Why ICOs changed my mind about start-up funding and how to master your pitch

I used to believe that start-ups should be able to succeed without funding. If you can self-sustain with an income stream that covers your costs and goes up and to the right, why do you need more? But after seeing the amazing innovations of companies and projects that are coming from the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) market, I’ve changed my mind.

Whether you’re looking to do an ICO or traditional funding, the mastery of being able to deliver a succinct, informative and compelling elevator pitch is essential to getting the right people interested in you.

Here are my top tips for winning the attention of investors and cutting through the noise.

Keep your pitch short and sharp

There’s no denying that first impressions really count and you need to OWN the stage. Make sure you know exactly what you’re about to pitch. Usually, you’ll have the first 20 seconds to nail your introduction. If you can’t explain what your startup is all about in two sentences you may need to refine it. Remember to keep it simple enough that the judges can quickly comprehend what you’re trying to achieve.

Strip away the jargon

As an entrepreneur you will always be passionate about your project, and while you may want to be specific when explaining the ins and out of your start-up, it’s important to keep your pitch simple. Investors will always want to see a return on their investment, so try to focus on the revenue that your product will generate and the potential ROI.

Focus on your uniqueness

Investors are well-researched, skilled business people who can spot a brilliant idea from a business concept alone. Investors have also likely to have heard hundreds of business pitches, so what will excite them is your ability to differentiate yourself from competitors and the hundreds of ideas they’ve heard before. Always ask yourself; what sets my product/idea apart from the rest? Why is my product necessary?

Do your research

The success of your product/concept will be dependant on the demand for it. Who are your users? Does your product solve a problem for them or improve their lives? You need to develop a deep understanding your audience and leverage these insights to better market your product.

Pitch perfect

Before the big pitch day, test your pitch on a handful of people to perfect the content and your delivery style. Based on your audience research, find someone with a similar background to the investor you’re pitching to. It’s good to pitch to range of people who understand your product and more importantly, those who don’t.

This will help you to practice your delivery taking into consideration your tone, speed and length of pitch, as well as allow you to nut out what you want to focus on. This process may prepare your for questions you’ve not already considered or points that you’ll need to rethink to ensure you can clarify any points of confusion on the day.

Final words

Following your pitch, it’s recommended that you follow up with the investor or pitching committee as the pitch doesn’t stop when you’ve left the room. Do send a follow up email or give them a call within 24 hours and make sure you answer any questions they have. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from investors – good or bad, it’s important to get feedback so you can take it on board and learn. I will be joining the judging panel for the Cisco Start Challenge – an initiative that invites selected Australian small businesses to pitch their idea in exchange for a $40,000 digital transformation – and it will take a strong pitch to be the winning entry.

Fred Schebesta, Co-founder, Finder.com.au and HiveEx.com

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