Regardless of Web 3.0 collective intelligence--and the 128GB smartphone in the pocket--the digital crutches are stripped away as the startup founder takes the stage to tell her startup story and seek venture capital funding. The human-to-human connection has remained a mainstay regardless of the fact that the world has gone into technological hyper-drive. And, likewise, the futurist startup founder is practicing an act of persuasion which many believe is the single most important factor for venture capital funding. Yet the method of persuasion hasn't evolved much since 370 BC when Aristotle derived the key to influence your audience, which includes ethos (personal credibility), pathos (speaker's emotion and passion), and logos (the logic of the argument being made).
Recently, I watched 1,000 new technology startups from 89 countries do just this: give their pitch to investors at the Collision Conference in Las Vegas. Most new companies are putting significant effort into a well-focused, concise, persuasive pitch-- and for good reason as it is the last component needed after a smart founder creates a great product and is ready to take that idea to the public.
Lisa Falzone, CEO of Revel Systems, knows the importance of a good persuasive startup pitch. Falzone has clearly mastered her pitch about the iPad's ability to be a premiere point of sale solution for companies around the globe. From Falzone's credibility, passion and logic, Revel Systems has raised over $115 million in venture capital funding and has propelled her company and its ever increasing roster of over 250 employees to the top of the market.
Falzone acknowledges the importance of clear startup pitches and says, "I think the person-to-person connection is everything. One of the big reasons investors invest is the passion and energy from the startup founders and that doesn't come across on paper or digitally. They want to see that you are all in, that you are going to do whatever it takes to make this happen. I really think in-person startup pitches are a huge part of the equation."
Milana Rabkin has current experience in the startup game. A few months back Rabkin switched from being on the receiving end of startup pitches while working with United Talent Agency to starting her own startup venture, Stem, an accounting and administration platform for artists' earnings. She recently concluded her first round of funding successfully, moved into her first office space, and is building up her platform and footprint as CEO of Stem.
For Rabkin, it's all about constant refinement of the pitch. She says, "We spent a lot of time working on our pitch during the creation of our startup. We went though many different iterations as we progressed. We ended up making a pitch deck toward investors who understood the technology of our platform and those who did not."
Rabkin also employed a few analytic tricks to better tailor her persuasive ability. "We used a software called docsend.com so we could get analytics on how people were viewing our digital presentation as far as what slides they spent the most time on as well as what ones they would breeze through. We paid a lot of attention to it and we continued to evolve our pitch every time someone viewed our files." In addition, Rabkin also says she utilized crystalknows.com, which informs its users about the general demeanor of a proposed email recipient and offers advice on how best to communicate specifically to the style of the individual.
If anyone knows the inside and outside to successful startup pitches, it's David Beckett. Beckett has helped over 130 startups refine their presentation for higher likelihood of investment success.
In a startup pitch you can break it down into the two sides: the rational and the irrational. Beckett finds it hard to say the rational data 'that you take in 8% on every transaction' with enthusiasm.
But Beckett gives an example of an irrational statement and tells me, "if you say 'the reason I am in this business to help small businesses create mobile websites instantly and free is because when my father was a small businessman Walmart came to the street corner and they took over his business and he went bankrupt, and I want to stand for the small companies like my Dad's business and I want them to have a presence online.' When you have somebody telling that you see the eyes pop."
In the end there is some sort of driver that is more than money and more than wanting to create a global company says Beckett. The key seems to be finding this passion, steeping it in digital savviness and boiling down the outcome in a personal presentation that highlights the human spirit. It is those ingredients that have held the test of time. We can learn a lot from history.
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