Polishing Up Your Fast Pitch: A Crash Course

March 26th, 2014

With the advent of Fall comes a busy events season for the marketing and technology industries.  As our calendars filled up with demo days, conferences, fireside chats and more, our business development efforts were thrown into overdrive. Events can either be distracting or strengthening to a startup’s business goals and product development. At KITE we have found that taking on new presentation challenges often helps us evolve our story and, ultimately, the world’s understanding of the value that we offer.

When we were invited by the Momentum Accelerator and CTIA to compete in the MobileCON 2013 Fast Pitch competition, we jumped at the chance to present. KITE and 19 other startups were invited to give their best 3-minute pitches to a murderer’s row of industry judges and an audience full of mobile execs. It was the perfect opportunity to build new brand relationships and strengthen ties within the startup community, while truly rethinking how we showcase product offerings.

 

Sitting competition judges from left to right: Sumeet Jain (Intel Capital), Emily Jennerich (T-Mobile), Ed Ruth (Verizon), Lars Leckie (Hummer Winblad Venture Partners), Faraz Hoodbhoy (AT&T Foundry), Patrick Eggen (Qualcomm Ventures)

In preparation for the event, we enlisted the help of our friends at Organic SF and our fellow presenters for a little constructive criticism session. It was easy for us; Organic shares their office space with us, so all we had to do was book a conference room, invite some of our fellow startup presenters, and grab a few Organic creatives after hours.

After performing an initial run-through, the Organic creatives offered us several valuable improvements and focus points to make the most of our three minutes onstage. We think these are valuable tips for any startup preparing a fast pitch:

  • Establish Your Space: Set up the specifics of the situation that your company operates in and emphasize the problems that the space faces, which your company has been created to solve

  • Communicate Your Solution: Find a way to quickly and powerfully convey your solution. In KITE’s case, we needed to efficiently demonstrate our collaboration, discovery and deal-making solutions (in general – quickly communicate your value proposition and key product benefits)

  • Deliver with Personality: Present in an accessible manner, so that it doesn’t feel too rehearsed

It seems easy enough, but considering that most of us are used to pitching and discussing our companies with at least 10-15 minutes, minimum, we had our work cut out for us. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” In other words, simplicity ain’t easy. Take a look at how we approached each improvement.

I. Establishing Our Space 

Setting up the context for the pitch was perhaps the easiest part of our task. We had to set up the problem we were solving right at the pitch’s start, in order to hook the audience and the judges.  We had an illustration in our archives depicting the many arms of agencies, brands, media, venture and enterprise that are chasing innovation.

A rough sketch of innovation seekers across enterprise

We needed to position ourselves as the “glue” that connects these moving parts- all of those circles – the tool that spans verticals, enabling all arms of an enterprise to collaborate as they discover and engage with innovative new technologies.  With a little humor and deep empathy for how this problem affects all sides of the ecosystem, this came pretty naturally to our CEO and designated pitcher, Mark Silva.

II. Communicating Our Solution

In order to illustrate KITE’s efficiency, discovery, evaluation functionalities, we had to look beyond the typical slide deck. We believe in the power of KITE to connect folks in real-time, so why not perform a real-time product demo during the pitch?

We searched far and wide for mobile demo products, finally landing on Reflector, a Mac-specific device mirroring software, using AirPlay. This took our pitch into high gear; the audience could see company evaluations and recommendations populate an active network feed instantly. Often, all of the eloquent explanations in the world can’t stand up to a good product demo.

We’re now using Reflector regularly as we continue to court brand and agency networks; it’s pure demo magic for on-stage pitches or remote presentations with Google Hangout or Join.me screenshares.

III. Delivering with Personality

Mark knew that in order to sound confident, natural and not too rehearsed, he had to, ironically, rehearse a lot. He pitched in the office. He practiced in our conference room. He rehearsed over the weekend. He even recited the pitch aloud to us on the way to MobileCON as we drove down to San Jose. When Mark took his place on stage,  we could recite the presentation along with him.

KITE CEO Mark Silva wielding KITE as he presents 

The result of all that work? A streamlined presentation that just made it under the 3-minute cutoff, succinctly and affably highlighting our team, business model and, most importantly, our product.

The Takeaway: “Lean Presenting”

Our approach to this competition highlighted the fact that the “lean startup” mentality of self-evaluation, analysis and iteration applies to more than just product development. When approaching business development, it’s crucial to take a step back and, with the most objective eye possible, assess your current strategies. We’re a small startup, but a pragmatic, speedy and  evaluative process like this can be beneficial to any business endeavor, regardless of nature or scope.