It's vital to come up with a polished elevator pitch because the first 30 - 60 seconds in front of investors can mean the difference between success and failure.
I wanted to show how real-life entrepreneurs and startups used their own, unique elevator pitches to win new business or capture valuable publicity.
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What's struck me as interesting about the examples I collected was how different they were from each other. Each pitch was successful in its own right, but clearly there isn't a single right or wrong template (other than generic features, like short, clear, simple, direct).
An elevator pitch is a succinct summary of a business proposal. It should convey information about what the business will offer, why it is valuable, and a call to action - such as an investment request.
Google's (heard of them?) elevator pitch was insanely succinct.
Google exists to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
It resulted in an investment of $11.8 million by John Doerr in 1999.
Elevator Pitch Quick Start
Research & plan your startup to help craft the perfect elevator pitch.
LivePlan has helped over 400 000 small businesses to start and grow up to 30% faster.
A business plan highlights how your product/service fits into the market, what differentiates you & what opportunities exist.
Use this to craft the perfect pitch tailored to your audience (i.e. a VC might want a different pitch to a bank).
For my money, here are the most important things to consider when putting together your own pitch:
- Understand who your are pitching to and customize the pitch to suit those people
- Be able to summarize the value offering of your business in one (at most two) sentences
- Be clear about what you want to get out of the pitch
- Explain why investors should do what you ask
Elevator Pitch & Follow-Up Tips
I recently attended the final round of pitches for twelve early stage, local tech startups, and was privileged to witness a new generation of exciting and energetic entrepreneurs.
While everyone there had already been through a few selection rounds involving applications, business plans and interviews, this was the first time there was real face time with all stakeholders.
The thing I was most impressed by, however, was how well the investors managed the process (to extract the information they needed to make their decision). I actually learned a lot from the way the investors guided the startups through the pitching process, and I thought I would share a list of three of the more important things that rubbed off on me.
1. 30 Seconds
I found that when meeting potential investors face to face, the most important thing to get right is the 30 second elevator pitch.
Investors are busy people. They have heard hundreds, if not thousands of ideas, and don't want to get bogged down in minute details and complex explanations (at least to start with).
Here's what they want to know:
- Who you are
- Your idea (it should take no more than a sentence or two)
- What you need
The most important part of the elevator pitch is point 2. You have to distil your idea down to one or two sentences, and that may not be easy, depending on what your niche is. Bottom line: if you can't instantly stand out as a proposition with real potential you are going to struggle.
In fact, some of the better pitches I heard didn't even take 30 seconds, yet gave the impression that those people understood what they were doing.
A slick elevator pitch is not just about getting an idea across, it's about selling yourself as someone to do business with.
With a great elevator pitch under your belt, it is likely that, at some point, an investor is going to want to explore your proposal in more detail. No matter how new or brilliant you think your idea is, many of these investors will not instantly share your enthusiasm.
If you haven't done a proper analysis of the competition in order to see exactly what it is that sets you apart, you might even find that you actually learn about someone else already doing what you do... from the investor.
That's not a good result.
Don't go anywhere near an investor until you can explain, in plain English, what distinguishes what you do from everything else out there.
Having said that, investors also understand that not every new venture can be a game changer. If you aren't reinventing the wheel then make sure you can provide a compelling reason(s) why you will find a market.
This leads neatly to the next point...
A good idea isn't enough to convince investors to part with cash. You have to pair that idea with a definable market, and show how it will generate revenue.
This is where we come to the crunch.
Investors want to know that somewhere down the line (and generally not that far) there will be a stream of revenue that can be grown.
One of the things I noticed about many of the technical startup pitches I listened to was that they had a clever idea, which could be implemented, but little idea about how to get people to pay for it. Many ideas were "neat", possibly something I would use, but not something I would pay for. And that's not good enough.
There has to be one or more compelling ways to make money from the business.
Overall, what investors want are people who can demonstrate that they understand their offering, and have the vision and drive to take it forward.
It takes a great elevator pitch to hook 'em. Don't waste it by not being prepared for steps 2 and 3.
Elevator Pitch Secret #1
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Elevator Pitch Examples
Here are some examples of successful pitches to give you a feel for how short, succinct, yet powerful an elevator pitch can be.
The following pitch came from Lance Walley, CEO over at Chargify, a billing software company with a focus on helping clients manage recurring payments.
I got your email address from **** *****.
My co-founders and I founded Grasshopper and Engine Yard, in which Amazon, Benchmark, and NEA invested. Our new company, Chargify, is a simple recurring billing management tool.
We’re looking for angel capital to fill in some gaps. Maybe you’re interested in such an investment?
Elevator Pitch Secret #2
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This pitch, sent to celebrity investor Mark Cuban, ended up with a response within the hour and ultimately investment by Mark.
This pitch was submitted by Matt Bremerkamp from Pressed, a time management app.
Pressed is an intelligent personal assistant designed to keep people focused on whatever goals they have; like working out, eating healthier, or even just drinking more water.
Want to run a 5k? Pressed will learn that your office isn’t the place to remind you to train. However, it may notice you’ve been at home for a while and may have the time to get out there and break a sweat.
The pitch resulted in coverage in a blog called DIY Active, and most recently the Harvard Business Review.
The following pitch was submitted by Lisa Baker-King, an author and family coach.
Zebecs is creating a movement to connect families, celebrate children and change companies by breaking the rules; teaching children to love to learn and adults to recognize what is right about them.
Elevator Pitch Secret #3
Use influencers & social marketing to quickly build valuable relationships that give you credibility as someone to invest in.
Use SocialPilot to help you understand the audience and create better engagement with them.
If you're looking to grow into the social media space then it's vital to have insights into how your engagements are performing, as well as planning and executing campaigns from start to finish.
The pitch resulted in TV Network Affiliate News (ABC/FOX) appearances as well as a recent national network show appearance on the CW. In addition, Lisa was able to secure a book signing event at Barnes & Noble and guest appearances in pod-casts and several guest blogging opportunities.
This pitch was submitted by Miriam Diwan from NowMoveMe, a neighbourhood discovery app.
NowMoveMe is a neighbourhood discovery platform, allowing users to find real estate based on their personality, not just zip code & price range.
The pitch got them a meeting with the head of Zillow M&A.
I think it's also important to note that a successful elevator pitch doesn't necessarily lead to investment (or some other positive outcome). There is still a long journey ahead when it comes to working with investors. Due diligence, personality issues, equity sharing, and a host of other potential snags need to be overcome.
But, as Gary Hamel said,
Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur forging a bullet with your company's name on it.
Remember, you're the entrepreneur forging the bullet.
Have you recently pitched successfully? Anyone fail dismally? Share your experiences in the comments below and tell us about the lessons you learned that might help others in the same position.