Startup success starts with the pitch
How’s this for a complicated startup algebra problem: If scaling a successful startup requires funding and funding comes from convincing investors, then running a successful startup must require that entrepreneurs be great at pitching.
And that requires practice. Pitch contests are a great to way sharpen those skills - which is key if you want to make it here in Brooklyn, a major global center for innovation.
The power of the pitch contest
We believe so strongly in the power of pitching that we are hosting four pitch contests in the run up to our second annual Make It in Brooklyn Innovation Summit in 2016. For this first one, we teamed up with the Brooklyn Education Innovation Network (BE.IN) and opened applications to entrepreneurs affiliated with one our area higher education institutions.
Five finalists were chosen by John Biggs of TechCrunch. He and two fellow business leaders - Nisha Dua and Syed Rizvi- will be judging next Thursday night to dole out $5k in cash and prizes.
We then reached out to the entrepreneurship centers at our academic institutions to get their best advice on what makes a successful pitch.
The ingredients of a powerful pitch
To start, your personality can go a long way. Brynna Tucker, the Associate Director of Career and Professional Development at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute says:
That isn’t necessarily enough to get investors to take the plunge, however. “No one wants to give you their hard-earned money,” says Rahul Bedi, of Larry L Luing School of Business at Berkeley College. Bedi continues that entrepreneurs must “show tactical focus and discipline to convince investors you will make them money.”
And that is where the smooth, well-rehearsed pitch comes becomes critical.
According to Craig Wilson, Manager of the DUMBO Incubator at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, “the pitch shows your ability to be a storyteller. As a great storyteller, you can be a great recruiter, a great fundraiser, and a great leader.”
Even if you aren’t awarded a cash prize, just taking part in a pitch contest can help you tremendously. Dr. Dennis Anderson, a professor at the St Francis College Center for Entrepreneurship explained that “the pitch helps you present your idea, incorporate feedback, refine your business model and adapt your approach.”
Make sure to get feedback from the judges, particpants and even onlookers afterward in order to make those improvements for your next pitch.
Much of the advice circled around preparation.
Jonathan Askin, Founder of the Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic and Innovation Catalyst at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship put it this way: “Make sure you are so comfortable with your venture, your vision and your path that speaking about it is as genuine and natural as breathing.”
When asked how to master a pitch, Rahul Bedi kept it simple:
At the end of the day, success is all about execution.
“Ideas are welcome, but execution is worshipped,” advised Carrie Cottingham, Special Counsel and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Long Island University. “Your pitch should show investors that you will execute better than anyone else. Do that, and they’ll worship you.”
Whether or not you become Brooklyn’s next Jay Z, the experience of entrepreneurship is priceless. Long Island University President, Dr. Kimberly R. Cline advises: “As an entrepreneur, you are involved in every aspect of your startup. The experience is incredibly valuable, no matter where your career takes you.”
With all that talk of worship and being magnetic, it’s easy to see what makes entrepreneurship so attractive. Grab a $5 ticket to the pitch contest and come watch our five finalists pitch at Hill Country Barbecue Market in Downtown Brooklyn this Thursday. Tickets get you entry, free snacks and drinks, plus networking with local entrepreneurs and judges. Now that’s some simple math. See you there!
Hungry for more startup success advice? Check out our interview with serial entrepreneur Marc Glosserman, Founder of Hill Country Hospitality.