What I Learned From Pitching At SXSW's Dolphin Tank

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The most important lesson was embracing failures as learning experiences. By Misty Gibbs (Founder & CEO, Empower Lounge)

I had the great opportunity to pitch Empower Lounge at SXSW for Startup America Women's The Dolphin Tank.

What did I learn with only two minutes to pitch the panel of judges who happen to be ALL women, a rare opportunity for a female founder? Less is more. More is better. Less is more about the "why" behind your product. I spent most of the two minutes sharing research and what I learned first-hand about what smart women really crave from the digital world to build the case for the pain Empower Lounge is solving. Yes, this is story is important but so hard to squeeze in a short amount of time so the details ended up creating more confusion than clarity. Next time I would save the inspiration behind the idea for the second date.

A better approach: Starting the pitch with a simple sentence that explains what you’re building, who you’re going to offer it to, what problem you’re trying to solve, and how your solution makes you stand out. Don’t forget to add an analogy to help the judges understand how your business model is similar to other successful companies to really bring it home.

For example, my company, Empower Lounge, is developing a global and local community that will offer smart, ambitious women a single destination to connect and engage around the best of work + life in their city and on the web. Think Facebook meets DailyCandy for smart women. For the most part, the judges know what the product or service is about, the target audience and the problem being solved. Now they can focus on listening to the rest of the pitch which leads me to....

More is better about how you are a rock star. Yes, YOU. Ladies, listen up. Even the best of us have a hard time talking about all the great things we’ve accomplished. This has to change if we’re going to change the ratio, the world, our professional success and happiness! In my pitch, I glossed right over it. After I was done, an amazing woman (Terry Hazell, Director of RampCorp) stood up in the audience who knew me and said “Misty, you completely undersold how successful you’ve been!” I think most of the women pitching shared their past success as an afterthought when the rockstar capabilities you and your team bring to the table are the juicy bits that spell execution and gets investors excited! The exception was Bettina Hein, CEO of A href="http://www.pixability.com/">Pixability, who sold her first company for a whopping $125 million!

Now it’s time for the ask. So you’ve shared what your startup is about, the rockstar team behind it, hopefully a teaser about product validation – now it’s time for the ask. How much capital do you need? I don’t think one of us squeezed the big ask into our pitches. The judges had to ask every single time!

This is what I know - we can learn from all our experiences, especially when we're not at our best. Next time I will be better prepared and hope that what I learned about pitching at SXSW will help you rock your 2-minute pitch! You can also find additional feedback on the other pitches at Women 2.0.

This post was originally posted at 85 Broads.

About the guest blogger: Misty Gibbs is Founder of Empower Lounge, the union of My Inspiration Lounge and Austin Women Online. Before finding her passion as an online curator and publisher focused on empowering women. She spent 10 years helping several digital advertising start-ups build great cultures and successful companies from the ground up, two went public. Follow her on Twitter at @misty_gibbs.