What persuades an investor to write a check for an entrepreneur’s raw idea? We spoke with active angel investors and venture capitalists, as well as scouring the Web, to compile a list of some of the best startup pitches ever.
From those, we learned a few things to keep in mind if you want to make a great pitch.
- If you don’t grab people within the first minute, they’re going to start checking their email.
- Tell the story through the problem. It needs to be a story about problems and solutions.
- Have a concrete business plan and drive home how you’re going to make money.
- Know your material, and keep the energy up.
- When pitching directly to an investor, make sure you say what you’re going to do with the money.
- Finish strongly and sum up why someone should invest in the company.
Company: That's Suspicious behaviour
Founders: Brigette Kidd, Danielle Evenson, Scott Volk
Product: Mobile app to report suspicious behaviour and activity in your area
Why it's a great pitch: First, Kidd engages the audience by taking a show of hands to see who actually uses neighbourhood watch. Hardly anyone raised their hands.
Next, she immediately gets right into the pain point. She mentions that within four weeks in a three-block radius, five women reported five separate incidents of a creepy person exposing himself outside their windows. Authorities knew but the victims didn't know.
That's when she shows her solution, the That's Suspicious behaviour mobile app. But it also helped to have some humour. While walking the audience through the app, Kidd points out that you can also hit the 'Red pin (for) aggressive begging, which is appropriate for today.'
Where That's Suspicious behaviour is now: The company won Best Presentation at the Launch Festival and secured a $50,000 investment pledge from MailChimp, an email-newsletter company that sponsored the conference.
Product: Mobile app for connecting people on the go
Founders: Alok Deshpande, Sam Altman, Nick Sivo
Why it's a great pitch: After a brief intro of the product, Altman brings up the pain point. He says it's amazing how often you're at a restaurant a couple of blocks away from a friend or in an airport with a friend, and don't know about it.
Then he goes back into the product to show how Loopt's new iPhone app solves that issue. It's not your typical pitch to a VC but it's short, concise, and to the point.
Where Loopt is now: Green Dot Corporation acquired Loopt earlier this year for $43 million. Before the acquisition, Loopt had raised $32 million from investors like Y Combinator, New Enterprise Associates, and Sequoia Capital.
Product: Pay-per-action phone calls advertising business that manages and summarizes relevant phone calls
Founders: Howard Lerman, Brian Distelburger, Brent Metz
Why it's a great pitch: Lerman immediately presents the problem, which is that local businesses want phone calls and not clicks. But if you charge on a pay-per-call basis, businesses end up paying for irrelevant calls.
Lerman then shows how Yext plans to solve that issue. He uses an example of Frank's auto-repair in Alaska, and walks the audience through how Frank can customise his profile to receive relevant calls.
He then asks the audience, what kind of car he should call Frank about and actually does a live call. After waiting a couple of minutes, he demonstrates how the call information successfully ends up in Frank's inbox.
Lerman's presentation is the perfect example of show, not tell.
Where Yext is now: Since debuting at TechCrunch 50 in 2009, Yext has developed an entirely new product for local businesses called PowerListings for managing their listings across sites like Yelp, SuperPages, Citysearch, and others. PowerListings is now used by more than 50,000 paying locations.
To date, Yext has raised $65.8 million from investors including Institutional Venture Partners, SV Angel, and CrunchFund. It is currently valued at around $200 million.
Product: Web and mobile-based peer-to-peer lending technology for raising capital
Founder: Candace Suzanne Klein
Why it's a great pitch: Klein does a great job of selling the problem before selling the solution. After a short intro, Klein highlights the two main problems that the company solves. First, banks don't lend to small businesses. Second, individuals and corporations aren't happy with their stock market returns and their passbook savings so they're taking their financial portfolios back into their own hands and investing locally. She says it's created a perfect storm.
Investors always want to know the size of the market, so she notes how its expected to become a $100 billion market by 2015. She then specifies exactly who they're targeting: the business borrower and the lender.
Obviously, there are a lot of companies emerging in the peer-to-peer lending market, so she highlights SoMoLend's competitive advantage, which is that they're social, mobile, and local. She also notes that unlike other companies like Kickstarter, the money on SoMoLend is debt that must be paid back.
Another great moment is when she says, 'For the first time ever' borrowers can raise friends and family capital for their business on an easy-to-use website. Using phrases like 'for the first time ever' may sound bombastic, but don't shy away from them. It's important to sell the audience on what's new and different.
Where SoMoLend is now: SoMoLend won a prize worth $75,000 at Startup 2012. It has raised $1.48 million in capital to date.
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Product: Water bottle that uses nano-filtration technology to purify water
Founder: Michael Pritchard
Why it's a great pitch: Right off the bat, Pritchard strikes a nerve with the audience, noting how he's sure they have all been enjoying the water provided to them, assuming that it has come from a clean source.
He then goes right into how if it didn't come from a clean source, statistics say that half of them would be suffering from diarrhoea. Midway through his presentation, he stops to remind the audience that since he started his talk, another 13,000 people around the world started suffering with diarrhoea and four children have died.
After Pritchard successfully grabbed the attention of the audience by proving just how big of a problem unsanitary water is, he goes into how Lifesaver will guarantee clean water for people all over the world.
Where Lifesaver is now: According to its site, Lifesaver has helped hundreds of thousands of people produce safe, clean drinking water.
Product: Service to find and book medical appointments instantly
Founders: Cyrus Massoumi and Oliver Kharraz, MD
Why it's a great pitch: Massoumi starts with a personal anecdote about how when he flew from Seattle to New York with a sinus infection, the pressure from the landing ruptured his eardrum. He compared the pain to what it might feel like if Mike Tyson bit off his ear.
He logged into his insurance company's website to try to find a practitioner, but it wasn't easy. Some of the information was wrong, he couldn't easily gauge how good the doctors were on the list, and it took four days for him to find an appointment.
After presenting the problem, Massoumi jumps into how ZocDoc could remedy the issue of booking dentist and doctor appointments instantly.
Where ZocDoc is now: ZocDoc is currently used by more than 1 million people per month. It has received $95 million in investments from Khosla Ventures, Jeff Bezos, SV Angel, and others. By Business Insider's estimates, the company is worth around $750 million.
Product: Online, graphical biography that pulls in all of your information from social networks
Founder: Todd Silverstein, Eli Tucker, Jeff Cutler-Stamm
Why it's a great pitch: Silverstein starts by highlighting the issue that first impressions can make or break you, and then gets some big laughs by comparing people like Bernie Madoff to Warren Buffett, and himself to Homer Simpson.
Silverstein then shows how Vizify can help solve the issue of making bad first impressions. He shows how easy it is to create a profile and transform your work history into a digital infographic.
But of course, investors want to know how Vizify will make money. Silverstein talks about their freemium model and also touts his team's track record. Between the three of them, they have four successful startups under their belt, three patents, and 30 years of experience.
Where Vizify is now: The company has raised $1.46 million to date from investors including TechStars, Tim Draper, Bill Bryant, and Dan Shapiro.
Company: Next Big Sound
Product: Online music analytics service that offers insights about the growth and popularity of music groups and artists across major Web platforms
Founder: Alex White, David Hoffman, Samir Rayani
Why it's a great pitch: White shows true passion, establishes his credibility in the music industry, and successfully sets up the problem within the first minute. David Cohen notes that he continues to 'twist the knife'--there's that phrase again--by hammering in the pain points.
He also does a great job of sharing his big vision, and highlighting the market opportunity for investors.
Where Next Big Sound is now: The company has raised $7.5 million from prominent investors including TechStars, Foundry Group, SoftTech VC, Troy Henikoff, and David Cohen.
Founder: Peter Sullivan
Product: Tripl helps you find friends who are travelling to the same location as you, or friends who already live at your point of destination
Why it's a great pitch: Sullivan and his team placed fake parking tickets on attendees' cars that explained what the service is, and offered a QR code for an immediate download of the app.
It's obviously not your standard pitch, but it's always great to find a way to stand out from all of the other companies at a demo day.
Where Tripl is now: Tripl has raised $300,000 in funding to date, according to CrunchBase.
Idea: Mobile app for challenging and daring friends to do things like show up on a TV show naked, quit smoking, and more
Founders: Alessandro Petrucciani, Alex Napetshnig
Why it's a great pitch: Napetshnig pitches angel investor Jason Calacanis in a mankini because a friend dared him to do it. It totally encompasses the nature of the app, which is to dare friends to do crazy things.
Petrucciani highlights the 'pain point,' claiming that it will solve the biggest problem in the world, which is not having enough fun. He then goes right into showing how product works, and Calacanis absolutely loved it.
Where Klash is now: So far, Klash's cofounders have bootstrapped its development with their own funds.
Product: Personal financial-services tool that helps you track where you're spending money and find ways to save money
Why it's a great pitch: Patzer grabs the audience with his opening line: 'You spend the majority of your life working for your money, but do you know how your money works for you?'
He notes how people have multiple debit cards, credit cards that are hard to keep track of. He personalizes it with his story of using other products like Quicken, Microsoft Money and even his own excel spreadsheets, none of which got the job done.
From that, he shows how within six minutes, Mint can help you manage and save money, and even prevent getting overdraft fees.
He ends on a big note, reiterating the fact that the savings rate in the country was negative at that point in time, and that Mint is determined to change that.
Where Mint is now: Within its first year, more than 500,000 people opened Mint accounts and the company became the fastest-growing service of its kind.
Before Intuit acquired the company for $170 million in 2009, Mint raised $31.8 million from First Round Capital, Ron Conway, Shasta Ventures, Founders Fund, and others.
Founder: Kevin Rose
Product: User-driven social content site
Why it's a great pitch: It's short, simple and to the point. While the audience was regular viewers interested in technology, not investors, you can still learn from the presentation.
He leads in by presenting the issue that information on sites like Slashdot are curated by editors, so the user is depending on the editor, rather than peers to find the most interesting information.
It's also helpful that Rose is super energetic while showing off the product. The only curious thing is that he doesn't seem to specifiy that Digg is his own project.
Where Digg is now: At one point, Digg was valued at an estimated $200 million, but it faded as Facebook and Twitter became more popular ways to share links with friends. The compelling vision Rose outlined lives on, though: Betaworks bought Digg this year for a measly $500,000. It relaunched Digg and within 12 weeks, more than 4 million people checked out the new-and-improved version.