How to Give a Good Startup Pitch

As a startup looking for funding or feedback, you will be asked at some point to give a pitch.  With this, you are faced with the challenge of distilling years of work and grand visions into a presentation of just a few minutes.

As a former Startup Weekend coach, a Work in Progress mentor, a frequent UNLV Law and Business school guest speaker, and most recently an organizer of 1 Million Cups in Las Vegas, I have had the privilege of hearing hundreds of startup pitches.  I’ve outlined below the questions you should address, in order, to give the best pitch possible in the shortest amount of time.

  1. Why should we listen to you?  Introduce yourself and describe, briefly, your background and qualifications to speak on the particular topic.
  2. Why should we care about what you’re doing?  Talk to the audience like they’re five years old.  Don’t take for granted that the audience understands your industry lingo or the needs in the marketplace that your research has made painfully obvious.
  3. How might we be affected?  Identify the problems plaguing the market and relate them to the audience.
  4. How does your solution solve the presented problems?  Don’t forget to address how your solution is better than those that are already on the market.
  5. What can we do to help?  Finish up with what you’re looking for, and be specific.  If you want money, how much?  If you want introductions, to whom?  If you want feedback, ask for brutal honesty.
  • Use visuals.  A picture says a thousand words.  When you only have a short period of time, graphics, illustrations, and visuals can supplement the words you’re saying to more effectively communicate your concepts.  Many of us are visual learners and images help immensely.
  • Include social media handles on all slides.  Especially in the tech space, we audience members often live-post during pitches. Putting your Twitter handle at the bottom of all your slides is helpful.
  • Practice your presentation.  Don’t just wing it.  It’s obvious when you do so and it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll run out of time or forget important points.
  • Be concise.  Make your points, preferably with visuals, and move on. Don’t beat a dead horse.
  • Dress appropriately.  We all get that the tech startup community is super casual. However, consider your audience when dressing for a presentation. If you’re looking for funding or guidance, dressing more seriously will cause people to take you more seriously.
  • Spend too much time on any one topic.  Get in, make your point, and get out.
  • Don’t rely too much on videos.  Unless it’s a video you’ve produced, it will likely only sort of illustrate one point and ain’t nobody got time for that.  You don’t want videos that aren’t completely, 100% on point to gobble up your precious time.
  • Read your slides verbatim.  Please, for the love of all that’s green and good on this planet, do NOT read them to us.  It’s a pitch, not storytime.  We can all read.

Good luck!