By Daniela A Bolzmann (Co-Founder & CMO, WeDeliver)
A couple weeks ago, 10 startups from across the country were invited to pitch at the first Demo Day held by Google for Entrepreneurs. We were one of them.
Not only did we stand out by being the only service provider, delivery company, or shared economy related company to pitch. We were also a notable stand out with our diverse team composition and high intensity pitch style.
Let me preface this by saying, that our team subscribes to the Zappos mindset of service oriented business practices. We study the “Secret Service” principles of John DiJulius to help us stand out with each delivery. When prepping for our pitch, our “Secret Service” coach, Sarah Lashley, shared that if John were coaching us he would advise us to prepare every pitch as if it were a 5 million dollar pitch. We practiced, came prepared and walked away with 100k on the spot from AOL Founder, Steve Case and more than a handful of promising investors who are in talks with us.
Here is what we learned from our Demo Day Pitch at Google:
1. 10 Seconds to Impact
Do you have impressive angels, amazing enterprise clients, or even better some crazy amount of traction? If so, use it. You have 10 seconds to get someone’s attention and make an impact. We did this with a shocking photo that illustrated an unrealized massive 20 billion dollar market.
2. Big Images & Minimal Words
This is a typical mistake for almost every presenter. The sooner you understand that no one wants to read your slides, the better. Your images should simply illustrate the words that are coming out of your mouth. Here is a sample slide to show you just how few words we were able to get away with.
3. Be Prepared for Anything
Many tips you read online will share that presentation notes are the way to go. We thought so too and were prepared to have them. When we got to our practice session at Google we were told that we would not have a screen for our presenter notes and that we would only have 1 mic. This meant that our already tight time was cut even more because of the handoffs of the mic. Luckily we were able to pull it off because we had already spent many hours practicing, which leads me to my next topic.
4. Practice Practice Practice
Some people are great at Improv. My co-founder Jimmy is one of those people that can go on stage with no prep. He can talk about anything and everything and sometimes does, but he oozes so much passion that after a 5 minute pitch everyone in the room wants to quit their jobs and start a company. I on the other hand need a strategic outline of the topics or points I plan to discuss. I have to practice in front of people to get the nerves out and I tend to stick to my format. Both of us pitch a similar narrative with our own twist.
For this pitch Kirk, Jimmy and I met with our trusted mentor, Troy Henikoff from TechStars Chicago. He made us do homework (see below) and told us to practice so much that it started to feel natural. He also said after a few hundred times of practicing, when you feel like you are ready, keep practicing. Kirk held Jimmy and I to our practice times by blocking off his schedule to be with us in support.
5. Audience Will Remember 3 Things
The homework. Troy made us throw away our favorite pitch that had evolved with us from day 1 of starting WeDeliver. He instead had us create a new blank slide deck with no pictures and only 3 slides. Each slide was to have 1 single goal that we wanted people to walk away with. Those 3 goals better be what convinces the VC’s in the room to want a meeting with you. The next step was to fill in each slide with 3 bullet points that best help demonstrate those goals. From there, your new pitch takes form.
Our 3 goals:
- Who we are: We are B2B, proven our model
- Why we are different: our experience, our tech, and our strategy
- Why it matters: Where we are going, strategic partners
Different people will tell you different things are important to include in your pitch but it all depends on those 3 things that you want people to remember about your company.
The framework we ended up with was:
- 10 Second Intro — Market Size
- The problem we solve
- Our Solution
- How we are different
- Model Breakdown
- API Announcement
- Amazing Investors
6. Be Brave and Be Yourself
At WeDeliver we have always pulled off crazy stunts during our presentations to grab people’s attention and show them how we are shaking up delivery as we know it. We even had live deliveries take place during our presentations, which is what helped us stand out at Startup Weekend. For this pitch, we slipped in some real under cover footage of our competition on a delivery. Sure enough it made everyone laugh quite hard. This was a quick way to show how we are different while winning over the room.
We enjoyed this feedback from Dave as he pointed out the room full of suits in the audience.
“Your team is brave and what you did was risky.” — Dave McClure
7. Have a Few Signature Lines
Jimmy and I both had a couple signature lines that resonated with the audience. This helped us gain exposure on Twitter from the influencers both in the room and watching live via the YouTube stream. It also helped start the conversations afterward because people would say they liked, “that one line where we said…..”
Some of the crowd favorites were:
8. Answer the Common Questions
Knowing what your audience knows about your space and competitors is key and can help you add clarity to your pitch. Also, try to answer the most common questions that arise after most of your pitches. The Googlers made sure to warn us that their crowd of Valley investors would know this space extremely well and would be immediately comparing us to other on-demand and shared economy companies. We took this challenge head on in one slide saying, “We are not Postmates, Instacart, or Task Rabbit…and here is why we are different.”
We typically always get these questions:
- How are you different from X, Y, Z company?
- How will you scale this?
This time we didn’t get these questions.
9. Be Proud of Your Team
When it came to adding our team slide into the presentation, we heard mixed messages. One perspective was to only share a team slide if you have one of these three qualifiers:
A) Pedigree — You have a strong educational pedigree from Stanford, MIT, or equivalent.
B) Experience — You or someone on the team has valuable domain knowledge or industry experience (ex: 15 years logistics).
C) Win — You have a win under your belt by having exited or sold a previous business.
We had none of these qualifiers, so it was recommended we remove our team slide. This was an internal struggle for us until the Googlers told us that investors would absolutely want to see this slide regardless.
That is when we realized… our “pedigree” is HUSTLE.We got to this point with our business because we have always been able to find a way make things happen. We hustle like no other company you have seen and have won awards with our hustle. We showcased our hustle in a team picture, where we were receiving a trophy from Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
Co-pitching creates a challenge for transitioning during the pitch. What this meant was that we had to craft an entire new pitch with a shared voice and comfortable flow of transition and timing for a room full of the Valley’s top VC’s.
This is one area that we might have done differently had we known we only had one mic and had we practiced in front of more people who may of told us that our parts were unbalanced or had too many transitions.
Overall, we both are thankful that Google asked us to co-pitch at Demo Day. We were forced outside of our comfort zone and ultimately we both came away stronger presenters.
BONUS TIP: Pitching with Confidence through Body Language
To minimize the nerves before we went on stage we each went to the bathroom and prepped our body language by doing the “Superman Pose” for 5 minutes. I learned this from watching Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk called, “Your body language shapes who you are.”
This post originally appeared on Medium.