If you ask 10 of the top 10 venture capital firms or 10 of the top 10 tech startup accelerators in the US what their #1 criteria is for investing in or betting on a startup, you’d get a pretty consistent answer: “We bet on the jockey, not the horse.” In other words, it’s all about the founding team. With that knowledge, it’s critical to include some nugget of information about you or your team in your pitch. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, so there’s not one way of injecting your team’s experience into an elevator pitch.
- Name – when you introduce yourself, it’s easy to include a short story, such as, “During my 15 years of managing airplane maintenance at Southwest Airlines…”
- Problem – introduce your experience by explaining how you discovered, validated, or solved the problem you are addressing: “After enduring this issue for 15 years in the airline maintenance space, I began building a team to create a solution to the problem.”
- Solution – how did you come up with your solution? Most of the time, the solution is born out of experiencing the problem. “Our team has a total of 85 years of experience in the airline maintenance space, and we’ve solved the problem.”
- Customer – If you’ve lived the problem, validated the problem, and solved the problem, you almost assuredly know exactly who your target customer is, based on your experience: “We’ve all worked in the airline industry for 10+ years each, so we have significant relationship equity with our customer base.”
- Ask – Sometimes, your experience can be your strength, but it can also help you identify a need in your team. “Our founding team is made up of airline maintenance engineers with dozens of years of experience. We’re actively seeking out enterprise sales professionals with 5+ years of experience in complex sales to the airline industry.”
There are lots of ways of sharing your team’s experience, and no two will ever be the same; however, your team’s experience is directly related to the chances of success for your startup. Experienced investors know this and will base their evaluation of your startup, at least in part, on the experience of your team. If you and your team do not have any experience, that does not disqualify you from success at all, but you would be wise to own it up front. VC and accelerators can smell BS a mile away, and if you’re 22 or 23 years old, experience may not be your best asset. Own that up front and get it out of the way by focusing on your talent, energy, and your ability to learn from your advisers.
Trying out different ways to deliver your pitch is the reason Pitch Practice exists in the first place. As the folks at FirstRound have most recently said, “Practice is critical, and it’s the part of the process that is the most easily overlooked, procrastinated and underutilized.” Every time you practice your pitch, you learn something new, and every new pitch you hear, you learn something new that you can apply (or avoid!) in your own pitch.
That’s why we’re taking the pitches and lessons from 3 years and 1,000 pitches of Pitch Practice to the airwaves with the Pitch Practice Podcast. We need your help to launch the podcast to #1 on iTunes’ New & Noteworthy category. Click here to join our launch team.