Ahead of this year’s PITCH competition, entrepreneur, investor and broadcaster Bobby Kerr imparts his top ten tips for pitching success.
PITCH, sponsored by Audi, is the biggest start-up competition of its type in Europe. 200 startups from around the world competing to be crowned 2015’s best startup. Finalists will present to thousands of attendees and a panel of international judges made up of investors, journalists and established entrepreneurs.
1. Get your story straight
Present a clear, easy to digest narrative of your business. How will your business change my life, save me money, save me time or make me happier?
Secondly, what separates it from the competition? How did it come to fruition? Did you have a moment of epiphany, a life-changing encounter, or was it a case of trial and error?
2. Sell yourselves as well as your product
Remember, you are selling yourself as much as your idea. Give some consideration as to how you want to position yourself and your team. Too often in the past, I have seen start ups that were so engrossed in their product that they completely neglected to sell themselves.
Ultimately you are try to sell two key elements: (1) your product and (2) that you are the best possible person to sell this product. Make sure your communication style reflects your personality. If you’re a very straightforward person, embrace it. Equally, if you’re naturally more conversational in style, make that work for you too. Don’t try to be something you’re not.
3. Time is of the essence
Use your time wisely. If you are given an allocated time to pitch, keep to that time. There is nothing more frustrating than poor time management and there is no excuse for running overtime.
4. Follow through on your vision
One of the most important ingredients for any budding entrepreneur is persistence and tenacity. Every startup will encounter setbacks and disappointment at some stage in their PR360 draft version 5 development. Even the brightest idea combined with the most robust of business plans won’t amount to much unless you have a relentless persistence to overcome these challenges.
Prove to the PITCH judges that you have the prerequisite passion to see your vision through.
5. Know your market
Saying it is one thing, but actually understanding it is another. Your market includes your customers, suppliers and competitors, to name but a few. Anecdotal research is not sufficient. I learnt this the hard way. Take some time out to properly research your market and customer. What does your customer want? What is the competition doing and how can you create a niche for yourself?
The better you know about your customer, the better equipped you are to tailor your product and talk directly to your market.
6. Tell me about your user community
If you’re expecting investors to help build your business, tell them about your user community. Investors want to back companies that show strong promise of developing and maintaining a large user base. This may sound like a case of chicken and egg, but users are the key to your capital.
7. Know your numbers
If you are asking investors to part with their money, the very least they will expect is that you know the financials behind your business. This includes everything from current sales figures, investment to date, business targets, projected revenue, liabilities, and company assets. Hesitancy creates doubt so make sure you sound sure of yourself on these details.
8. Tell us about your own investment
How much have you invested to date in the company and what did you spend this money on? Have you spent your money wisely? Was it development costs, wages, marketing or supplier costs? Every start-up has a financial history, so make sure you use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your own financial investment.
Investors want to know that you are going to treat their capital with the same respect that you would treat your own. Demonstrate how you have maximised your own investment.
9. Be prepared for the difficult questions
You are asking for investors to take a big leap of faith by backing your vision. Therefore, expect them to ask some difficult questions. If you don’t know your product and business plan inside out, you will be exposed. Having said this, treat this as an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the market and confidence in your own offering.
10. Enjoy it
Starting your own business is stressful, exhausting, daunting and all–consuming, but it’s also one of the most exciting things you will ever do.