Recently I’ve been reviewing a bunch of startup pitches (over 150) for a couple of different things, and it’s frustrating to see potentially good ideas and quality entrepreneurs get ignored too quickly because their pitches suck. It’s like resumes with typos – there have to be some basic filtering mechanisms for written pitches, otherwise reviewers would be overwhelmed. Incidentally, my feelings on this apply to face-to-face or phone presentations as well as written ones.
One of my simple filters is this: Use Cases vs. Buzzwords.
Investors need to be able to instantly understand your value proposition. Even if they don’t agree with the value proposition, you have to spell it out very clearly, otherwise you’ll get junked immediately. A value proposition doesn’t need buzzwords. Buzzwords are almost always focused on you – the startup – and not on the most important person that deserves attention in your pitch: the user or customer. Buzzwords rarely reflect the value to customers. Words like “revolutionary” or “patent-pending” — do those things really matter to users? What about “next generation” or “innovative”. These are all words focused on you, the startup.
Scrap all the buzzwords and get to the point. Most investors have seen hundreds of pitches, you’re not going to wow them with lengthy, meaningless descriptions.
Instead, focus on use cases.
How will the product be used? And I don’t mean in broad terms – but literally describe how it gets used.
Who benefits? Why do they benefit?
How does your product fit into your customer’s daily life?
Use cases are practical. They’re also a great form of storytelling. They allow an investor to envision a user actually using your product. Hopefully they can relate to the use case (or know someone that can) which is going to connect them immediately to what you’re doing. Without use cases, there’s very little chance they can relate at all, and every investor invests in stuff they understand.
If you can’t describe a compelling use case you may not have a compelling value proposition. It also shows a potential lack of understanding of your customer. And if that’s the case you’ve got bigger issues than a bad pitch. Use cases get right to the nitty gritty of your startup, but too often they’re obfuscated in pitches. Instead too many pitches are filled with long-winded diatribes on how you will fundamentally and radically shift the ever-evolving landscape of cloud-based web gadgetry through patent-pending algorithms that match a broad-base of users with the intent-driven goals they’re socially connected to.
Quick side note: DO NOT put the word “cloud” in your pitch unless you actually understand something about cloud computing. Hosting something on the Web does not count.
Use cases. Use ’em.