The Biggest Reason a Startup Pitch Is Like a Job Interview

August 26, 2016

10:20 am

You sit down across from an imposing businessperson. You take a deep breath in your button-down shirt. It’s just a job interview, you tell yourself. No wait, it’s a startup pitch. Regardless, there’s just one main thing you need to remember: Avoid the Interview Vacuum.

The Interview Vacuum

Okay, I made up that term. If it catches on, I claim bragging rights. I’m just trying to capture a common flaw in interviews of all shades, from your dream job to your one-on-one with the best VC in San Francisco. This advice applies to any situation where you’re trying to prove your worth. Remember that your skills don’t exist in a vacuum.

At any high-risk interview, certain things are assumed. A job interviewer assumes your ability to stay on task and your past experience in the field are the baseline. In the same way, any VC will assume that you already have a great market lined up, your team is exceptional, and your plan has traction.

How to Escape the Vacuum

When you’re preparing to sit down with an interested company, ask yourself what their context is. No interview is in a vacuum, and that means they all have a context. No one context is the same. What is the company looking for that’s different from every other company out there? What’s the specialty? What do they hope to expand into? How can your startup pitch boost their profile?

Stefano Bernardi, of Mission and Market VC, recently posted on a few ways to optimize that startup pitch quickly. Here’s Bernardi’s take on the subject:

“The founder wants to explain the key things and biggest achievements, and only really thinks about their pitch. But so does every other founder.

A founder thinks that as long as their pitch is good they’re golden, but the reality is that founders should pay a bit more attention to how all their batch-mates are presenting their companies — to really get a feel of what it could be like from an investor’s perspective.”

What makes the VC invest in 1-5 startups out of hundreds? Find out. Then use it in your startup pitch.

Also, You Can Get Kinda Weird

Standing out can sometimes means doing stuff that might otherwise fall flat. A story might help you stand out. So could animation. Bernardi again:

“Comedy, videos, animations, personal story references, whatever would usually be a total no-go for a pitch, become fair game when pitching as one of 100 others. (There’s the classic problem of needing to be the first and only to do it, because 100 animated pitches are obviously much worse than 100 normal speeches).”

Hey, if the film Jurassic Park can spend five minutes on a low-rent Clippy named “Mr. DNA” and still become a modern classic, anything’s possible.

Image: Flickr / Alper Çuğun

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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