Judging a Startup Pitch Competition

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Last night, I had the honor of judging a startup pitch competition. Each founder in the Starta Accelerator in NYC had 3 minutes to pitch a panel of judges in front of a live audience.

I was so impressed with the hard work these entrepreneurs are putting into building their companies and pitching investors!

I also came away with some insights that might help other founders. Maybe you!

1) Be sure I know what your company does within the first minute.

Some founders do an amazing job of summarizing a problem, but aren’t as clear on how they’re solving it. The most important thing you can convey in your pitch is what your company does.

Don’t bury the lead!

2) Tell us exactly how you make money. Some founders do a great job of explaining what their product does, but don’t tell us how they actually get paid.

One of the key things investors are trying to learn about your company is the revenue model. So make it a big part of your pitch.

3) Clearly state the terms you’re raising at. After watching 6 companies present, I noticed they all had one thing in common: not one said what valuation they’re raising funds at!

Tell us how much you’re seeking to raise and at what valuation. And be clear as to whether the valuation is pre-money or post-money.

You also want to mention how much money is already committed to the round, if any.

Here’s a good example sentence: “We are raising a $1 million seed round on a $7 million pre-money valuation with $500,000 committed.”

Some founders are reluctant to ask for anything out of modesty. Others don’t want to be pinned down to a particular valuation because they want to negotiate it later.

But you must ask investors for something specific. Otherwise, what’s the point of your presentation?

You can always negotiate those terms later, but be sure to offer a starting point.

4) Give us some key numbers.

We investors love metrics. So show us your month-over-month revenue growth rate, gross margin, churn rate, net revenue retention, etc.

A good story is essential, but good metrics close the deal.

And finally, on a hopeful note…

5) You can improve your pitch enormously in a short period of time, if you do the work.

I saw one of the founders that pitched last night two weeks ago. In that early pitch, I honestly had no idea what the company did.

When I saw him last night, he was polished and crisp. I knew exactly what his company did and why.

And I almost found myself reaching for my wallet. 😄

If you put the work in, you can improve. Repetition goes a long way!

What do you think makes a great pitch? And what questions do you have for me about speaking to investors?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 👋

More on tech:

How Startups Can Dominate the Elevator Pitch

Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Be an LLC

Find Code Faster Than Ever

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Photo: “JudgeThumbUp” by cali.org is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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