This week, the teams asked to go over their pitches. My major teaching point for pitches is that they should include as much data from the team’s experiments at possible (facts being more interesting than guesses), embed stories so there is a narrative and flow to the pitch, skip cliches (if we get 1% of the households in America to buy this), and above all, use images not words! Bundled up in all of that is the need to practice and iterate. I ask the teams to take notes on the questions they are getting after their pitches, and if they hear the same thing more than once, it is time to make a change.
One topic that came up very quickly is whether they need to follow a specific format. For example, the ten slides rule. My advice is to be aware of this rule but not to obey it compulsively. Yes, most people listening to your pitch will want to know what the problem is, how you’re going to solve it and make money. But telling your story in a compelling way should trump all other considerations.
Text will kill your presentation
The corollary to telling a good story is to not use lots of text in your slides. People will start reading the text off your slide rather than paying attention to your presentation. That’s because people can read faster than you can talk. Slides should be used to embellish your story and provide a visual narrative with tools like pictures, charts and graphs.
How the pitches went
Overall, half way through the accelerator the teams’ pitches are fairly rough. I’m glad we’re getting started on officially iterating them now. I had originally planned on approaching pitching in week 8 of 10, to prepare for the rehearsal day in week 9 and demo day in week 10.
I had each team pitch and then solicited comments from the group. I was very pleased with the level of engagement and feedback. I had originally planned to have the teams pitch, get feedback, iterate on the spot, and pitch again. But the feedback sessions were very detailed and we ran out of time! However, the teams pitch their ideas multiple times a week in class (and many more outside of it), so there should be plenty of chances to practice and improve.
I also have another post on startup pitch decks that you should have a look at. I’ll get the teams’ startup decks up shortly.
Book – Nail it then Scale It
This is my current favorite book for how to go about doing customer discovery. I offered the students the option of me assigning a book each week for them to read. My primary focus for the accelerator is to get the teams doing customer discovery and finding some traction or product/market fit. I don’t want to distract them with secondary tasks. On the other hand, there is a lot of good knowledge in books that I think will help the teams make faster progress. Overall, the teams were happy with the book and pulled out some good lessons. The conversation on “guardrail to guardrail” was highlighted as useful – meaning walking the fine line between pitching a product and being unguided in the customer interview. There is also a lot of good advice about types of tests to gauge customer interest and what counts as “passing” the test. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.