Gangsta Pitch: what if you had to pitch to real life, no-frills crew? Watch it!

This will be a quick post, but I bet you’ll want to watch this clip over and over again!

What if the audience of your pitch was made of real life, diverse people? Would you be ready for it? Lesson learned: forget about canvas, go to market strategy and get down to what matters!

Watch “Cholos Try” video judging Amplify.LA accelerator portfolio companies: The Flex Company, Markett, and Artkive.

Elevator Pitch: where did it all start?

For many people we should have started our blog with an article about the “famous and feared” Elevator Pitch… In my opinion, starting preparing your pitches with the elevator one is a mistake: if you haven’t put a broader plan/ explanation “on paper”, it might be tough to come one with a very concise (90 seconds) and winning pitch.

Apart from my opinion (unrelated to this article!), people always ask me where does the term “Elevator Pitch” come from… Well, there are 2 theories:


The Hollywood urban legend theory


First theory is also kind of an urban legend, and puts the born of the elevator pitch decades ago in Hollywood. It was the golden days of movie making, and people from all different backgrounds and geographies went to Hollywood, with their scripts in hands, hoping to get rich in a blink. Side note: any resemblance to Silicon Valley?

Back to the story, screenwriters would then chase producers wherever they could to sell their ideas… even on elevators! The time between floors (60 to 90 seconds) was all the got to convince producers to invite them to a follow up meeting.

They had to come out with a very concise, but exciting, pitch structure. It had to be clear enough so they could just talk through it (no Power Point, folks!), in front of other people, ambient noise etc…

That’s the cool version of how the Elevator Pitch was born.


Version 2: the actual elevator demonstration


The second theory is much less glamorous. According to the Tom Tunguz  (if you’re an entrepreneur, you should subscribe to his awesome blog) on an article called “To sell is human”, the origin of the term dates back 1852, with the demonstration of elevators themselves:

The term elevator pitch originates from the very first demonstration of an elevator with a safety brake. At the time, elevators were hazardous, routinely plummeting down shafts when their hoisting ropes fell, destroying their payloads. In 1852, Elisha Otis invented a locking system that would catch and secure plunging elevator. Unable to drive much interest in his innovation, Otis organized a demonstration in New York City. He stood in the elevator as an assistant severed the hoisting ropes and the safety brake engaged. Otis’ innovation paved the way for humans to ride in elevators. Today, the Otis company’s products transport 7B people every three days.

To Sell is Human, Tom Tunguz


To me, attributing the creation of elevator pitch to a single moment or person is too much of a stretch. Sales Pitches have been around for a long long time, and if you know salespeople (especially the desperate ones) you know they will take every opportunity they have to sell.

It’s more likely that people started delivering shorter and shorter pitches, and started to package and spread the concept/ theory until  the term “elevator” sticked. Had this concept been created by a single entity, believe me, we would all be seeing trademarks and requests for royalties!

Having said that, understanding the history behind the concept, no matter the theory you believe in, is, to me, soothing: people have been struggling with this for a very long time, so I’m not the first one!

500 Startups 14 awesome pitch tips

500 Startups  is one of the largest Accelerators in the Valley and have a feet on the ground approach.

On a recent article Pitch, Please: 14 Must-Read Pitch Lessons Every Startup Founder Should Know they go through some very interesting tips o about how to better explain your business.

One of the most interesting points, is how to position your company in terms of which story to tell. Below is an excerpt:

Traction, Team, Tech, Vision – in general, most startups will fall into one of these categories. If you have (impressive) traction, you have a Traction Story. If you have a great team with a previous exit or serious domain chops, you have a Team Story. If you’ve built interesting technology (read: not a mobile or web app), you have a Tech Story. The problem? Most people choose the wrong story, try to tell all the stories…


Another point, we usually forget, os to avoid saying the obvious:

Don’t waste time explaining what everyone already knows, especially the problem. If you are a logistics company, don’t go on and on about how big the logistics industry is after you say it’s $4T. We get it. If you are a food delivery startup, don’t talk about the problem of not knowing what you’re eating for dinner. Everybody knows. In reality, a) that’s probably not the problem you’re actually solving, and b) we probably already agree it’s a problem — we’re just not convinced your solution is solving it. The more niche, international, or underground your problem/market, the more time you should spend educating.


Ok, enough pigbacking! Go there and read their article: 14 Must-Read Pitch Lessons Every Startup Founder Should Know

Q&A: turning a good question into a great one!

The best Q&A (questions & answers) tip I got came from a friend who works at a top VC fund in the valley: she asked me if I knew the difference between a good and a great question. A “good” question is very intelligent; touches on a critical point about your business… but that you don’t know exactly how to answer on the spot. A “great” question, on the other hand, is also very intelligent… but not only have the answer for (on the spot), but also have supporting slides! When someone asks you a “great question”, you need to control your smile, because you know you’re going to score some points.

After this tip, I defined as a personal goal to make sure that whenever I went through a Q&A session all questions should be great! That definitely stepped up my game.


Q&A session is part of the pitch… and needs as much preparation

When people prepare their pitches, they’re usually thinking about the 7 minutes they will be on the stage presenting, and end up forgetting about the Q&A session… that’s a big mistake!

The Q&A session is the time judges/ investors have to explore the weaker points of your business, trying to extract from you an “unsanitized” answer. That’s exactly why I recommend you to surprise them, with a perfect preparation.

On the pitch I gave for the 43North competition semifinals, I had 24 slides on my pitch, including the “cover”, contact, pictures, and another 60 just for Q&A! I got to admit that it was awesome when they asked me a “great question”, and I opened the slide and answered on the spot! When we finished the meeting, they told me they really liked that level of preparation!


But how do I prepare for it?

First, you learn what people ask by experience; you take every single opportunity to pitch your business and every time someone asks you something you weren’t prepared for, you go back to the office and add it to your Q&A slides.

Second, you watch as many pitch competitions as you can, and write down the questions they make. You’ll notice a pattern… questions are pretty similar, especially on comparable business models (marketplace, Saas, content…). Write down the questions, and make sure you’re addressing them, either on the presentation part or on the Q&A.

Finally, you can induce judges to ask what you want; that’s a very clever pitch hack! The topics you should cover in your pitch are pretty much standard (I recommend reading our article about a pitch table of contents). So I select a topic that I’ll intentionally not cover on the pitch. It’s got be something that won’t spoil the presentation by leaving out, but that you can explore a clever insight you had.

In AgendaPet‘s  case, for example, I do this with GTM – go to market -(how I acquire customers). In Uber-like models, like ours, it’s usually pretty straightforward (online advertising + repeat business). However, in AgendaPet we have a sizable organic traffic as a result of a growth hack strategy we apply: on cities we don’t cover yet, we have a free service directory listing, so users can find professionals. It also attracts prospective professionals. This way, when we decide to migrate a city, we already have a very good starting point! I like leaving GTM out of “main pitch” so I can surprise judges with my answer… and, by experience, they usually ask that question!

Inducing the judges what to ask has also a side benefit: you avoid judges “curve balls”! Usually there’s as much time allotted for Q&A time as for the presentation itself. Judged have to ask questions, period. So, if you don’t leave room for easier questions, they’ll dig for something trickier… make both of your lives easier!

A perfect pitch won’t make a bad business look good; but it can make a good business be seen as it should. When it comes to the pitch, it’s always a matter of taking it one step further; everything counts! Surprising the audience with a “great answer” will not only guarantee a better understanding about your business, but also will show the type of leader/ manager you are!

Unicamp Pitch Workshop Prezi

Pitch Workshop for non-startupers – Unicamp

What a delight!

Last Monday 80 of the brightest minds of Unicamp (one of the largest and most influential universities in Brazil) joined me for a full day Workshop on Pitch Techniques for non-startupers. Those 80 people are finalists at Prêmio PAEPE, Unicamp’s most important award, which selects the projects that contributed the most for the university development, ranging from water saving initiatives to improving access for the hearing impaired students.

The goal was to prepare those groups to pitch their projects at Prêmio PAEPE’s finals and, some of the had never made presentations, not say speak in public. But, given their enthusiasm and effort throughout the intense day, that won’t be a problem!

We also had 2 guest speakers, Amauri Sousa from Virtual Avionics (flight simulation solutions), and Everton Nadalin from DSP Geo (computational solutions for Oil & Gas). Amauri and Everton are founders of 2 worth watching rising startups, and made their pitches so people could see “professionals in action”.

Below you can find the presentation (sorry, but it’s in Portuguese…) we used. Enjoy it!Workshop Pitch Unicamp - Complete Prezi Workshop Pitch Unicamp – Complete Material