The plague of start-up accelerators has brought one clear thing, pitching fatigue. People are sick to their heart of pitch practice sessions, how to do the ultimate investor deck and similar topics. Every time someone mentions the word demo-day you can see the eye rolling conga. It’s not that most demo days are boring as shit, it’s that nothing normally comes out of them. Yeah, a bunch of invites, half an auditorium full of might-invest-but-haven’t-seen-the-next-Facebook investors and the other half just passing by to say hello to their buddies.
It’s no wonder that, most start-ups I talk to, end up coming to the conclusion that pitch practice is essentially a waste of time. The current trend is: hey you, fuck the pitch and build your product/get out the building (Thanks Eric). And to be honest, I can’t blame them. I fully support this view. With some considerations.
The major issue is that most pitch practices I’m seeing are focused on the slides and the format. Fonts should be bigger, this or that slide sucks, that color makes me want to pop my eyes out with a spoon, etc. People are understanding pitch practice very badly. Lets cut to the crap. The Demo Day is just a fucking excuse to get a bunch of start-ups to a certain quality level. The presentation isn’t the end goal, working out your start-up business is.
The thing about communication is that, it only works well if you really know what you’re saying. Pitch practice isn’t about selling smoke, but about showing yourself and others that you have a sound reasoning of what the hell you’re doing with your project. Oil snake salesmen don’t get far in the start-up world. Despite what most start-ups think, it’s extremely easy to detect them. Only lame investors fall prey to such people. Yes, they do exist and yes, they do raise money, but they are a minority and they are well known by most.
That said, pitch practice is essential to a start-up. Not for the sake of the audience or the investor, but for the sake of the company. When you work a presentation you should be working on the top questions anyone is going to have when talking to you. This means, you should be working out basic business concepts such as user personas (marketing 101), market strategies (go to market or how to make money), problem solving (are you really fixing something worth solving), solution (are we really fixing the problem the way the market wants), etc. Each part of the pitch deck is a part of your business. You practice, not to give a great performance (which you should try to achieve always), but to learn about your business as much as possible.
People are attracted to confidence. By people I mean customers, press or investors. I really don’t care. Confidence works across cultures and professions. And guess what? Confidence is something you acquire with knowledge. Confidence without knowledge is just called stupidity. Forcing you and your team to practice pitching, learning how to synthesise all you know and cramping it into a five minute presentation is a fantastic exercise. It’s an essential concept for product development. Most people think simplicity is easy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simplicity is what you achieve when you’ve worked your ass off.
So, if like many start-ups, you think pitching practice is a waste of time, you should rethink it. Style and format advice are great, but always remember that the core idea behind it is to get as much feedback and work done on your product. If pitching practice isn’t making you go out to research and talk with your potential users, then you’re doing it wrong.
Now buddies, dust off those slides and get on the stage ready to rock the audience!