Pitching it right

  • Columns
  • Monday, 21 Sep 2015

Pitch your business ideas to the right people at the right time with the right attitude for the right product. And remember, Rome was not built in a day!

IN any pitching sessions, presenting the right impression of an idea is vital as it can either make or break an entrepreneur.

Now, we often hear the saying that a great idea with a poor execution will lead to nothing but a disaster. Remember, however, that the damage is never permanent. The execution of idea, just like self-confidence, is a skill that can be taught and practised.

It will get better over time.

Since joining Cradle Fund, I have attended numerous pitching events as an observer, a judge and even as an investor. And if I’m honest about the experience, there have been occasions where I’ve been left amazed by the energy, preparation and knowledge brought to the table by some entrepreneurs.

If only more were like them...

How can you tell between good and bad ideas? This is one question that judges are often asked.

Well, it’s easy to differentiate them. Good ideas are normally the ones that you can easily understand, are interesting and hook you instantly. The bad ones on the other hand, have no clear sense of direction or meaning, fall between the cracks and are forgettable.

Here’s my take on what makes a good business idea and presentation.

Simple and Clear

A good idea is always presented in a simple and clear presentation. Even if the idea is relatively new and unfamiliar, the presenter should be able to relate it to the available solutions to enable judges and investors to see the idea and its potential.

A presenter should also find the sweet spot of the idea and put his presentation on display in a simple but interesting manner. Keep in mind that in a pitch session with little time given, your idea must be explained in just 60 seconds.

To come out with an impactful and informative jam-packed presentation, you can keep working on the timing by revising your presentation or get some tips from professionals.

Be prepared

Each pitch competition differs in requirements and objectives. While this is not common, you might want to consider getting as much information as possible from the organisers of a pitch event you’re participating in, such as the time allocated for the pitch, the judging criteria and, if you are lucky, the profile of the judges or investors. This rarely happens, though.

Also, remember to make your presentation materials as detailed as possible. For example, if you are planning to build an app, take time to thoroughly prepare a visual presentation on how it will look like and function.

Additionally, you can also try to customise your presentation to suit the pitching objectives and requirements as scores in most pitching competitions are based on specific criteria.

Genuine innovation

A good idea has to be one that stems from true innovation and not from the additions of one or two small functions to existing solutions. Your idea has to be amazing, different from the existing solutions in the market and, more importantly, it has to be your unique selling proposition, as well as something that is not easily replicated by competitors.

Demonstrate to the judges just how your innovation is truly state-of-the-art in the industry that you’re tapping into and that only you yourself know to produce it.

Market validation

A crucial factor in evaluating a new idea or technology would be the market validation of this idea, taking into consideration timing and practicality. Sometimes, the technology is really good but the need and urgency is just not there yet, making the idea irrelevant.

The same can be said when the cost of delivering the technology is not practical. Therefore, it’s important for entrepreneurs to conduct market validation of their ideas (in sufficient market size, of course) and produce results that represent the majority of the market you reviewed.

Customers’ letters of intent, market survey and market research reports are good examples of content to include in your presentation.

A substantial market

Although it’s good to be niche, the market you’re addressing needs to be substantial. Each judge or investor wishes to find investments that can give the highest and fastest returns possible. In order to do that, the solution proposed has to be relevant and desirable as has been the case with social media, fintech (financial technology) and sharing economy technology respectively, which have been so successful due to their capabilities to disrupt the current market.

Right mix of team member

Like H.E Luccock once said: No one can whistle a symphony alone – it takes a whole orchestra to play it. Similarly, having the right team members also helps in building a successful idea or business as each member contributes towards developing the idea or business through the different strengths, skills and knowledge that they posses.

On top of that, I would like to suggest that teams seek help from successful mentors to guide them through their entrepreneurship journey, especially at the start. They can certainly help you in enhancing the team’s capability to build and scale your business. These mentors are not just business gurus; they are individuals who may eventually become one of your investors.

Know your numbers

Before starting off, entrepreneurs need to prepare financial working documents that shows the returns of their project or at least a glimpse of whether or not the project is worth running in the first place. Milestones, reasonable valuations and funding requirements must be identified.

The same goes for the financial projection in every scenario. Each ROI and break-even point needs to be calculated and included in the financial documents. By knowing the number upfront, you’ll be able to express and back up your idea better. Being the first to come up with a brilliant idea is no guarantee of success because planning and building the business around the idea is just as important, if not more so.

Look at Apple, for instance. They are seldom pioneers of new technologies (remember the days when Microsoft accused Steve Jobs of stealing Gates’ technology?), but somehow, they always manage to market the concept and build their business brilliantly.

As a result, they are doing much better than Microsoft.

The lesson here: Focus on building the business model for your idea before you pitch it to the investors, even if it’s not something new. As long as you know how to develop it brilliantly, it can be an idea that will sell.

Stay foolish, stay hungry.

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