The Perfect Pitch – Can You Really Get VC Laid In An Elevator?

the perfect startup pitch

There is a mythos surrounding the perfect pitch in the tech startup world.The mythical elevator pitch that you can whip out in under 30 seconds for that rare life changing moment when instead of getting your ass kicked by Solange you find that your elevator car mate is Marc Andreesen. You have practiced and polished it to razor-sharp perfection. You have so many pitch perfect words poised to pounce that cougars cower in fear when you approach. (Axe doesn’t work on cougars)

 

 

Your pitch is tight, compelling, convincing, lust inspiring, forehead slapping perfection. Zero wasted words. Zero wasted time. Perfect product/market fit in less than 30 seconds. Although if it takes you the near eternity of 30 seconds to deliver your pitch in today’s market you are considered a dinosaur. The hot young hipsters are racing to perfect their one sentence perfect pitch. I’m not kidding. it’s a thing and they are dead serious. (And for the record I am very much in favor of this exercise as a tool to refine your business plan) Here are some great failures of the one sentence pitch.

You have polished every. single. word. and. its. perfect.

You regurgitate it all over Marc’s $2,000 bespoke shirt in a frenzy of passionate word play. Luckily he hasn’t heard too many before and is easily swayed. You sink the hook of words and reel him in.

To what? I mean obviously you want his money and his fame and hopefully even his time if you are lucky enough. Although you would gladly settle for just the money. My observation from both sides of the elevator doors having been the one to create, give and receive the pitch is that far too much focus is placed on the pitch itself. When the focus is on the pitch itself its pretty hard to focus on the idea behind the pitch.

Of course the best entrepreneurs do both like winged wizards, but distressingly often the pitch is pretty much all the others got. Sometimes even with only a perfect pitch they still get funded but usually you either need an actual business plan or a lot of fashionable people talking about you (both is ideal valuation wise).

I am absolutely in favor and in love with pitches. They rock. They are stupidly hard to do well. Those who do them well are like greek gods to me in their business splendor. Read this great article about how to improve your pitch. At the last project I worked on at Embarke the CEO Al was an absolutely brilliant pitcher. He pitched well and the results show it. They will go far and do well.

I suck at elevator pitches. I’m simply not a sum up the entire reason for my existence in one sentence kind of guy. Now I do love coalescing complex ideas into single sentences that punch and powerfully challenge status quo. I bristle at the idea that you can and should sum up the entire mission of your life into one single untrue paragraph. I literally can not understand investors, they make absolutely no sense to me at all. I also tend to be too damn honest. A great elevator pitch is mostly lies and romance. it’s all about the future of glory that awaits. The worst thing you can do is to simply say what you do. Unless of course you already founded Twitter.

A fantastic bit of deep insight from the New Yorker and JAMES SUROWIECKI

But we’ve built a whole system on unrealistic expectations. Because we don’t know how to identify good companies in advance, investors end up funding lots of them in the hope that a few will hit it big. As a character on the new HBO series “Silicon Valley” says of a V.C., “You know how sea turtles have, like, a shit ton of babies because most of them die on the way down to the water? Peter just wants to make sure his money makes it to the ocean.” The economy has come to rely on this Darwinian process to drive innovation. “Overconfidence means that many more companies start up than will ever succeed,” Brian Wu, a professor of strategy at the University of Michigan, told me. “That’s unfortunate for individual companies. The paradox is that it’s really beneficial for society.” In the delusions of entrepreneurs are the seeds of technological progress.

And its even worse because I’m an entrepreneur and risk is simply not an issue for me. I don’t avoid it, think about it or even really try to manage it. I am focused on the problem and the reward for solving it. Risk is inherent in everything we do and I foolishly believe that you shouldn’t be able to earn a reward without commensurate risk. Clearly, in talking to investors I am in the minority on this.  I remember my most absurd quote from my many, many investor pitches and meetings. After an hour long presentation and discussion the lead investor said “The return on investment is too high, we don’t want a return. We want to manage risk.”

Investors and VC’s are at the polar opposite end of the spectrum.

“Fundamentally VCs are risk averse – they want no risk in the deal, if we could handle risk we’d be entrepreneurs.”

– Victor Westerlind, General Partner at Cleantech VC firm Rockport Capital

 

So nail that pitch. Pitch it perfect and here’s to hoping you DO get VC laid in that elevator.

 

Thoughts and Counter Thoughts?