How to Evaluate a Startup Pitch (or Create an All-Star Pitch if You’re a Startup)
Whatever side of the table you’re on, here’s what makes a great pitch presentation.
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As part of my work as an advisor and consultant to Chief Innovation Officers within the Fortune 1000, I get to work with some pretty cool people and companies. I also get to hear and see what's coming down the pipe in terms of new technology, products, business models, and innovation processes.
Today I'm at Plug and Play, one of the world's largest venture capital investment firms and start-up accelerators. I'm with a client from a Fortune 1000 consumer products company to hear 25 startups pitch their businesses. Plug and Play has a unique model that brings together startups and big companies under the same roof as part of a matchmaking process. Startups pitch. Innovation teams from big companies look for a technology or company to invest in, to pilot a project with, or to possibly acquire.
The startups we're evaluating each share five-minute pitches with the hopes of receiving corporate venture funding and co-development partnerships. According to Omer Gozen, the Vice President at Plug and Play who's organized the pitch event, "Startups need to focus their pitches on exactly what's needed for investors, partners, and customers to evaluate them. They need to get to their point fast and differentiate themselves from everyone else in the room and the market."
I've seen a lot of pitches and have coached both startups and corporate innovation teams on how to give an all-star presentation. I usually provide my corporate clients with a template, so they can structure how they listen to and evaluate pitches. If you don't know what you're looking for, everything can sound like a great idea.
When I work with startups, I give this same template to them, so they can see how they'll probably be evaluated--and so they can create a presentation that "pitches to the test" so to speak.
Here are the most important things to look for when evaluating a startup pitch (or that can be used as a guide to create a high-power presentation if you need to create a pitch for a new business concept):
1. The Big Idea - What's the big idea, big vision, or disruption that will be achieved?
2. Target Market - Is the target customer or market clearly defined? Is it a large and growing future market?
3. Problem or Need - Is the problem or need big and significant? Is the customer pain-point clear and undeniable?
4. 10x Solution - Does the solution provide a true 10x+ step-change (better, faster, cheaper, etc.)?
5. Business Model - Is there a compelling business model that shows how value will be created and driven over time?
6. Minimal Viable Product (MVP) - Has the MVP tested key assumptions that clearly validate the opportunity?
7. Competitive Advantage - Is the competition understood and does the value proposition show clear differentiation?
8. Financials - Is the financial model clear (costs, required investments, time to breakeven, growth rates, etc.)?
9. Strategic Fit - Does the idea significantly advance the organization's business strategy?
10. The Ask - Does the request for funding or other "asks" make sense?
There are a lot of great examples of pitches out there that include many of these elements. Sometimes the difference between what seems like a good idea and a truly great one is how well it's framed and communicated.
Whatever side of the table you're on, disruptive innovators want the same thing: a big idea that solves a big problem that changes the world. A good pitch shows what's possible and how it could actually become reality.