Issue 19

Pitch design. On conceptualizing and delivering a start-up presentation

Marius Iatan
CEO & Co-founder

We are RenderStreet, the next generation render farm for 3D projects. A one-line pitch, with a simple and clear message. Right?

Apparently, yes. But when put in practice, the results will vary upon several factors: how acquainted the audience is to the subject, how much attention they are paying to your presentation, the attractiveness of the proposal and how well the speech is delivered. If you have a start up, you already know that pitching is one of the important activities. So - how do we make it go well?

Since launching RenderStreet, I"ve held more speeches than in my entire life before that. And, since my first speech on How to Web"s stage in 2012 until now, I"ve managed to identify some factors that can influence in a good way the reception of the message.

The first factor is probably also the hardest to achieve: fluency in English is decisive. At most industry events, the official language is English. Also, most of the financing (still) comes from outside of Romania. This means that the person presenting on stage must be the one who is most familiar with the English language.

The next factor: know your audience. The same pitch can be structured differently depending on the targeted group. I will illustrate this by showing how I adapted our pitch for three different events, each time focusing on delivering the most relevant information.

The first event: HowToWeb. I structured the pitch for a mainly technical audience, including a few investors. I delivered a general presentation of the business: the proposal, the market, the evolution since launch, milestones, team, the financial part. Because in the audience there were also non-technical people, in the beginning I insisted on "What does RenderStreet do?".

The next pitching event: EuroCloud. Here the audience was composed of managers situated at various levels within their companies, who shared a common interest for cloud. My presentation in this case had a technical focus, mainly on multi-cloud implementation. Because implementations like ours are not very common at this moment, I treated the subject in more detail: the technical challenges, the solutions to overcome them, the difficulties left unsolved, the advantages we got. The financial details and the business" evolution were less interesting in that context, so I passed them quickly.

The third one: Microsoft. The audience at this event was mostly made of journalists. I started with a detailed presentation of our domain of activity, followed by an overview of the market and a description of the practical applications of our technology. The visual part was better represented and I included more figures to help create a better image of the business.

The conclusion: Each audience has specific interests and looks for a certain type of information. Depending on how well you know your audience, adapting your content may help getting the message through.

And now let"s discuss a bit the contents of the presentation. There are enough sources that tell you what a pitch should cover, so I will only stress some aspects I consider important:

- Clearly explain what your startup is about. If the feedback at the end of the pitch is "… and what do you actually do?", than the pitch was a failure.

- The saying "An image is worth 1000 words" gets a whole new meaning when you have just a few minutes (usually under 5) for the presentation.

- Keep your slides clean and without too much text. In my presentations, I never had a slide with more than 4 lines of text.

- Get to know the market and include relevant data in the presentation. The market story will be understood by all audiences and, if the figures are significant, will raise the level of interest for your business.

- "Seeing is believing." If you have a working demo, insert at least some screenshots.

I will conclude with a final advice: repeat the pitch a few times before the event. This helps your fluency and may help overcome the hesitations that come from speaking in a foreign language.

Good luck!

About Marius Iatan: Having a technical background, Marius founded his first business in 2001, one year after finishing his studies. Now, Marius is co-founder and CEO of RenderStreet - an online rendering service for 3D projects, based on cloud technology.


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