How to pitch right to raise fundingVinay Dora
“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing,” said Pitcher Warren Spahn once, just once. This quote from Baseball’s Hall of Fame legend essentially has a one-word takeaway for startup pitchers: timing. Whether it’s arriving on-time to pitch, the time one takes to pitch or knowing when one's time has really come. As you would have noticed, the time for many startups did come or probably will come in the near future.
In just the last couple of months, I’ve been privy to over a 100 startup pitches, and at locations such as taxis, elevators, pubs, co-working spaces, conference venues, and more. Here are some of my learnings from four startup pitch formats: Crowd Pitch, Closed-door Pitch, Creative Pitch, and Conference Pitch.
A signature pitching competition at Crowd Product, where along with an investors’ panel, the audience too are empowered to rate startup pitches through their laptops and other mobile devices.
The winning pitches are a combination of investor scores (usually a major percentage of the share) and the audience (who are generally pre-vetted).
From getting spaces at state-of-the-art incubators and co-working locations like T-Hub, Hyderabad to global conference passes like Echelon Asia Summit in Singapore and investments by funds like Unitus Seed Fund, many Crowd Pitchers have gained from their wins at such events.
Recent Crowd Pitch winners include:
- GUVI (Grab Ur Vernacular Imprint): Online vernacular learning platform, focused on IT skills.
- Fundamentor: Adaptive aptitude development program for children aged eight to 15 years.
- CodeMoJo: API and SDK for Plug & Play cashback wallet and loyalty engine for applications.
This exclusive pitching session traditionally involves only accredited investors, as well as other startup influencers, invited by the organisers to listen to shortlisted pitches. In this format, the startup founders do not get to hear or watch their peers pitch. Also, the pitchers are given more time to present themselves, and usually with the goal of trying to have investment cheques signed sooner.
Some of the startups that pitched at a recently-held closed-door event ‘Pichathon’ at startup incubator ‘Excubator’ are:
- Brisky: Personal concierge helping people discover, book, and share local experiences of interest.
- Levo: Online platform to browse profiles of co-passengers and seat themselves so they can network.
- Gamatics: Provides information and support for people to adopt sports and excel in them.
These pitch formats are customised for corporate partners so they can generate interest among their users within a short timeframe. The formats here are quite flexible and open to creative ideas like pitching while on a taxi ride, at airports, during cruises, and other unconventional places one may think of.
For #UberPITCH Hyderabad, we brought together a dozen investors and influencers, five of whom sat in an Uber each, and interacted with over 20 startup founders. The top startup pitches here included:
- WichPlease: Choose from ingredients range to make customisable sandwiches for one's taste buds.
- Zapluk: On-demand services at home for fitness, beauty, and all types of wellness.
- IXcream: Online parlour delivering a range of ice-creams to one’s doorstep.
These annual or semi-annual showcase events typically attract the best of startup talent from around the world. I had the opportunity to attend one recently, TiEcon 2016, as part of Nasscom’s Innotrek startup delegation. I asked a fellow Indian startup delegate, whose company UncannyVision Solutions, applied to TiE50 and got shortlisted, on his pitch experience.
While the startup founder began by mentioning that his company had to pay a $1000 fee for being shortlisted and being able to pitch at TiE50 (companies list), he said he gained connects to a number of potential investors and industry partners during the event. He believes pitching and networking at such large conferences does help one amplify their startup’s message.
So, whether you are a startup founder or an investor or in some way part of the innovation-led startup ecosystem, each of the above pitch formats have something to offer. Let us know of your pitch experiences in the comments below.