Pitch Perfect: Lessons on the Startup Pitch at Challenge Cup DC

October 29, 2013

5:00 pm

Today’s the day! Today’s the day! Okay, well, yesterday was the day – but whatever! The Challenge Cup, an international startup competition aimed at finding the most innovative startup solving a pressing global issue, kicked off yesterday with its DC regional competition.

Taking place at 1776, day 1 of the two-day event was really focused on working with startups on creating and refining the perfect pitch – both in preparation for the one-minute pitch that each startup must prepare for the actual competition portion of Challenge Cup and for overall improvement and practice for future investor pitches.

Spanning the categories of health, education, energy, and smart cities, the 34 startups selected to participate in Challenge Cup DC spent the morning and afternoon perfecting their pitches for tomorrow’s competition, where only one startup from each category will advance in the overall competition. They had help from various startup pitch coaches, including 1776 cofounders Donna Harris and Evan Burfield, managing director of Fortify Ventures Jon Perrelli, and head of government and non-profits for Twitter Adam Sharp.

Challenge Cup startups getting coached on their pitches.

I went around and had a chance to sit down and chat with some of the startups represented yesterday, and they shared with me a few words on what they leaned from today’s startup pitch coaching and workshop and some general thoughts on pitches:

“The one-minute speech is probably the toughest type of pitch to make. You have to put [the content] in a simple and easily relatable format for the audience. At the same time, you have to make it compelling; you need to have a killer closing – you want your company to be the first one people remember.”

– Shameet Luhar, Vheda Health

“[The workshop and coaching] has been helpful because I’m used to being very descriptive and technical when explaining what we do, so being able to talk about your company in a non-technical way and translate it to the general user has been an important lesson.”

– Le-Marie Thompson, Nettadonna

“[When pitching], it’s all about making a personal connection – it’s not all about the product; it’s about products and people.”

– Jason Force, EcoMow

“As a founder, you have a wide concept of your entire vision. [The coaching] has helped me hone in on the specifics in a one-minute time space.”

– Curtis Williams, MicroTeachings

“It’s all about packing in as much meat as you can, [and that] the first 15 seconds makes or breaks your pitch.”

– Arnab Raychaudhuri, NeXt

“You get to a point where you can get really good at the 10-15 slide investor pitches, but sometimes this gets you in the weeds too much during these [shorter pitches] that you forget that you’re not necessarily in front of industry folks.”

– David Fairbrothers, Dorsata

“I’ve learned that it’s that last little bit that makes [the pitch] more memorable.”

– Ryan Sears, SurveySnap

“[The workshop] helped [us] to cull out the essential aspects of our business model and to tailor the pitch around the optimal customer.”

– Jason Green, SkillSmart

“The pitch should focus on the core problem you’re trying to solve. The investor is interested in what pain point you’re trying to remove and how you’re going to do it.”

– Grant Elliott, Ostendio

“[The pitch] is never perfect, but you can always continue to refine it – you can always make your story more impactful.”

– Tina Tran Neville, CollegeAppz

“You have to explain your customer to your audience. From there, [investors] will get the need and understand the business opportunity [in your idea].”

– Gail Embt, Kinergy Health

“Keep [your pitch] short and simple. You really have to boil it down to a really clear model that makes sense [to the audience], which is especially hard for [founders] since you already know your model really well. Moments like this [at Challenge Cup] really focus you. Plus, you get to learn from about 40 other people on how they do [their pitches] and gets you to think ‘hey, next time, I’ll do that.'”

– Gary Hensley, EdBacker

The Challenge Cup DC Regional Competition moves on to day 2 today, ending with tonight’s pitches where each startup will need to convince the judges that their startup deserves to move on in the competition.

The Challenge Cup is produced in partnership with Tech Cocktail and iStrategy Labs.

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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