Communicating your story in a minute

At the pitch session for Microsoft Accelerator’s next batch, more than 35 startups presented at today’s event at 91Springboard in New Delhi ( May 30th 2014).

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I was really impressed to see that the number of high-potential startups – great teams driving meaningful concepts addressing large market opportunities – was much higher than the number of average or not-so-good startups. The startup eco-system in India is certainly moving in the right direction.

However, as always, most entrepreneurs did not do a good job in telling their story well. Many spent time talking about non-critical points i.e. points that were unlikely to help the judges to make a decision.

The format was simple. Each team got 60-seconds to pitch in an open forum and another 30-60 seconds for a couple of questions from the judges. From the initial pitches, 8-10 startups were to be shortlisted for a more detailed private conversation with the judges, and from these about 3-5 would be shortlisted for a deep-dive by Microsoft Accelerator.

Some feel that 60-seconds is just not adequate time to present your story, and it is an unfair to judge someone in 60-seconds. I don’t think it is unfair. Because the 60-second pitch is NOT used to make the final selection. It is only for the judges to filter out what they feel is not relevant, and to therefore shortlist candidates whose stories you want to hear in greater detail.

And if that is the objective, and it was explained well in advance, the stories could have been much sharper, with emphasis on the key points. Here are some suggestions on what should be covered in a 60-second pitch, with the objective of being selected for the next round.

  • Your name and your startups name
  • What problem you are solving and for whom (i.e. your value proposition)
  • How are you solving the problem (your concept/product/service)
  • The size of the market opportunity – i.e. how many people/organizations would find this value proposition meaningful
  • What stage are you at
  • Team overview
  • What are you seeking from the program (I.e. not mentoring.. that is obvious.. but mentoring in what specific area – technology, marketing, business model, etc. Incidentally, did not hear even one startup say that they needed help in cracking the business model).

Can all this be conveyed in 60-seconds?

I think it can be. Here’s how (am taking the example of one of the startups that presented – Addister) –

“Hi. My name is Shubham and I am the co-founder of Addister.

Addister helps brands put their messages on unconventional mediums that are not available on regular media networks. We are creating an online platform where individuals and private companies can list their media assets, and brands can bid for it and advertise on the properties on offer.

People can list their cars, balconies, banners at events in colleges & housing colonies, note books, etc. Anything that they feel would be interesting for brands to put their message on. You can even list your laptop as an ad medium if you are a popular dude in college.  

For example – Microsoft can advertise on the menu card of restaurants across the country that get a lot of CXO crowd.

We believe our concept has a market opportunity of 50mn individuals & companies with an average of 3 media assets each. At Rs.1000 per asset, we are talking about opening up a Rs.15,000 crore market. And that is just in India.

We are currently testing the concept offline. We have 6 brands advertising on 30+ mediums offered by 15 individuals. In fact, we earned gross revenue of Rs.8 lacs in the past 3 months. We charge 20% commission on the ad spend.

We are two co-founders, both techies with previous entrepreneurial experience. We are also looking for a business side co-founder, and we are also looking for advisors and mentors from the advertising industry.

From the program we need assistance on the technology platform, as well as mentoring on our go-to-market plans.We believe you should consider us because we have a powerful concept that has been proven in off-line pilot. Hope to get shortlisted.”

Remember, accelerators align their offering to what investors seek in the companies they invest in. And investors look for the following:

  • Is the market large
  • Does this product/service have a reasonable chance of being a dominant player in that large market
  • Is this the team we can bet on
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Author: Prajakt Raut

Prajakt Raut is the founder of Applyifi.com, and author of the book for startups - ‘Starting Up & Fund Raising’ Prajakt personal goal in life is to encourage and assist a 100,000 people to become entrepreneurs. _____________ Prajakt is the founder of Applyifi - an online platform that provides startups a 36-point scorecard and assessment report on the venture's investment readiness [www.applyifi.com], and helps them improve their odds of getting funded. Prajakt is also the founding partner of The Growth Labs, a platform where growth-stage companies get sharp, incisive advice from senior professionals and experienced entrepreneurs. [www.thegrowthlabs.in] Before starting Applyifi, Prajakt was the head of operations at IAN, founding member of a leading incubator, and the Asia-Director for TiE (2004 - 2007). Previously Prajakt had co-founded Orange Cross, a healthcare services company, and was part of the founding team member of Idealake Technologies. While in college Prajakt had founded a printing business and has spent over 10 years working in leading advertising agencies. Prajakt’s book, ‘Starting Up & Fund Raising’, helps startups understand an investor’s perspective, and helps them improve their odds of getting funded. The book also helps entrepreneurs understand the building blocks of a business.

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