Pitching A Tech Startup – Best Practices

The most fun I’ve had doing live comedy in years has been as a judge on “Snark Tank” – a show where tech entrepreneurs pitch their new products to be questioned by investors and roasted by stand-up comedians.

But as a comedian, it’s painful when the tech startup founders present their ideas.

These innovators often have great ideas that could change the world, but they can’t explain, let alone sell their products. And so they fall flat before we can have fun roasting the idea.

If you’re ever doing a tech pitch – whether it’s to be roasted by us, or to raise actual money from actual venture capitalists, here are some basic public speaking and presentation concepts to apply – lest your pitch die.

The order of your presentation matters. 
A lot.

I don’t care about your qualifications until I understand and like your idea.

Here’s how I suggest you structure your pitch:

1. Tell me what the problem is

Pick one of the following:

a) Give a quick statement of fact. Make sure it’s something most people wouldn’t instantly disagree with.

For example: Most men want to dress well but don’t want to spend the time learning how.

b) Do a “quick show of hands, who here (insert something most people will raise their hands for that’s related to your product)”

For example: “Fellas in the room, quick show of hands, who here would change their clothes if it was guaranteed to make you look better and get compliments, without you having to learn anything about fashion?” (most hands will go up!)

c) Tell a QUICK, COMPELLING story.
The story can be personal if it applies to the product you’re pitching.

For example: “I didn’t have a girlfriend until I turned thirty. Then my fashionable friend gave me a makeover, and I’ve been unstoppable ever since. And I thought, is there a way to automate his fashion knowledge to the masses of misdressed men?”

2. Tell me what the hell your idea is and how it will solve the problem you just described.

Explain your idea to me like I’m a fifth grader. 
Not because I’m dumb. But because I want to get excited about the idea first before my analytical brain starts processing it. Also, save the tech mumbo jumbo for the Q&A. Just get me to understand the idea.

For example: “My app takes a few photos of you, asks you some personality and budget questions, then displays killer outfits that will actually look good on you. And it displays the clothing on a photo of you.”

3. Give me details and screen shots

Now that I’m excited about your idea, I want to see and learn more! Plus this establishes you’ve actually done some work and haven’t spent all your seed money on foosball tables.

For example: “Here’s some screenshots of the questions. And here’s the output. And when you adjust the budget, the clothing changes. And we can keep suggesting outfits forever. We also train the data one what you’ve previously liked, we have something like a Netflix recommendation system but for clothing.”

4. Briefly mention the market size and competitors

Personally this one is optional and I would skip it. Unless you’re pitching in an area nobody has heard of, we’ll assume it’s a large market and people want it. Don’t waste your time or our attention on details. You can also just throw this fact into a sentence without having a whole slide on it.

For example: “Men’s clothing is a ten billion dollar industry.”

5. Tell me why you and your team are the right people to make it happen.

Keep this as brief as possible. And make it interesting. I don’t really care to hear your whole resume.

For example: I’ve built and sold two previous apps for seven-figures a pop. And my co-founder was voted GQ’s most fashionable lawyer.”

6. Ideally wrap it up with something cool that ties into your opening story.

Everyone loves a good story. If you can tie up something from the start of your presentation it’ll feel like a strong ending.

For example, “And I’m happy to report, that although we’ve only been in beta for six months, we’ve had our first user that upgraded their wardrobe report getting engaged. Automate your wardrobe, find your wife.”

7. End by saying, “Thank you. Any questions?”

Make it clear that you’re done. Instead of mumbling and meandering until someone has to interrupt you.

  • Everyone hates a long, boring pitch deck with lots of text. Yet for some reason, almost everyone creates a long boring pitch deck with lots of text.
  • Have 5 words per slide max. 2 words is better. Just give me a heading and a related picture and then talk.
  • Don’t ever read a slide.
    Type out what you should say for each slide into the notes and memorize it. But don’t put it on the screen for everyone to see. Otherwise, people read the screen instead of listening to you.
  • Sound excited about your idea. If you’re bored by it, why should we care?

  • Memorize but don’t read it like a robot. Know your product and how to explain it but just talk like a person. You don’t have to get the words written perfectly. Also deliver your pitch like we’re two buddies at a bar, not investors in a big, formal boardroom. Do this even if you’re presenting in a formal boardroom!
  • Follow proper mic technique – learn more about that here.

  • Time out your presentation. Even if you’re allowed five minutes, three minutes is better. If people are excited about the idea, they’ll ask follow-up questions.
  • Don’t respond to each roast point.
    Only reply if one of us asks a legit question, or if you’re sure you have a funny or insightful response. Otherwise, let the judges get their jokes in and be a good, smiling-sport about it.

  • Don’t take it personally. Our job is to get the audience laughing. Sometimes that might come at your expense. Welcome to the arena 🙂

Want private coaching to properly prep your tech pitch? Contact us.

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