Let’s make startup pitches suck less

The last three days I was a mentor at Startup Weekend Cologne. It was a good event with a very positive and productive atmosphere.

At the end the ideas were pitched. However, like many pitching events, the quality of the pitches varied enormously. The thing is, a bad pitch can ruin interest in a good idea.

This holds true the other way around as well. Sometimes a good pitch can cover up a bad idea (I am not saying that’s a good thing). Especially because in those couple of minutes the audience and judges often cannot grasp the concept in detail with all its implications.

A pitch doesn’t make your startup better. A pitch makes your startup more interesting. It is an entry ticket to continue the conversation. Depending on the person you get interested it makes the pitch potentially very valuable.

Sure, Startup Weekend is a format, which doesn’t necessarily foster great pitches. There are usually a number of newcomers with little pitch experience. Also at Startup Weekend time is always tight. The pitch deck gets finished a few minutes before the presentation and pitch practice tends to get a lower priority than more “urgent” tasks.

However, also at “pitch events” with an application process and plenty of time to prepare pitches often aren’t polished. From time to time they simply suck. At Seedcamp I have seen that pre-pitch training can help a lot. We also did pre-pitch training at Pirate Summit (Disclaimer: I am member of the board). That’s an area we can and should still improve.

I believe pre-pitch training is merely a band-aid and not a real cure. Why don’t we do this more professionally? Apparently I struck a nerve with my tweet today asking for just that.

For me it is not that much about the preparation for the next pitch. I am thinking about a mindset. “Pitching DNA” if you will. It is about story-telling. It is about summarizing an idea in a concise and compelling way. This is something that could start in schools (or even Kindergarden 😉 ).

The good thing is: Francis Dierick from StartupStay will launch PitchCademy soon. It really gets my hope up that we might see some structural approach towards learning how to pitch. The need is definitely there.

PS: The invite code for PitchCademy is “startupstay”.