get feedback.

Negative Points – live demo doesn’t work. It’s a “platform”, platforms happen when you have “scale”, not at your launch. Though that may be your aspiration you don’t have that today and it usually means you don’t know what customer you are going to serve.


The Market and Customer are two sides of the same coin but warrant some explanation. TAM/SAM/SOM/LAM are terms that address the “macro” market as a whole. Customer reflects the “micro” of the market

  1. Small Markets suck. Selling to customers that don’t have money means you are doing a non-profit. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but an app for the homeless needs to be funded by grants and donations not by investors that expect a return on investment. Customer’s that don’t have money to spend on your product is also a problem
  2. You have a great launch feature, but the market and customer need a complete solution in order to use it. This means you’re going to need to raise more capital before getting
  3. It’s a good market, but no longer growing.
  4. You know both your market (large and growing) and your customer (persona). Nascent or new markets are exceptional, e.g. Uber or AirBnB.

Bonus Points – if you have experience in this industry or unique knowledge or a complex market.

Negative Points – you calculate your TAM wrong because you want it to be HUGE! Hypothetically you make headrests for front passenger seats for trucks. In this example, you’d say the market TAM was the entire automotive market vs the subset of seats, subset of passenger seats and real TAM of headrests for passenger seats and further to the automotive subcategory or trucks. It’s a ridiculous example, but you’d be surprised how often founder routinely overblow their TAM! Be realistic about the actual TAM.


  1. No Competition – this likely means there is no market. The positive version is that you are too early to market and it will take a long time for the market to catch up to your visionary status.
  2. Busy market with a lot of competition that has already been funded. This equals late to market. You know you are late to market if there are already a number of companies that have raised >$10M in the market. Even if your product is better, your ability to raise cash will be very, very limited.
  3. A little late to market but against lethargic competitors in this category. Entrenched incumbents that haven’t yet been disrupted
  4. Early, but not too early is a great place to be. Keep in mind it rarely happens.

Bonus Points – You know the gaps in the market that current competitors are not offering. These gaps have been discovered because of your knowledge of the market and customer interviews (50-100)

Negative Points – being cavalier about the competition. One challenge I see often is people waiving off the competition vs taking the Andy Grove approach

Business Model/Finance

I admit I’m super Geeky about Revenue Models – someone needs to be. There are a lot of products that can be made with technology but shouldn’t be made because the founder hasn’t thought about the cost of selling the product and how to make a reasonable to exceptional profit. Knowing how you are going to make money is critical to the investor. From there point of view, it’s easy to get a check into a company, but hard to get a checkout. If you can’t explain the economics of how you’re going to make money don’t expect a check.

  1. You don’t know how you’re going to make money yet and you’ve only thought about the cost of building the product, not the cost of selling the product and a reasonable margin.
  2. Low transaction value markets – if you only make >10% margins or your margins are in Basis Points (BPS) there isn’t a lot of room for error on execution. You’ve created value for your product but you haven’t captured payment for the value created. Services businesses also fall into low rankings in this category, they don’t scale without adding additional staff. If you productize a service it will help, but they don’t scale like other models.
  3. High transaction or high margin – if you can start with at least one of these you show that you can capture value for the product.
  4. Recurring revenue subscriptions and combination business models (e.g. transaction fee + subscription) win the day for best score. Monthly recurring revenue is the truest gauge of churn. Annual Contract Value (ACV) is a good measure, but if you have a large price point you’ll likely have higher churn as you develop the product. NOTE: you don’t have to accomplish all of these things yet, you just need to know where you are going and have some early traction.


Revenue is the obvious starting point here but it’s not the only measure. Depending on the customer profile (think enterprise) you may need to be a whole solution before you can charge the customer. Your launch feature may be popular and become an “on-ramp” product that acquires customers for future revenue. Time on site/app may also be a measure of success, especially in the B2C category.

  1. No users – seems obvious but if no one is using it you have a problem. You may need money to fix it, but you’re not likely to get it from an investor.
  2. No payment from users – again, not the only measure
  3. Proof of Concept (POC) or Letters of Intent (LOIs), as well as early revenue, will get a score on the board. It shows a level of commitment from customers.
  4. Strong customer usage or strong initial revenue. Some rare B2C companies can move past word of mouth and into “viral marketing” – they can also become unicorns (again rare!). But if you’ve figured out how to get strong initial customer growth or for people to pay you early you’re going to score well in this category.


Bill Gross from Idealab talks about why timing is the most important factor of success in this video. It’s the best 7 minutes of video on the internet for Startups. You don’t ultimately control timing, they are outside factors that should influence your decision to start a company. Know, however, that your belief in why it’s the right timing may not sway your investors to that same belief.

  1. Too early or too late – you might be a visionary, but the market may still need to catch up to your idea. The other extreme is that you’re late, see Big Ideas above.
  2. Unclear timing – if you’re here you and the investor may not know enough about the market to make a judgment. If you don’t have any data about the market timing your score is going to fall into the don’t like it category. Think of this timing as “headwinds” that will make it more difficult to grow
  3. A little early or late – in this case, the investment capital is still available and hasn’t been pulled out of the market by 2-3 large players (think $100+ valuations with >$25M raised).
  4. You’re still in front of what could be a new or nascent market. You can think of timing here as “tailwinds”. You may also be in the current “hot space”


There are market segments where Intellectual Property (IP) is critical. This may include Patent, Trademarks and Trade Secrets. I’m not a fan of the investor question “what’s your sustainable competitive advantage“? In most modern tech-related companies your advantage will be speed to move and knowledge of the customer (through customer development).  Regardless of IP portfolio, you need to have an answer to the question of how to build a competitive moat over time.

  1. No barriers to entry or defense. This might be because you’re selling someone else’s product (reseller) or your
  2. There is already a great deal of IP created in your market. You have a unique idea and product but the margins will make it difficult to build a defensive position or moat around your business.
  3. You have a path to defensibility. Building IP requires legal budget and time. People with patents tend to overvalue them. People without them tend to “waive their hands” at the value. They both have a place depending on the industry or vertical.
  4. You have speed, IP, and knowledge of the customer. You also have the budget to defend your IP.


We know you’re looking for capital, now the question is how much and what are the “use of proceeds” – what you’ll do with the capital.  It’s important to connect these two items into one narrative. The founder usually knows why they are asking for $500k, but in the ask, it genrally comes across as “we need $500k to get us through the next 12 months.”  What the investors hear is, “we’d like to get paid for 12 months.” The real answer is a “we have X, Y and Z milestones lined up over the next 12 months, $500k will allow us to hit those milestones with the necessary team.

If you’re looking for referrals to customers, give the customer profile and what you want. “We’d like introductions to Enterprise IT Managers that are looking for cyber security” don’t make the process dependent on them remembering your ask.

We know you have an ASK, tell us what it is!


Venture Capital firms tend to “over-index” on trends. Right now the trend is Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Smart capital will lead in that market based on an investment thesis. Others will follow. Then the category will move toward being overfunded. You see this with the use of “buzz word bingo” when startups through terms into their pitch because those are the categories that are getting funded.

Score yourself, your team and progress against this Rubric. It will help you know where you need to improve your progress before meeting with Angels or VCs.

7 Tips to Help You Win Startup Weekend

I should probably say “7 tips to help you maximize your chance to win Startup Weekend,” because if more teams follow my advice, there will only be a one winner anyway. And quite frankly, it still doesn’t guarantee anything because there are judges that decide and pick the winners.

I’ve mentored a lot of teams on Startup Weekends over the past few years and I noticed that the top 3 teams have always had something in common. They succeeded in validation, business and product – what are the categories for judging criteria? Here are my 7 steps that help you succeed and maximize your chance to win Startup Weekend.

First things first, though. Winning Startup Weekend feels great, and it gives you your 15 minutes of glory on the stage. Actually, winning any startup competition feels great.

However, winning any startup competition will never make your business successful. It motivates you, gives you some head start in reaching out to partners, advisors and maybe customers, but that’s it. Therefore, your long term goal should never be to win a startup competition.

A quick tip before I get to the particular steps: a complex idea or product (like an enterprise software) isn’t usually a good idea for Startup Weekends, because it’s very unlikely that you will be able to validate the problem and idea as well as build the prototype.

Startup Weekend can help you a lot anyway, because the mentors are experienced and can help you get the idea to the next stage (and even connect you with your potential customers).

Just have in mind that your chance to win is smaller, because Startup Weekend is mostly about learning the lean approach and it is much faster and easier with small projects.

Step 1 – Prepare elevator pitch

(image source: LinkedIn)

Every Startup Weekend starts with the pitching where the participants pitch the ideas that they want to work on. The pitch is only 1 minute and there can be 20 people pitching, so make sure that you prepare for it.

Don’t try reinvent the wheel with what you say and make it simple. Instead of figuring out the super unique original pitch, practice its delivery at home in front of the mirror. I take a video of myself when I’m preparing for an important pitch and don’t finish practicing until I’m happy with it.

This is what Ross from Australia used when he won the Startup Weekend in Perth:

Hi, My name is _____ and I’m here today to invite you to join me in <business name> that <main value proposition>. My background is in <relevant background> and I’ve seen a problem/opportunity where <problem/opportunity>. I think we can solve this by <how you do it>. I need <mobile app developer / web developer / UX designer /etc.>

One super important thing here. Don’t talk about features when describing value proposition. The value proposition is the benefit the the user or customer will get, while feature is the way of providing that benefit .

Step 2 – Build Your Team

(image source: Wikipedia)

I’ll be getting back to the judging criteria, because that’s what you need do well in order to succeed.

You need to validate your idea, create a business model and execute well and you need to build the team that can do all of that. It means covering business (sales and marketing), programming, and design.

Being the CEO doesn’t mean you’re the only one who coordinates the team. Your job is to motivate the team by putting much effort into the project and doing the most leg work, not by saying what has to be done. It’s important that every team member has their clear role, understands what she or he needs to do and accepts it.

Once the roles are clear, make a brief plan for the whole weekend and include a short, 5 to 10 minutes long, and catch up every 2 hours. That will help the whole team understand what you need to focus on.

A secret tip: don’t be afraid to talk to people and literally recruit them for your project. Get to know the people before the elevator pitches start.

If you like someone, pitch them your idea and ask whether they want to work with you.

If you don’t find anyone, do it after the elevator pitches while everyone is voting. Recruiting more people also means more votes and better chance that your project will be selected.

Step 3 – Validate, Validate, Validate

(image source:

I’ve mentored over 100 startups on startup competitions. If I exclude a few exceptions, validating that the idea that you are working on is resolving a real problem is the biggest issue during Startup Weekend of each and every team.

I’m not blaming the teams for that, because they don’t know how to do it, schools don’t teach it. You can read more in my post on Techstars Blog. If you are lazy and want only some bullet points, here you go:

  1. Talk to the real people (not family and friends) that are your target audience and literally start as soon as can. There was a startup working on a service for homeless people and they went to the park to talk to homeless people. If they could do it, you can do it as well.
  2. Ask the target audience about what problems do they have and don’t pitch your idea. That would bias them and it’s very likely that everybody would like the idea. However, the fact that someone likes the idea doesn’t mean that the idea solves a real problem.
  3. If you validate that the problem exists, learn more about how are the people solving the problem today and who they are. This will help you understand how complicated it is for your potential customers to solve the problem today, and what might be the customer segments within your target audience.

If your target audience are families, go to the mall – families go there on weekends.

If you have a B2B idea, use your network and ask for introductions. It’s very likely that someone that you know knows a doctor, accountant, lawyer, etc.

Go where your target audience is and talk to them. It’s out of the comfort zone, but that’s where the road to success is.

If you don’t validate that the idea doesn’t solve a real problem of real people, you can’t win.

Step 4 – Create a Business Model

(image source: Wikipedia)

Startup is a business and business needs to earn money. Therefore, you need to understand:

  1. Who is your customer?
  2. What exactly is the customer paying for and how much?
  3. How are you going to acquire the customer? (it’s called go-to-market strategy)
  4. How much does acquiring a new customer cost? (it’s called customer acquisition cost)

A great way to understand all the relationships in your business is to fill out the business model canvas. I’m pretty sure that this is also one of the first things the Startup Weekend organizers recommend you to do.

What is important here is that the customer lifetime value, what is the total revenue from a customer, needs to be significantly higher than customer acquisition cost. If not, your business doesn’t have a chance to be profitable.

You should also know how big is your market, but you don’t need to go into too many details. It’s not easy to do so during the weekend, and understanding who your customer is and how are you going to get them is much more important.

A secret hint is to use Facebook advertising demographic targeting to define your audience find the approximate number of people interested in the topic.

Step 5 – Get Traction

(image source: Flickr)

54 hours, and especially during the weekend, is an extremely short time to get the first user or even customer. But if you manage to get them, it usually counts and is more important that problem validated by interviewing your potential customers. This is because customers are the ultimate validation.

Don’t try to fake it with friends, because the judges are smart people and can figure that out.

You may also think of how the hell could you get users and customers when you don’t have the product ready, and it’s a totally accurate question or concern. A great work-around that also counts is to create a landing page and collect sign ups from people who are interested in your idea and want to know when you launch. If you get them to pay at least a few dollars, euros, or whatever your currency is, that’s even better.

Don’t spend money on paid advertising. Reach out to your network on social media, ask mentors or organizers for some introductions and post (don’t spam) to Facebook or LinkedIn groups.

Building a simple landing page with a tool like Instapage takes an hour (including the integration with Google Analytics and Mailchimp), so there is literally no excuse for not doing it.

Also, even though you are a designer or developer, don’t waste time with building a custom landing page. Rather spend that time on building and designing the product.

Step 6 – Build MVP

(image source:, ©Henrik Kniberg)

MVP stands for “minimum viable product.” There are tons of definitions of what exactly an MVP is, but don’t worry about them. They would only distract you.

Think of an MVP as a product that provides its users with the basic solution to the problem that it’s solving for them. For example: 

  • the MVP of Uber could allow you to order a car and a driver to accept your order. No payments, ratings, discounts, animated cars, etc. 
  • the MVP of Facebook could allow you to create your profile, connect with friends and publish a status update with comments. No photo upload, no chat, no videos, no Facebook pages, no groups, etc. 

Even if it may look like that, an MVP isn’t an excuse for a sloppy app full of bugs. The MVP has to work well, the user experience needs to be good and it needs to look good enough. It has to help the users resolve the problem and be excited about the upgrades that you will be doing.

54 hours is not a lot of time, so avoid spending time on figuring out whether the button would be dark blue or light blue. Some people say that if you aren’t embarrassed for your MVP, it usually means that you spent too much time on it.

I wouldn’t take it literally at a Startup Weekend, because design is also what matters. However, having beautiful screenshots and slides will not help you if you don’t have anything that works.

Step 7 – Prepare the Final Pitch

(image source: Flickr)

Many teams underestimate the power of the final pitch and don’t spend enough time on preparing it. It’s important to realize that your pitch is the only 4 or 5 minutes to convince the judges that your project deserves to win.

Don’t forget that there are going to be 10 to 20 teams pitching. How many of them do you think the judges will really remember?

  1. Your pitch needs to be super smooth.
  2. The story needs to be crystal clear.
  3. The details have to address the judging criteria.
  4. It needs a WOW! factor that the judges will remember.

Of course, the presentation needs to look nice as well. Powerpoint and Keynote have a lot of templates that are good enough.

Now it’s clear that you will need a few hours to do a good pitch. Ideally, one team member should spend the whole Sunday working on it.

However, the final pitch isn’t only about the slides. It’s also about delivering them. Being sharp, full of energy and speaking natural like it’s the most common thing that you do is also important.

Delivering the pitch is as important as the content and one doesn’t work with the other one. So practice, practice, practice. Use the mirror, pitch to mentors and ask for feedback, record the video (or at least voice) so you can hear yourself – I know, it feels embarrassing. But get over it. And deliver like a king.

A secret tip: anticipate the questions from the judges. They will very likely ask similar questions to what the mentors ask you. Prepare the answers. If there is anything that you want to say and don’t have enough time, give the judges only the hook in the pitch. Manipulate them into asking the questions that you want them to ask.

A secret second tip: learn who the judges are and tweak the presentation for at least one of them. For example, if one of the judges is an investor, focus on the opportunity and how big of a company could you potentially be. If there is a judge from the same industry as your idea, spend the most time of presenting to him.

That’s it. Good luck and have fun! Let me know in comments how did it went and if anything isn’t clear.

This was originally published here

Tips on Crafting a Top-Notch Startup Pitch

This was originally published in Factory Berlin’s Magazine

Being able to pitch an idea to strangers is a necessary skill across many industries. For entrepreneurs and startups, though, pitching your business in a compelling manner is especially important because it can be a stepping stone to landing potential investors, partners and supporters.

So what are the ingredients to crafting a credible, persuasive and outstanding pitch? From creating the pitch deck to delivering your presentation, we spoke to two experts in this realm for their insights on the topic.

Know Your Audience

Before you even begin to craft your pitch, it’s important to consider your target audience, said Anders Lykke, VP of Sales at Priori Data, a mobile app data and analytics provider based in Berlin. A core part of his role is to pitch Priori Data to potential clients and partners as well as to spread the word about the product at conferences and events.

“It always depends on what you’re trying to achieve with the pitch,” explained Lykke, “Are you trying to create general excitement about the product and your company? Or do you want to lay the foundation for a particular conversation?”

To gauge your audience, he suggested asking yourself these questions: Will you be presenting in front of a diverse group of entrepreneurs at a conference? Or a crowd of mobile industry professionals? Will you be at a local community event? Or pitching to investors in a boardroom?

Once you have these parameters down, it’ll be easier to cater your pitch, in terms of length and structure, accordingly.

Succinctly Describe the Problem and How You’re Trying to Solve it

One of the most important goals of a pitch is to convince people – in a short amount of time – why you and your company are relevant, aka why they should care. It’s probably best to incorporate this aspect at the beginning of your pitch presentation, so people know what they’re getting into right off the bat.

Again, keep in mind when explaining the problem that how broad or specific you delve into it should be dependent on who you’re talking to.

There are a number of ways to go about structuring your pitch, but what works for Lykke is painting a picture of the problem scenario at the very start. “Once I’ve outlined the pain point clearly, I talk about the potential impacts of the problem, provide context with market data and then go on to paint a picture of how we’ll solve it,” he added.

Back Up Your Points with Data

Establishing credibility during a pitch is crucial. But, how do you do that? “Avoid general statements and use numbers as often as possible,” said Candy Behunin, who heads marketing at Unicorn Pitch, a pitch deck design service for startups.

Lykke shared a similar opinion and stressed that it’s also critical to use data from various reliable sources to help people understand the problem you’re tackling as well as the impact the solution might have.

Create a Professional Pitch Deck

The pitch deck is often an important element accompanying your pitch. “Picture it as a sales document that needs to speak for your company,” explained Behunin, “Sometimes, investment decisions will be made with you not being present and with people whom you have not had a chance to speak to. All they see is what their partner has told them – and your pitch deck.”

So make sure your deck factually correct and highlights only the most critical pieces of information.

When creating a deck targeted to investors, the Unicorn Pitch team suggested including information about the opportunity, market, technology/product, KPIs, business model metrics, team, why you/how can you defend this great opportunity as well as the status of funding.

Seasoned German entrepreneur and investor Felix Haas, who also backs Unicorn Pitch, added: “As an investor, what immediately catches my eye in a pitch deck is seeing that there are great co-investors who are already committed. A big turn off for me is when founders come in with an unprofessional-looking presentation.

If the slides are for a pitch to a more general audience, go for a streamlined deck that focuses more on a compelling story. 

Take a Deep Breath

Getting nervous before a pitch is not uncommon – even for people who have done it a hundred times. Priori Data’s Lykke, who also has a lot of experience in the realms of acting and stand-up comedy, said a good way to combat stage fright is to tap into your “inner peace zone” for a couple of seconds.

“Generally, a couple of deep breaths goes a long way to calm yourself down before you go on stage,” he added.

Be Yourself

Some people thrive on stage, while others recoil at the thought of it. And yet, there are successful entrepreneurs that come from both categories. It’s not necessarily a matter of either/or. Of course, for some people it’ll require more practice but regardless of which group you fall into, being authentic plays a big role when delivering a compelling pitch, said Lykke.

“When carrying yourself on stage, it’s incredibly important to present in a way that is in sync with who you are as a person – don’t try to play role of someone you’re not,” he said adamantly, “It doesn’t matter if you’re introverted or extroverted, it’s about owning yourself and finding a way to present the pitch that aligns with your personality. Everyone knows it can be difficult to pitch on stage, but by simply being genuine, you can build a great level of empathy in the audience.”

Leave the Audience Wanting More

When pitching, the last impression is equally – if not more – important than the first impression. On this train of thought, Lykke said, “When pitching a business, you have to leave the audience energized and excited… And people get energized and excited about great ideas.”

This was originally published in Factory Berlin’s Magazine.

Getting Pitch Perfect: Lessons From Techstars Part Two

Wesley Eames is the Co-founder and CEO of AncestorCloud (Boulder ’16), a genealogy marketplace connecting family researchers with experts around the globe. He is also the creator of Cousin App, and was previously an Advisory Board Member at Global Family Reunion and the Marketing Manager at Faulkner Media Group.

The “essentials” of pitching, and a great way to structure a pitch can be found in Part One of this post.


DOs & DON’Ts

Allow me to give you a few DOs and DON’Ts for your pitch. We’ve learned these over months of consistent practice, failure, and learning.

DON’T Wing It

Every pitch we’d done before Demo Day we had winged from simple bullet points. We always created the pitch and deck within 48 hours of needing it. This might work if you were just reading facts verbatim from your slide, but remember, presenting facts doesn’t get investors writing checks. You need to get the investor feeling fear or greed, and that takes a lot of practice and iteration. You need to appeal to System 1.

DON’T Fear Feedback

During Techstars, we practiced our pitch on everyone. We pitched our MDs three or four times a week, we pitched other people at dinner, while walking in random improvised settings. Anytime we saw an opportunity to get out of our comfort zone, practice our pitch, and get feedback, we took advantage.

DON’T Think Your Audience Will Understand

Your audience likely knows nothing about your company. You can’t assume that they will catch your vision from the start. In fact, assume the opposite, and make sure that it’s so simple that someone there for the first time will catch on to your vision. You want to get people excited within the first 10–20 seconds. If you don’t simplify your vision you will create dissonance between you and your audience.

DON’T Drag It Out

The most impressionable pitches to me are those with less. Less is always more. Be crisp and concise in all of your slides. After watching each company at Techstars pitch on Demo Day, this lesson couldn’t be more clear. What you do as a startup can often be complex, and involve deep explanation, but the best entrepreneurs can explain their vision in a matter of seconds.

DO Hire a Designer to Design Your Pitch Deck

We found it incredibly helpful to hire a designer to help with our deck. I’ve always been one to design my own deck, but the problem I’ve run into is I focus too much on design and not enough on the content of the pitch. By doing something as simple as hiring a designer I created a bunch of time for myself to focus on nailing the content and delivery.

DO Practice Over and Over

You will need to practice much more than you think. Practice walking, practice in front of people, practice with a mic, practice without a mic, practice in conversational tone, practice in more of a formal tone. We even practiced our pitch while people hurled ping pong balls at our faces so we were ready for anything. It’s a little untraditional, but just try it and you’ll stop thinking we’re insane.

You need to treat your pitch like Michael Phelps treats his Olympic events.

“At the age of 11 my coach told me I could make the Olympic team in four years, so I said ‘Okay, I want to make the Olympic team, so that’s what we’re going to do.’ And I started training for that. I went five straight years without ever missing a workout. Every single day, 365 days a year.” 

You see, we only watch the Olympic star winning outrageous amounts of gold on TV, and we think, “Dang, what a natural athlete!” But in reality, he won those gold medals on the days when no one was watching him, or expecting him to show up.

DO Make It a Group Effort

You can’t just lock yourself in a room and think you’re going to come up with a great pitch. Open a Google Doc and invite everyone you know to read and rip apart what you’re writing. We had angel investors, managing directors, PR people, venture capitalists, engineers, product people, and lawyers all read through our pitch to give us their two cents. That amount of feedback, and the differing opinions, are what made our pitch grab serious attention from all types of people.

DO Decide On a Script Well Before You Pitch

You need to decide on a script early enough to give you a significant amount of time for presentation and presence. We chose a final script much earlier than a lot of the other teams in the program, and although we could have spent a lot more time finding exactly the right words to say, we compromised and spent more time on delivery, body language, and enunciation. I think this was one of the biggest contributors to the success of our pitch.

DO Spend a Third of Your Time on the Hook and Problem Description

The first minute, nay, the first thirty seconds, are the most important part of the whole pitch.

If you can hook someone in that first few sentences, you will retain almost everyone for the rest of your pitch.

Research has shown that we now have a shorter attention span as humans than goldfish. Your audience could be doing thousands of things with their time other than listening to you. Don’t let them down.

We found this especially hard because not only were we talking about older people and history (genealogy), but also a subject that makes most people yawn when they hear the word. There is nothing sexy about genealogy. So, we took two main approaches to conquer this in our beginning slides, as you will see. We added an element of humor and creativity in order to get people interested.


I’m not the smartest tool in the shed, and have never been the smartest. That said, we owned who we are, and didn’t try to be something we’re not. We’ve gotten the feedback from people that our team is cheerful, fun, and funny. People enjoy being around us. That’s our thing, so we capitalized on it.

We incorporated humor into our pitch. For others it may be easier or more natural to impress with knowledge or stats. For others still it will be easier to impress with uniqueness or novelty. Look, I won class clown in high school, so humor seemed like the most natural tone for our pitch.

In working on the delivery we ensured that if part of the script didn’t feel like something I would say, or didn’t work well with who I am, we removed it. We had some really strong, intelligent phrases in the script for a while that weren’t written by myself, but suggested by someone much more intelligent, and we took them out because I couldn’t deliver them naturally.

Pitching well is the gateway to fundraising, and only the beginning.

Without the ability to effectively communicate the vision of your company, you’ll never raise substantial money. Without substantial money, you’ll never be able to realize your vision. Despite common belief, you aren’t simply born with the ability to pitch. You create the ability to pitch in yourself through hours and hours of painstaking practice and hard work. And it’s all worth it. Your pitch and vision will be an asset for attracting mentors, evangelists, customers, employees, and investors.

This was originally published on Medium.

Getting Pitch Perfect: Lessons From Techstars

Wesley Eames is the Co-founder and CEO of AncestorCloud (Boulder ’16), a genealogy marketplace connecting family researchers with experts around the globe. He is also the creator of Cousin App, and was previously an Advisory Board Member at Global Family Reunion and the Marketing Manager at Faulkner Media Group.

Your pitch is an asset to you and your startup. I’m not just referring to the digital asset of an audio recording or video. It’s an intellectual asset that is critical during the fundraising period. Not only is it critical in order to have crisp, powerful statements in regards to any and all investor questions, but the process you have to follow to truly understand and communicate the vision of your business is an invaluable one. I wish we wouldn’t have put it off until now.

A lot of entrepreneurs and investors criticize startup accelerators for how much time they make founders allocate to developing their pitch. I can see where their distaste comes from, however, I found that we created the most compelling aspects of our pitch by spending time on it daily while at Techstars Boulder.

We finally found — through iteration — a way to put to words what we were feeling, and the vision we had for our company.

Our mentors were incredibly helpful during this process. We spent multiple sessions with many mentors, going over little things like which words to use where, and where to throw in little pauses. For the first time ever, we got extremely nit picky about developing our presentation. Little details like this were exhausting, but made all the difference in my confidence and delivery when Demo Day arrived.

Of course, it never hurts to have the founder and former CEO of a $2 billion technology company from your same industry introduce you before you pitch.

I’ve embedded the video footage of our pitch from Demo Day as a resource to you. It’s certainly not perfect, but hopefully it will give you some good ideas for your own pitch. We watched over 100 other startup pitches, extracting things we liked from each as we developed our pitch. I want others who are crafting their own pitches to see our pitch as another data point. Following the video, I’ve provided what I believe to be (1) the “essentials” of pitching, (2) a great way to structure a pitch, and (3) the “DOs & DON’Ts of pitching (in part two).

AncestorCloud Techstars Demo Day 2016 from Wesley Eames on Vimeo.


The content of your pitch is actually secondary. What investors really want to feel and see during your pitch is natural, unwavering passion for what you are doing. The bad news is, passion can’t be faked. You either possess the passion for what you’re doing, or you don’t. It either keeps you up at night, or it doesn’t.

You won’t be able to hide it if you’re not completely consumed by the thing your company does.

An investor once told me his favorite thing about a pitch is when he thinks he knows exactly where it’s headed, but is then surprised by something the entrepreneur says or does. He said, “You are truly excited about something you normally don’t care about, and you want to give the person your money because they just changed you, or convinced you to change your mindset.” What this investor is saying is, you have to be very deliberate about your presentation. Instead of relying on industry facts and jargon, tell a compelling and surprising story. Give your audience a reason to have more excitement and optimism about your industry and venture than they had before they met you.

Our brains use two different systems of thinking, and yes, investors’ brains are just like yours and mine (although they sometimes seem fundamentally different). The two systems are intricately explained in Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow. System 1 is your fast, intuitive and automatic mode of thinking. System 2 on the other hand, is your slow, methodical, analytical mode of thinking. As Kahneman explains, “The idea is that System 1 is really the one that is the more influential; it is guiding System 2, it is steering System 2 to a very large extent.”

Think of the systems as two separate little people living inside the investor’s brain. System 1 is the watchdog, always on high alert. He’s the fun one of the brain, and is always looking for something exciting or interesting. He doesn’t have the ability to analyze complicated information, but leaves that work to the boring System 2. He doesn’t think things through, but reacts to things on the fly. His job is to make snap judgements, not think slowly through problems. His ultimate purpose is to guide System 2, and awake him in the event that there is important information to be analyzed. System 2, on the other hand, is always in the background sleeping. He only wants to be awoken if there is highly important information to analyze. He’s the ornery, but intelligent occupant of the brain.

Most entrepreneurs pitch to System 2 by stuffing their pitch full of logical facts and numbers. Little do they know, System 2 is asleep, and System 1 isn’t paying attention or alerting System 2 because the information doesn’t seem exciting or interesting. In order for you to communicate with System 2, you first have to grab the attention of System 1. 

The two best ways to appeal to System 1 are fear and greed.

In the first few minutes of your pitch you need to either get the investor fearing that if they don’t invest they’ll “miss out,” or experiencing a hit of dopamine at the thought of making loads of money.

Once you get them experiencing those feelings of fear of “missing out” or greed, System 1 will tell System 2 to wake up and pay attention. Only at that point can you rely on logical data.


As I mentioned, we don’t have all the answers. The suggested structure that follows is simply one way to structure your pitch, but it is one that was rigorously developed over weeks and weeks of consistent effort at Techstars Boulder. I’ve found that this structure works extremely well for most situations:

Hook — 20 seconds to make me pay attention. What can you say to grab my attention? What storylines could you use (Hero’s journey? Origin story? Customer story? Awesome traction? Industry trend?)?

Problem description —up to 40 seconds, no industry jargon, simple/crisp, make it bleed.

Solution description —clear statement of how you solve the problem and what is different/unique.

Demo (what might you want to show, what situation may you want to demo) —up to 1 min demo / product walk.

Business model —how do or will you make money

Go to market strategy —which customers will you target and how will you reach them?

Traction —what traction has your company achieved? Revenue, customers, etc.

Opportunity —what is the bigger opportunity here and why will investors get excited?

Team —what is your background and why are you the team to do this?

The ask/close —what do you want the audience to do (invest? Buy? Tell friends? Find you for a meeting?)

This was originally published on Medium.


Dignity Health St. John’s collaborates with Camarillo Chamber of Commerce to launch Startup Weekend Ventura County , CA


Dignity Health St. John’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital have partnered with the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce to launch the inaugural Startup Weekend Ventura County on March 11-13, 2016 at Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo, CA.

Startup Weekend Ventura County 11

The event will focus on innovative Internet of Things solutions for Healthcare and Agriculture. Startup Weekend is a 54-hour weekend event, during which entrepreneurs pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and develop a working prototype, demo, or presentation by Sunday evening. As a result, participants will learn how to create a real company and meet the best mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors who have the knowledge, resources and tools to help entrepreneurs get started.

“Partnering with others in the community to improve the quality of life is one of our three stated missions,” said Darren Lee, President and CEO of St. John’s Hospitals. “Helping to create high-paying jobs by supporting entrepreneurs’ launch of technology-driven businesses is an effective way to achieve it.” “Scalable business is fundamental to driving robust and sustainable economic growth,” added Gary Cushing, Chief Executive Officer of Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. “The high cost of housing makes it hard to attract out-of-state technology companies to set up shop in California. We need to grow our own. To accomplish this, we have to create an environment conducive to entrepreneurs launching their new businesses in our backyard.”

Startup Weekend: Template for Final Presentations

Template for the Final Presentations on Sunday night:


J-20 avant le 1er StartupWeekend d’Avignon


Plus que 20 jours avant que le 1er Startup Weekend Avignon n’ouvre ses portes. Il est temps de réfléchir à son projet et comment le présenter. C’était l’objectif du pitch training organisé hier au Bridge à Avignon dans les locaux de la French Tech Culture.

Une soixantaine de personnes réunies pour mieux comprendre ce qu’est un Startup Weekend et surtout être formée à l’exercice difficile du pitch (présentation de son projet) en 60 secondes.

Wiliam Roy, (, coach / formateur en développement personnel, mais surtout notre super facilitateur qui nous guide dans l’organisation de ce 1er Startup Weekend, était présent hier soir pour donner aux participants des trucs et astuces pour pitcher ses idées business en 60 secondes chrono.


Alors qu’est-ce qui fait un bon pitch ?

– Il doit être construit et réfléchi à l’avance : En une minute, il n’y a pas de place à l’improvisation. Le premier soir il peut y avoir jusqu’à 60 projets présentés. Pour se démarquer il faut être préparé.

– Les mots utilisés doivent être simples et compréhensibles par tous : Oubliez le jargon professionnel ou technique. Si vous voulez recruter une équipe efficace et adaptée à votre projet, elle doit bien comprendre votre idée et ses enjeux. Les mots techniques arriveront ensuite pendant la phase de travail.

– Il doit répondre à ces quelques questions : Qui suis-je ? Quelle est ma légitimité par rapport à l’idée ? Quel est le problème et la solution que je propose ? De quoi ai-je besoin ? Quel est le nom de mon projet ? Et oui tout ça en 60 secondes… !

– Et enfin, le pitcheur doit être aussi préparé : Pourquoi ne pas s’entraîner devant un miroir ou un groupe d’amis avant l’événement pour corriger en amont ses petits tics de gestuel qui brouillent souvent les informations que l’on veut donner. Un bon projet oui, mais il doit être incarné par une personne enthousiaste, motivée et claire à la fois dans ses mots et son langage corporel.

Ayez confiance en votre idée, soyez original et surtout dîtes-vous que le meilleur endroit pour tester son pitch c’est pendant un Startup Weekend. Les participants sont tous là pour s’améliorer, développer leurs idées et/ou penser autrement leur concept. Que votre idée soit sélectionnée en short-liste ou non, tout le travail accompli pendant le weekend vous fera avancer dans vos propres projets.

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I° Premio Innovazione Giovani Imprenditori Confcommercio Lecce

2015_SWLecce-locandina-A3-STAMPA_CCommercio-01Startup Weekend Lecce quest’anno ha una marcia in più!

Il gruppo Giovani Imprenditori Confcommercio Lecce in collaborazione con Confcommercio Imprese per l’Italia, presenta il I° Premio Innovazione Giovani Imprenditori Confcommercio Lecce, con una call rivolta alle startup della Provincia di Lecce operanti nei settori Turismo e Cultura.

Possono partecipare:

a) le imprese attive ed inattive, iscritte al Registro delle imprese CCIA di Lecce a partire dal 01/01/2011 che si occupino di attività culturali e turistiche a carattere innovativo;

b) le imprese costituente non ancora iscritte al Registro delle imprese CCIA di Lecce che si occupino di attività culturali e turistiche a carattere innovativo.

Il premio finale è costituito da servizi del valore economico di 2000 € più attività di mentoring annuale del Dipartimento Innovazione di Confcommercio Imprese per l’Italia.

Le aziende selezionate faranno un pitch il 3 ottobre alle 19 presso le Officine Cantelmo davanti ad una giuria tecnica di esperti di Confcommercio. La durata del pitch è di 5 minuti.

Per partecipare leggi le info e invia una presentazione aziendale in formato digitale all’indirizzo entro il 1 ottobre.
E’ un’occasione preziosissima che ti permetterà di trasformare il tuo sogno in realtà!

In bocca al lupo!

VIDEO Retrospective of Startup Weekend Riga 2015-1