Creating a Short, Short Pitch

Minister: Here we go. The short, short version.  Do you?

Lone Starr: Yes

Minister: Do you?”

Princess Vespa: Yes

Minister: Good! You’re married. Kiss her!

Dialogue from Spaceballs The Movie


Doing what I do, I get the chance to talk to angel investors and VC’s when their guard is down.  We get to talk not while they are trying to critique startups at places like UltraLight Startups (where they can actually be voted best panelist), ERA sessions or Disruptive Technologists meetings but when they are just kicking back and having a beer.  Like many of us, they are a bit different when they not onstage.

It is in this environment that you learn more about what makes them click.  My very informal assessment is that most are sensors.  Now, if you are familiar with it, the Meyers Briggs tool highlights four types of “personalities”; the sensor who is action oriented, the thinker who gathers lots of facts, the feeler who uses emotion as a guide and the intuiter who tends to rise above the fray.  So, what does my little analysis translate into – if the investors are action oriented and they see dozens of plans a day, the appropriate action to take in most cases would be rejection.

Thus, the desire for the “short, short version” – the art of effectively presenting your case in the shortest time possible.  Consider something like “my developed (evolving) product solves this problem for this size market.  It is like _____ .  “Now one of my clients had a phrase “says easy; does hard.”  Being brief does not mean being ineffective.  It is tough to do things small and that is what is required here.  But, it is also solidifying your vision.

I have seen loads of pitches and many took a long time to get to the point.  If you remember History of the World, Marcus Vendictus was relaying the story behind a hidden gift for Caesar. About 20 seconds into his pitch, Caesar blurts out “what’s under the sheet?”  Attention spans are short, so getting to the point quickly is a very effective tool.  Let me share with you three of the better examples:

Vizalytics described its approach as “big data for small business.”  You know their direction in five words.

Agolo sometimes refers to itself as a Google for Twitter.  Three words and you get it.

But, my all time favorite is actually not a pitch – but the picture on the first page of a deck.  Rob Cauccio was trying to get across an app that would be particularly helpful to male roommates.  It made it easy for them to cover basic household needs: everything from splitting the rent payment to the more mundane stocking of household goods.  The deck cover was the picture of a male hand reaching for an empty toilet paper tube.  You know the saying; a picture is worth a thousand words.

So, when you are developing your deck, think of the famous elevator pitch – you know the one where you have a VC captive for 12 floors.  Just make believe he is getting off on the third floor and you will do fine.


Success Through Failure

Wayne Campbell: No way !

Garth Algar: Way !

From the movie Wayne’s World


As difficult as it may be to understand, many believe that the way to success is to experience failure.  So, by design, if you have a fear of failure, it is probably not a good idea to become an entrepreneur.  Many inventors and creative types were not concerned with failure.  Thomas Edison basically considered every failure an experiment and to master a technique or process, you had to do it 10,000 times to reach that level of competence.  Trying anything that many times has to be an exercise fraught with failure, so one view is to consider failure as part of the rocky road to success.


But, how does an entrepreneur harness the power of failure and turn it into success?  There are probably five rules to consider in order to accomplish this difficult goal:


1. Be honest about admitting to mistakes (failures).  Sincerity trumps most traits when it comes to dealing with your team, potential investors and customers.  Others want to know you considered alternative approaches and perhaps they all did not work. Somewhat appropriately, it is considered as thinking outside the box in order to get the optimal answer.


2. If at first you do not fail, try, try again.  The old saying “nothing ventured; nothing gained” comes to mind. Trying new approaches and embracing whatever the results of those efforts are become part of the process when you seek success.


3. Understand what went wrong.  You start on this journey knowing something will go wrong, so set up your process so you understand what it is.  Why didn’t prospective customers take to your product?  Why didn’t the product deliver what you expected?  Seek feedback so you understand the “why.”


4. Learn from your mistakes.  The mirror to point #3 is using what you understand went wrong to modify your approach.  You have suffered the pain of loss; learn from it.


5. Maintain your resilience.  A positive attitude that leads you to understand that this is a process and failure is a teacher and not an enemy, will allow you to put your failure in perspective and see it as just one more step in accomplishing your goal.


So yes… “way.”  Failure can be an important part of your road to success.  Learn to embrace it and learn from it.  You, too, can turn lemons into lemonade.