The startups that give the best startup pitch are the ones who do the best job of filtering the advice they receive before taking the stage. In order to do this successfully, I recommend you start blowing up ‘advice’ balloons.”
Serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Just Eat, Marc Wesselink, shared the startup pitch advice above with our team at Tradler and the other startups participating in this year’s accelerator at Startupbootcamp Smart City & IoT in Amsterdam.
“After each piece of feedback you receive, blow up a balloon. Then assign a color representing their advice and their experience. When you have finished collecting feedback, and blowing up these ‘advice’ balloons, look up. It’s your job to see which color and size dominates the sky. If you see a pattern of big green balloons, that is probably the best advice to heed when moving forward with your pitch.”
Marc’s recommendation kicked off a conversation regarding other great pieces of startup pitch advice. Below are the balloons the founders have come across at Startupbootcamp.
Clearly Define Your Desired Outcome Before Structuring Your Pitch
The story you want to tell only becomes relevant when your audience connects with your objectives. To make sure your audience connects with your goals, we recommend clearly identifying your ideal outcome. Some ideal outcomes could include securing an investment or attracting the attention of your dream investor. Then design the rest of your pitch around this goal, your “true north.”
For every startup pitch we give, we first ask ourselves, “After we’ve finished speaking, what do we want the audience to feel?” This could be as simple as joining us on our journey as an investor or advisor. A “true north” will ensure you are giving the right information, to the right people, in a context that is aligned with your company goals.
Record Yourself, Record Yourself and Then Record Yourself Again
When pitching to investors, the best version of yourself must come through. From my experience building Transferhero, the best way to accomplish this is to record yourself. I did this daily for the two weeks leading up to my first big startup pitch. I accredit the practice for opening the doors that I can now walk through.
Recording yourself teaches you which words you may be used as a crutch (like, “like”). Additionally, it allows you to see where in your startup pitch where you need to change your tone. Also, it recording yourself teaches you how to use the power of silence to drive a point home as well as how to better use your body language to engage with your audience.
Surround Yourself With People Who Aren’t Afraid to Rip Your Pitch Apart
Advice from Jasper Deprez, Co-founder, and CEO of Tradler
Before presenting to a room full of investors, we ran our startup pitch by the Managing Directors of Startupbootcamp. What they said in response was not pretty. However, we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
The words, “Your pitch is terrible,” are hard to swallow. But in order to get your pitch right, it’s imperative that you open yourself up to these uncomfortable conversations.
As entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to think what’s clear to us, is clear to everyone. This is dangerous thinking, and the more feedback you open yourself up to, the better the odds of connecting with your audience.
The Best Pitch in the World Is Worthless if Given to the Wrong Audience
When starting out, many startups jump at the chance to speak to any investor. From our experience, we’ve learned how unproductive and time consuming this is. Time is money. This applies not only on the investors’ end but also on ours as entrepreneurs. Ask and use Crunchbase to research questions like:
Do the investors have a reputation for investing in the area of our expertise?
What is the status of their past investments?
Do their passions and values align with ours?
Do your due diligence to ensure you’re not holding your ax in front of the wrong tree.
Make Sure You Focus More on What You Are Doing Instead of What You Plan to Do
The best pieces of advice we came across while perfecting our pitch seemed small to us at the time. However, since implementing the switch, we’ve experienced big results.
Instead of having your default setting at, “We will do X.” Make a habit of saying, “We are doing X.” Previously unpersuasive statements turn into, “We are working with three launching partners” or, “we are selling our software in three countries.”
This small change in language sounds more competent and confident, both of which are “must-haves” in the eyes of investors.
Play to Your Strengths and Give Your Intuition the Last Word
Moving a startup from zero to one can be incredibly stressful. However, from day one we’ve worked hard to create a fun company culture. We want this to show in our pitch in order to attract the right investors and advisors.
That said, we’ve decided to disregard the advice warning against the dangers of adding humor into your pitch. Of course, investors want to make money. However, we’ve learned first hand that they also want to work with people and teams they connect with on a personal level.
Never forget that the investor-investee relationship is a two-way street. From our experience, staying true to our mission and showing our personality is one way we’ve stood out. This has helped us tremendously to attract investors who share similar values and goals.
Spend More Time on the First Sentence Than You Think You Should
Famed advertiser, David Oligvy said, “80 cents of your dollar should be spent on the headline.” Just like in print, the best presentations grab the attention from the audience from the word go.
From our experience, the best way to accomplish this is by studying the work of people like Steve Jobs. “Today we reinvented the phone.” ”1,000 songs in your pocket.” If you combine these thought-provoking statements with strong visuals you will have the attention you were looking for.
Simple Is King. And Please, No Bullshitting
Early on in our journey, we were told to never use complicated or wordy sentences when giving a startup pitch. Keeping it simple has served us well. It’s a reminder that entrepreneurs who make the strongest connections may think like scientists, but speak in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand.
Also, avoid the bullshit. Keep gut “projections” based on your feelings about the market at home. Instead of sharing your reality, you open yourself up to a potentially disastrous question and session.
In short, the best pitches tell investors exactly what they need to know and not a word more.
Now the Startup Pitch Is in Your Hands
And there you have it, eight “advice” balloons from the teams participating in this year’s accelerator at Startupbootcamp Smart City and IoT. Now all you have to do is follow Marc Wesselink’s advice and look up at the sky. See what advice works best for your mission and nail your next startup pitch.
Michael Thompson is the communication lead at Tradler, a software solution that increases employee engagement, and a freelance writer specializing in helping “Startups” become “Stayups.” He currently resides in small town Catalunya and his work has been shared by Fast Company, INC and Thrive Global.