What's so challenging about that elevator pitch? Have it down pat? Well has it impressed an investor? What if English is not your native tongue? Ah, well that's where our story begins.
Getting to the 30th Floor: What's the driving force behind an effective elevator pitch? The old adage that one never has a second chance to make a first impression is ever so true when approaching an investor. Of course, no matter how compelling, no one will invest a seed or A round of capital based on just the 30 second elevator pitch. However thinking from day one about positioning, allows an entrepreneur to begin developing skills on what it takes to spark interest from a potential investor or strategic partner.
The purpose of the 30 second elevator pitch is getting exciting and capturing the interest of a potential investor so s/he sticks with you 'till the 30th floor' -- to be sufficiently curious to request a presentation or meeting. Should sensationalism guide you on that elevator ride? No but a little daring, enthusiasm and a bold statement can only separate you from the crowd of other entrepreneurs vying for investors' attention.
One size does not fit all. Entrepreneurs often err by assuming investors are the same. Big mistake. Each investor has a unique focal point; a particular area of interest. Pitching a late-stage communications investor on your early-stage social media business will find you as much cash as there is water in the Sahara desert. Before the first pitch, an entrepreneur must understand the characteristics of the ideal investor -- and seek them out. These characteristics include level, area, and stage of investments, level of involvement, relationships and networks -- all in addition to the required capital.
Made in the USA -- not necessarily. We've seen that investors in Germany, the UK, Russia and yes even the US -especially in the past year -- have moved from local to global in seeking the next blockbuster technology. We've seen investors attracted to Israel's track record as the "Start-Up Nation as well as to Turkey's mystique and skill at bootstrapping their start-ups. All are seeking tomorrow's winner. Innovation and opportunity is a global game -there's a whole world yet to be yet uncovered outside traditional geographies.
Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley or New York have learned the ABC's of pitching almost from grade school. As a European investor once described to an audience of entrepreneurs in Kiev, the skills we learn from first grade onward by presenting Show N Tell to our classmates primes Americans to begin perfecting their pitch early on. Do entrepreneurs across the Atlantic thereby have a disadvantage in appealing to investors from the US or Europe? Do they need a better widget, better tech team, more patents to 'overcome' this alleged deficiency?
I would argue no. Rather the art -which comes so naturally to Americans -
can be taught, practiced and finessed. Passion, intelligence, experience and know-how will work together to bring that 30 second initial elevator pitch to a near pitch perfect. In fact the home court advantage I would posit, lies with non-Americans. We've seen Israeli, Turks, Russians, Bulgarian entrepreneurs, work harder than their American or native English speaking counterparts to demonstrate why their product or service merits global attention. That focus, discipline, persistence has paid off with an intensity that often impresses investors seeking the next great technological breakthrough -- beyond American start-ups.
In the hundreds of companies we identify, screen, filter and work with at BootCamp Ventures, we continue to see that each non-Western nationality brings more than the sum of its parts to the game when championing his (unfortunately too few women) venture to global investors. Israelis bring an unbeatable spirit, daring, determination. Turks -- a humbleness that prompts them to work that much harder-bootstrapping their way to profitability.
Yet there is a learning curve -- often entrepreneurs from these countries focus on their exceptional technology without spending sufficient time-marketing the company; or underestimate how critical the go-to-market strategy is. They sometimes need time to buy into the concept that there can never be enough preparation before approaching investors.
5 Ways to Perfect that Pitch (applicable to Americans, Israelis, Turks, all Western and Eastern Cultures:
1. Be energetic -- the first impression should convey the passion and excitement you have for your venture. If you're not excited, why should your listener be interested?
2. Capture attention with large numbers you can substantiate. "10 billion market which our widget will capture 10%. But don't offer hubris or lies
3. Begin by describing a problem people can relate to; then how your product/service will creatively address this concern
4. Dare to question: Begin with a question to engage the investor -- get them involved from the get go so they are keen to follow your train of thought
5. Don't ramble. Short, succinct, pithy sentences always trumps long-winded explanations and demonstrates clarity and focus