By Eduardo Fernandez (YPO Global One)
These are fascinating times in the tech world. Mergers and acquisitions are accelerating at increasing speeds fostered by all kinds of startup-based innovations.
As part of a management course, the Engineering Leadership Program at the IE Business School in Spain, I have learned (the hard way) how the startup pitch process works these days, and what key messages to convey to investors to grab their attention, and their funding, for your project.
1. Focus on the need (the problem) you are trying to solve. Clearly articulate your solution. Sometimes a crisp and thorough explanation of the problem to be solved is more important than the solution we are trying to sell.
2. Metrics: How big is this thing? Market size, audiences, where are they? How much interest do they have? Evidence (have you piloted it)? Reference points can be built quickly out of readily available online tools like kickstarter, instant.ly, SurveyMonkey or Google Trends and Adwords to show proof of market demand.
3. Demo your solution as much as you possibly can. If an image is worth a thousand words, a real-life demo is worth 10 thousand at least.
4. Competition: Who are they? What is it that you have and they don’t? What is the plan to outsmart them? Typically, for new tech products or services, it is very much about adoption speed, critical mass, user engagement versus distribution, and branding or financial muscle, but you may have a different approach. Just make it clear and sound.
5. Financials: They are not relevant, actually. Conceptually, investors do not consider revenue a responsibility of entrepreneurs; the market decides. Your job is to orchestrate the team and build the product or service for that market so that they (investors) can bet on it. It is very important, however, to clearly state how much funding you are asking for, and what are you going to do with it.
6. The team. Team is crucial in a startup. Investors invest in people not in projects. Always secure a capable team with the required experience and competencies.
7. The motivation. Finally, the most important thing of all: put all your passion into it.
Emotions are the engine of everything we do. If you are wholeheartedly committed to your project, investors will notice by the way you show your emotions. This gives them confidence you are going to stay through the different stages, even if your project runs out of money.
How did it work for me and my team? We had to present our startup project to a jury of seasoned experts at the end of the Engineering Leadership Program, after receiving feedback throughout modules with the University of California, Berkeley, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Out of more than a dozen presentations, our home automation project was selected as the winner of the 2013 Engineering Leadership Program.
View Fernandez’s SmartHome Startup Pitch
Read more on his blog Zeitgeist–Ed Fernandez
Eduardo Fernandez (YPO Global One) is vice president of northern Latin America BlackBerry and associate professor at Menendez Pelayo University. He is also a technology start up investor and entrepreneur. He was the 2011-2012 chapter communications officer for the YPO Madrid Chapter. Eduardo can be reached via twitter at @efernandez.