Thodi si to lift kara de: How to prepare your best elevator pitch

Asia's Tech News Daily

100X.VC, #CEO, #startups

Note to readers: This is the first installment of a new series of articles designed to give our readers an edge on matters of competitiveness, upskilling/reskilling and knowledge gathering. Essayed in a lucid, snackable format, this #HowTo series would act as a tutorial, bringing in the most relevant voices on a subject, so that you benefit the most in your business or career. In the article below, we dwell on a basic, but crucial skill — The Art of Elevator Pitches.

At a typical fat Indian wedding, venture capitalist Sanjay Mehta, founder of 100X.VC, was once faced with a strange proposal. The father of the groom came up to him and pitched on his son’s behalf. Right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of the reception, Mehta was wooed with an elevator pitch. Needless to say, the dad-pitch failed.

On the other hand, Navneet Gupta, founder of financial solutions provider YPay, didn’t try to boil the ocean. He was precise in his elevator pitch to Gaurav Singhvi of We Founder Circle, a community of founders and angel investors. Navneet, from Bareilly, could hardly speak English. But that didn’t prevent We Founder Circle from leading a $400,000 bridge investment, along with few other investors, into the firm because of the founder’s confidence and conviction that he can scale the business. The pitch hardly lasted a minute.

So, what is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch may be defined as a short, well-crafted speech that helps you sell an idea, succinctly. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride, hence the name.

The elevator pitch is often used by a start-up founder to impress a potential investor or by a sales manager to create client interest or even by employees to sell an idea to the CEO.

Effective elevator pitch – The Do’s

> Talk precisely about the problem that you are solving and why.
Sell the USP of the idea.

> Mention the addressable market size and the idea’s scalability. “A simple elevator pitch should cover points like the problem, solution, benefits, competition, traction, target market and the team,” says Apoorva Ranjan Sharma, co-founder of Venture Catalysts and managing director of 9Unicorns Accelerator Fund.

· Do not speak too fast. Do not make it sound like an aggressive sales pitch.
> The elevator pitch should be brief. Not more than 30 seconds. “A Twitter-style pitch,” says Mehta of 100X.VC, who has invested in over 150 start-ups including eventual unicorns like Oyo and CoinDCX.
> Try to make eye contact and deliver the pitch with confidence. Being jittery, doesn’t cut it.
> The focus should be on getting to the next meeting and not closing the deal. So, do not bombard the investor with additional information. “At the end, craft a compelling call to action like setting up a follow-up call or a face-to-face meeting,” says Sharma of Venture Catalysts, which has done over 200 deals with 40 exits in the last five years.

> Choose the right time to pitch. “I often get pitched in the washroom or while having a quick lunch. That gets very uncomfortable,” says Nandini Mansinghka, co-founder and CEO of Mumbai Angels Network, which is into early-stage venture investments.

Effective elevator pitch – The Don’ts
> Asking straight for money during an elevator pitch isn’t a good idea, says Mehta.
> Adjectives and rhetoric should be avoided. Do not bring in a statement or word that’s ambiguous or confusing. The narrative has to be linear and straightforward.
> A poorly crafted pitch will go wrong anyway. The content is important. Not talking about the potential to scale quickly or defining the edge of your product or service can be a big mistake.
> Respect the investor’s point of view. There are cases where the founders feel offended when the investor has a contrarian view, says Singhvi of We Founder Circle.
> Lack of enthusiasm or confidence can also lead to the investor just walking away.
> “Don’t accost the investor. Respect his time,” says Mansinghka of Mumbai Angels. If you have asked for a one-minute conversation, don’t stretch it to ten.

> Never try to be someone else. For instance, if you are not comfortable in English, speak in Hindi or any other regional language that the investor understands.

The Preparation

How you say it is as important as what you say. So, the preparation has to be spot on. Many founders are known to practise the pitch in front of a mirror. Remember, you only have a short time with that high profile investor, especially if you are a newbie founder.

“Think of yourself as a performer,” says Mansinghka of Mumbai Angels. Practise, perform, record and review the pitch. It should look effortless.

Remember investors are trained to spot a passionate founder. So, don’t be passive. “What I look for is energy,” says Gaurav Singhvi of We Founder Circle. That’s why he once cut a cheque immediately for Jasmeet Thind, founder of social commerce platform Coutloot. “My investment criteria are tuned in a way that I give 60% weightage to the founder,” he says.

With so much content available to make your pitch better, there is no real excuse for not preparing adequately. “I would recommend that founders see the web series Pitch Right season 1&2 on YouTube,” says Mehta. It’s a non-edited version where founders pitch in a real elevator in the Bombay Stock Exchange building.

Preparing different lengths of the pitch may also be useful, says Sharma of Venture Catalysts. This will help you to tailor the conversation depending on the time available with the investor.

If you fail to convince the investor even with all that preparation, remember that another elevator is on its way.

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