Giving a good pitch can make your career as an entrepreneur.
Giving a bad pitch can break it.
When you pitch investors on your startup, they aren’t just watching you to see if they want to invest. They want to assess your powers of persuasion—which you’ll need to woo talent, customers, and partners.
- The content is bad, off-base or not well-thought-out.
- Slides or visuals are poorly executed or confusing.
- The founder is unprepared or lacks basic presentation skills.
With that in mind, we scrounged up some of the most unbelievably bad startup pitches we could find.
Product: Software to personalise your Windows experience.
Founder: Cullen Dudas
Where: TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2011
Why it's not a great pitch: He doesn't do a great job of telling us why we should care, nor what the company actually does. He awkwardly rambles on during his pitch, and the MC even says 'I think I've just been punked.'
Where Lumier is now: If you head over to Lumier.com, you'll see that the company has yet to launch to the public. As of right now, it's only accepting email sign-ups for the beta product.
Company: Ledge Pillow
Founder: Amanda Schlechter
Product: A pillow to help women with large breasts or implants comfortably sleep on their stomachs
Where: Shark Tank 2012
Why it's not a great pitch: For starters, Ledge Pillow is going after a very small, niche market. Investors typically don't invest in companies that lack a broad appeal. Also, the sales she disclosed weren't very impressive, having only sold 83 products since launching in 2008. Ultimately, she didn't communicate well what the value proposition was. It simply didn't solve a big enough problem for a large enough market.
Where the Ledge Pillow is now: According to its website, the Ledge Pillow is temporarily out of stock--but has a big announcement coming up.
Founders: Yaron Bazaz, Gabriel Melman
Product: Online engagement platform.
Where: Dragon's Den 2012
Why it's not a great pitch: For starters, Bazaz and his team came out screaming and chanting. That didn't impress. Then they failed to comprehensively explain their revenue model and had no sales to back up their claims. It also wasn't totally clear to the investors what the business is actually trying to achieve.
Where Crowd Fanatic is now: The site is still up and running, but there are no SEC filings showing CrowdFanatic raising venture-capital funds.
Company: Ionic Ear
Founder: Darrin Johnson
Product: A Bluetooth phone-answering device that you implant in your ear.
Where: Shark Tank 2009
Why it's not a great pitch: For starters, Johnson had zero enthusiasm when pitching Ionic Ear, which made it hard for the Sharks to take him seriously. It also disturbed the Sharks that it requires surgery to install the Ionic Ear. And if you wanted an upgrade, you'd have to go back for surgery, which also put off the Sharks.
More importantly, Johnson didn't successfully sell the pain point and the market opportunity for such a device. He talks about how it can be annoying when a Bluetooth device falls off due to sweat or excessive movement, but doesn't say how many people would actually be interested in an implanted Bluetooth device. Ultimately, the product was too ahead of its time.
Where Ionic Ear is now: There's no trace of Ionic Ear anywhere on the Internet, so we assume Johnson called it quits.
Product: Makes mobile app called Groupin for tracking group participation.
Founder: Brian Magierski
Where: Launch Conference 2011
Why it's not a great pitch: For starters, Magierski lacked excitement and failed to show any passion for his company. He also wasn't entirely clear in his pitch about what the product actually does. Magierski also couldn't show the value of Groupin, as Yammer founder David Sacks pointed out that people could do the same thing through Facebook.
Where Appconomy is now: The good news: You can recover from a bad pitch. Following the company's presentation at the Launch Conference, it raised a $10 million Series B round from QiMing Venture Partners, True Ventures, and others. In 2011, Appconomy acquired a company called Yoohoot.
Product: Fly trap that relies on dog excrement, and attaches to the end of a table to attract and catch flies.
Founder: Bruce Gaither
Where: Shark Tank 2012
Why it's not a great pitch: Gaither's first issue is that he doesn't have a big enough market for the product. Gaither also too heavily relied on writer and comedian Seth MacFarlane, who added absolutely zero value to his pitch. The lesson learned from Gaither's pitch should be to not get a celebrity to endorse your product if that celebrity has never even used it.
Where NoFlyCone is now: It's a bit too soon to judge, but NoFlyCone is currently accepting orders on its website.
Company: PC Classes Online
Product: Online software to teach computer classes
Founder: David Cox
Where: Shark Tank 2012
Why it's not a great pitch: Cox is going after a market that has already been pretty well penetrated. He also doesn't seem to know the difference between bundling software and having it as an add-on, which makes the Sharks question his business chops.
Where PC Classes Online is now: It's still a young company but since Shark Tank, Cox has been able to secure marketing help from 'a major Web guru type who consults for major websites.'
Product: Cloud-computing development environment
Founders: Devrim and Sinan Yasar
Where: This Week in Startups 2010
Why it's not a great pitch: Devrim doesn't convey what the product actually is and what it does, which is the most important thing to get across in a pitch. Given that he's trying to appeal to developers, he should have specified what the coding language is and what technology Kodingen uses.
Where Kodingen is now: Taking Calacanis's advice that it's a difficult name to hear and say, the company has since changed its name from Kodingen to Koding.
Games2U founders gave the company too high of a valuation and didn't have a good strategy for product development
Product: Mobile entertainment company that brings fun games like human-sized hamster balls and laser tag to your doorstep.
Founders: David and Stuart Pikoff
Where: Shark Tank 2011
Why it's not a great pitch: This is a great example of a founder who doesn't get the Sharks to bite despite having a great product and over $3 million in sales.
They don't convey an efficient and cost-effective plan for production. The brothers also don't fully understand the size of the market, given that they don't think the economy will discourage parents to buy a $300 toy for a birthday party.
Rachel Sequoia of Share The Air had a ridiculous plan to bottle air and sell it to plants, animals, and people
Company: Share The Air
Product: Bottled air from locations around the world.
Founder: 'Rachel Sequoia'
Where: Venture Capital Fundraising Club of Silicon Valley 2011
Why it's not a great pitch: While it was quite a charming and earthy pitch, her hand-drawn presentation was just a little unorthodox and featured numbers that simply didn't add up. Still, the bare-footed Sequoia actually ended up winning best pitch of the night from the audience.
Where Share The Air is now: It actually wasn't a real pitch: 'Sequoia' is actually an actress, Rachel Cherones, hired to do an early April Fool's stunt by a company called Trademarkia. As a prank, it was a hit: the video has over 300,000 views. Sadly, the website, sharetheair108.com, is no longer active. Trademarkia is in the process of changing its name to LegalForce.
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