TCN Minute to Win It

I had the privilege of being one of a dozen or so judges at a breakfast pitch competition co-sponsored by Launchpad Venture Group (where I'm a member) and The Capital Network (TCN, where I'm on the advisory board). Called "Minute to Win It", this was a set on one-on-one speed pitches - elevator pitches, in the parlance - by a dozen or so entrepreneurs, each doing a timed, one minute pitch to one investor, then receiving three minutes of feedback, then repeat with three more investors.

My experience with the four entrepreneurs I met was that they rallied to the charge, but all had thing they could improve. We selected a winner from each of the three groups of participants, who went on to give their pitch to the whole audience, and one was selected as the overall winner.

The three "finalists" were all great, but one of them - not the eventual winner! - was particularly amusing. Gerard Murphy of Mosaic Archive actually sang his pitch to us. This led to a very interesting discussion of what would make an entrepreneur and his pitch memorable to an investor. I'd like to mention a few points that came up.

First, singing his pitch was indeed very memorable. And Gerard actually hit on most of the points of his "real" pitch. That said, many in the audience were already familiar with the company; we might not have gotten as much from the song had that not been the case.

Another company, Nestled Bean, had a unique product. This is another way to being memorable. If you're making a very new and different product, you become differentiated, and thus memorable. Bonus points if you have an instance of your product in your pocket to give out, or even a picture of it on your card.

Our eventual winner, RippleFly, is a system to improve the sales process for companies that use CRM. OK, each of the investors in the room have seen dozens of these, and in a minute it's really hard to memorably distinguish yourself from the herd. The problem does not come immediately, when the entrepreneur is fresh in the investor's mind, but 3 or 6 months later, when he calls the investor who has no clue which this is of the dozen sales process improvements companies he's seen in that period. 

That puts the entrepreneur in a bind, for sure. One technique is behavioral - sing the pitch, dress wildly, whatever - but this risks being memorable on a personal level, but not on the business idea level. It may be all you've got, so don't write it off completely. On the other hand, if you have a "name" customer evaluating or using your stuff, be sure to mention it on the first meeting: "Home Depot is trying us in three stores", then on the next meeting, "last time we talked, Home Depot was trying us, now they've rolled us out to two regions." The investor may not remember precisely what the business was, but the resonance (and progress) helps us recall much more of the earlier exchange.

Bottom line here is that the entrepreneur needs to be conscious of the fact that investors see a lot of deal flow, so it's important to help them recall the company. Think creatively, but perhaps not so creatively that you have to sing your company's ditty on every elevator ride.

In the full disclosure department, I must mention that I've been an advisor to Mosaic for the past several months. I had no idea Gerard was doing his pitch in song, however.

Copyright 1997-2017, Ben Littauer