How to Pitch Better

(Eric Halsey) #1

“We entered his office, this was the golden moment when I had only one minute to either sell myself and my company, or bury it.”
-Edmand Sharita, Founder of Kamata, Africa Prize shortlist

Pitching is a lot of things. It’s telling someone in 30 seconds what your business is about. But it’s also telling a crowd of hundreds why they should fund your business. Here’s how two successful African founders learned to pitch better.

##The "Elevator Pitch"
This is one of the most common pitches. You have 30 seconds or so to explain your company to someone. If they’re impressed, you could have a new ally or even investor. So how do you tell your story that fast?

Nanachi (Nana), the co-founder of Asoriba in Ghana finds that one of the critical tools for a good pitch is clarity, especially when you have such a short time to do it.

“Clear problem, clear solution, clear attraction, clear go to market strategy. I think the most strongest thing for any initial startup is your attraction, within a defined given timeframe. Nothing will impress the investors so much than to know that.”
-Nanachi Agyeman-Prempeh, Co-founder of Asoriba, MEST Incubator

Besides being clear about all of these main points, Nana tries to always think like whoever he is pitching to. That could be a pastor, an investor, or just a person who’s curious about his business. The pitch should always be tailored toward the person who’s hearing it. A pitch designed to appeal to a person on the street will probably not convince an investor and vice versa.

“Make sure you think like an investor, what are some of the key things he wants to know.”
-Nanachi Agyeman-Prempeh, Co-founder of Asoriba, MEST Incubator

But those two tips are just as valid for bigger and longer pitches.

##Pitching to Investors and Crowds

Nana finds that you have to try to restrain yourself when making a big pitch. Having more time doesn’t mean you should say everything you want to say.

“There’s a big temptation to show everything you want to do. I’ve made those mistakes before. I made that mistake at demo Africa collaboration, I wanted to pitch everything. It’s important to try and communicate clearly what you do within the first 5 or 10 seconds, at most 1 minute. This is our story, we’re a web-based and mobile application that helps churches to effectively run their administration and engage with members. Simple.”
-Nanachi Agyeman-Prempeh, Co-founder of Asoriba, MEST Incubator

Brian Bett learned that it’s important to pick the best person on your team to do pitches. But it’s also important to support that person. Nana talked about how important it is to know who you’re pitching to. Brian takes it to the next level, researching each judge as a startup competition so he knows exactly what they will find interesting.

“Let the guy who is good at pitching do the pitching, you don’t have to share every task… My partner is better at pitching, so we don’t waste time, I train him for the pitch, we get him to do his best before he travels.”
-Brian Bett, Co-founder of Illuminum Greenhouses

“You do the applications, research, see who the audience is, we look at the profiles of the judges, the type of event… research, judges, type of funding, background work, what judges want to hear. The background work is a lot, because you will adjust your pitch to suit the judges.”
-Brian Bett, Co-founder of Illuminum Greenhouses

You can read more about understanding your audeince in our lesson on Winning Pitches.

##Pitching to an Unknown Audience
Lastly, Felix Kimaru developed his own pitching technique for when you don’t know who you’re pitching to. He always lets the person introduce themselves first, that way he knows who they are and can modify his pitch to better suit them.

“We used to present before the county tells us what they want. Over time we learned to let them introduce themselves first, then take our pitch to suit them.”
-Felix Kimaru, Co-founder of Totohealth, Africa Prize shortlist

Overall, what all of these founders learned is that pitching is all about picking the right person to deliver a clear story which has been tailored to the audience. By using these techniques, these companies have successfully won awards, grants, and business deals all over Africa.

Winning pitches: research the judges to narrow down on the right message