Incubator Start-up Pitch Training Class Review, Frankfurt, Germany, June 2018
Updated: Feb 28, 2021
Every year, Merck Pharmaceuticals hosts a pitch day for the most promising start-ups in their in-house accelerator program.
The accelerator supports their start-ups by enlisting Impact Presenting to help them prepare for the big day: Pitch day, where the top team would win financing. .
My 2 teams were experts in using Artificial Intelligence in the medical field (specifically, using artificial intelligence to do an initial analysis of MRI scans), and they were a combination of both doctors and lawyers.
On pitch day, each company would have exactly 10 slides and exactly 5 minutes to pitch for investment. So that’s how we targeted the training session, with that goal in mind, and structured the practice sessions accordingly.
The key take away:
Limit your start-up pitch to the need-to-know points
In this kind of situation, practice is the most important thing you can do to get a feeling for what is "too much information". So we did practice rounds, one after another. The first lesson was about the benefit of using a visible countdown timer. There are phone apps that change color close to the end, first to yellow, then to red. This works much better than trying to keep an eye on the exact time, which is hard to do when your phone is laying nearby.
With each practice round, the presenters shortened their pitches down to the bare necessities. So all "nice-to-know" points were eliminated and we were just down to the "need-to-know" points.
The 10 slides you need in your start-up pitch deck Our next focus was on the slides. A 10-slide deck is a staple of start-up pitch days everywhere. While in this case there was a fixed requirement for the number of slides, a lot of times this will be up to the individual. So if you find yourself in this situation, the ideal slide deck would look something like this:
1) A title slide
Have this ready to show, but always begin with a blank screen behind you. This way the audience make a connection with you while you are delivering your elevator pitch.
2) The problem to be solved
Show a photo of a current unhappy user, a problematic situation, a frustration, or the result of a problem that your idea or business seeks to overcome.
3) The background of the problem
Explain why previous solutions have not worked or are no longer ideal. You could also show pictures of previous solution fails, unhappy customers, or unplanned end-results.
4) Your product/service
Now is the time to pitch the product/service along with its features/benefits. If it’s something intangible, like an idea or process, you could use a flowchart or graph.
5) Comparing it to the competition
Compare your product/idea with that of your competitors or previous prototypes, emphasizing its key advantage over them. A side-by-side comparison works well here.
6) The market and potential market
Describe the end user of your product or service. Additionally, a graphic could be used to show the size of your potential market.
7) The core management team
Showing pictures will help here, but if you can’t get the team together, ensure individual photos are consistent and professional.
8) The money needed, for what, and when to be repaid
Outline the funding, budget, and other resources needed, plus a few lines about what they are needed for and (if applicable) when it will be repaid.
9) Future forecasts
Display your financial projections or give an image or a few lines about how your idea/solution will impact the market, your company, or the world.
10) Closing slide with the call-to-action
This should outline your first steps for the audience and could include a photo of the new future your product/service will bring.
Of course, this is not cut in stone, and there are different schools of thought out there on what to cover or not cover and in which order the slides should be. Look at a similar structuring recommended by Guy Kawasaki, a true icon in the start-up world, with his own 10 slide method https://guykawasaki.com/the-only-10-slides-you-need-in-your-pitch/
Ask with confidence
We finally covered, most importantly, asking for the investment. Financiers, investors, and other executive audiences love to see confidence. They want to hear the confidence in your voice when asking for the money. If you don't believe enough in your idea to ask confidently, then your audience won't believe in it enough to give it to you.
As a part of the Impact Presenting system’s 4nd step, "First Steps", everyone practiced asking for the money until they felt ready to go!
If you would like to have your start-up pitch assessed, or if you need help developing one, let us know.