By Steph Palmeri (Senior Associate, SoftTech VC)
Last Sunday, I spend the afternoon meeting and mentoring several of the Women 2.0 Startup Weekend teams.
As an early stage investor at SoftTech VC, I see hundreds of ideas a month so it seemed fitting that I would be spending time with the teams just as many were diving in to construct and perfect their final Startup Weekend pitches for the judges. Their FIVE MINUTE pitches.
Damn. Five minutes goes pretty quick. And after you’ve spent the last 48 hours laser-focused on an idea, five minutes goes faster then a talented VP of Engineering looking for a new gig.
As I jumped from team to team, sharing insights on where to begin with a blank deck and listening to pitches-in-progress, I offered up the idea of five questions for five slides in five minutes.
The Five Questions To Address In A Startup Weekend Pitch Deck
- What is it? This is your elevator pitch — a single sentence or phrase that tells your audience what your company does. Don’t kid yourself. This is probably the single most difficult sentence you will ever construct throughout a Startup Weekend (let alone the duration of your company). You can (and will) agonize about it for hours (days). Creating a good elevator pitch is an iterative process that will stem from creating the pitch itself. So relax. Breath. Brainstorm for a few minutes and jot down a few ideas or key words. Then move on to answers the rest of the questions. And come back to this ever so often and iterate.
- How does it work? This is your chance to show off what you’ve spent the weekend hacking — with a live product demo! Try not to get caught in the trap of telling the audience of every detail of the engagement. Skip the dull stuff like creating a user account. Instead, tell a story. Keep it simple by demonstrating a use case and focusing on the interesting stuff. Rehears. Rehearse again. And let a teammate drive what you are doing onscreen while you describe, succinctly, what they are doing and what they are accomplishing using your product.
- Why does this matter? This is your market slide — what is the opportunity you are chasing, the pain you are solving? How big is the market opportunity? And why is your product uniquely positioned to capture this market?
- How do you spread the word? Now its time to talk about your users/customers and how you reach/acquire them — bonus points if you can briefly talk about how you might make money. Who is going to pay you, about how much, and for what?
- What’s next and what do you need to do it? If you were pitching a VC, this would be your deal slide — you would talk about how much money you are looking to raise to achieve a set of milestones. Since you’ve probably (wisely) spent the weekend focused on building something, you most likely aren’t ready for this step yet. But you can use this as an opportunity to talk about what you plan to do now that Startup Weekend is over and what you need to do this: build an MVP, acquire beta users, get feedback, expand your team, raise a bit of cash, etc.
You can always add more slides if you have time (who does?!), but a “one minute per slide” rule of thumb can help keep you focused and disciplined.
Done? Now go back and refine that elevator pitch. It should be [just a tab bit] easier.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Steph Palmeri is a Senior Associate at SoftTech VC, where she invests in seed stage consumer web and mobile companies. Before moving from NYC to Silicon Valley, she had decade of experience working at the intersection of marketing and technology with both startups/incubators and large companies (Accenture, Estee Lauder, SAP AG). Steph has an MBA from Columbia, sweats bikram yoga, and loves getting lost in foreign countries. She blogs at Looking Up. Follow her on Twitter at @stephpalmeri.