Ours is definitely not an elevator pitch!

A classic line and a classic error!

A friend of mine started a business 18 months ago and his product is timely, highly technical and despite vast market potential he and his colleagues are struggling to raise the necessary finance. Why? Well aside from the fact it is still a start up which is always difficult to finance, they are focussing on the technical details and not on the features and benefits of their product in their presentation.

I had not talked with my friend for some time and was trying to figure out what his product did. This culminated in the statement ‘ours is definitely not an elevator pitch’. Tears of mirth rolled down my cheeks.

For anyone who does not know what an elevator pitch is, try “an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch should be possible to deliver in the time span of an elevator ride, meaning in a maximum of 30 seconds and in 130 words or fewer.”

The statement that theirs was not an elevator pitch was subsequently undermined by two other comments which showed their problem:

  • “of course we feel that we have a really interesting story to tell and that it deserves a lot of words”
  • “X has done one investor run through and it was (apparently) way too long and unfocussed”.

I rest my case!

Whilst you may believe you have an interesting story, it remains to be seen whether your audience thinks it is. You have the challenge of getting that audience interested – quickly. The fact that the first investor run was a disaster should have alerted somebody that the story might not be as interesting as it appeared – appeared to the story teller that is.

Years ago you could not have a company without a ‘mission statement’. Next you had to have an ‘elevator pitch’ and now you really need a compelling ‘tweet’. It all boils down to the same thing: you have to be able to say what you are about in a very few words. Judgements are made in the first 2 minutes, if not sooner. If you cannot capture the attention of your investor in this time, you are unlikely to persuade him or her with ‘a lot of words’.

In my experience investors have a very short attention span. They see lots of proposals and many very good ones get thrown out, simply because they do have the time to investigate them all. If you want their money you need to get their interest within that short attention span. An elevator pitch is a good tool. Once I witnessed an investor walk out of a presentation (not mine fortunately) whilst her guest was in full swing – I am not sure he noticed at first. She had made her judgement and we were left with our coffee cups – and hers.

I will continue to encourage my friend and hope his advisor brings in the focus. Their proposition could be very good, but they will need a clearer and more compelling story, as well as, of course, ‘an elevator pitch’.

I will accept a tweet.

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