Resoundingly, Venture Madness 2016 judges agree that there were a lot of good presentations this year. And, in the end, only 16 startups made it to the competition. How did the best emerge in bracket style, head-to-head pitch contests? Here are some insights from the panel. And, in the end, it all comes down to preparation.
Know Your Audience. Have a clear understanding of who you’re pitching. Make the information easy to digest. Simplify things. Matt Likens, President and CEO of Ulthera Division, Merz Device Innovation Center, advises: “Present as if you are talking to your grandmother.” and he elaborates, “focus on revenues, gross margins, pathway to profitability and financial sustainability along with thoughts on monetization of an investment (IPO/Acquisition/Other).”
Focus Your Message. It is important to get to the point. It has been said that on-point brevity packs a punch. It makes the message clear, concise, and memorable. “Spend time on traction of the company, and ways they are expanding for growth,” advises Adam Ross, Keys To Growth LLC. And, adds Ben Johnston, Vice President of Battery Ventures, “market size and product differentiation matters—emphasize it.”
“No matter how simple or technical your idea is, focus on the business aspects of your plan, not about the idea/technology itself—which is the propensity for many technical entrepreneurs to do.” says Randy Gustafson, Vice President of Innovation, Arizona Commerce Authority.
Rehearse Your Presentation. It is important to hone your presentation, allow for questions, and fit it all in the allotted time limit. Travis Wood, Managing Director – Business Development, Silicon Valley Bank advises presenters to rehearse thoroughly to stay within the allotted time. “I always find it awkward when the buzzer beeps and they haven’t finished,” Wood reports. And, in anticipation of questions, Wood advises: “Practice answering potential questions with a mentor or someone else at your company so that you can be more prepared.” This way, you can be sure to give a thoughtful response without rambling on and on.
Presenters should demonstrate a clear understanding of problem, solution, market size, competitive landscape, revenue model and traction. Know the metrics for the business. And, storytelling charisma helps. Greg Head, Entrepreneur, VC, and Advisor, summed it up nicely: “Focus on your core message—the strongest way to tell your story, be ready to overcome objections and respond to questions from the judges, and you will compete well against other presenters.” And in the end, John Mayfield, Principal, Peak Ventures, advises: “Make sure it comes through that you are building a business and not trying to win a startup competition.”