Wozaik gives great advice on pitching, post Seedcamp Paris '09

Rodolphe Ardanton from Wozaik, who were one of the Mini Seedcamp Paris winners in February this year, wrote an amazing Seedcamp feedback blog post and more important, what they gained from it to improve their “art of pitching”.

For all the future startup hopefuls applying to Mini Seedcamps or beyond, this is a must read! About pitching (or the complete Seedcamp feedback) by Rodolphe Ardant, posted March 24th, 2009 I think it is time to write our feedback on the Seedcamp day. Seedcamp was a really unique event as it provided us the opportunity to meet more than 50 experts in our field (entrepreneurs, VCs, angels, consultants…) and to be challenged on our vision. We have had dozens of insightful and relevant feedback on our product, our business model, our strategy… but I think that the best practice we experienced there was the “art of pitching”.

The coffee pitch The day started at 9:00 am at the Microsoft Technology Center. We were welcomed by a small breakfast and got the “team” flag stuck on our chest. Tagged like that, we had no other solution than to experiment our coffee pitch. The goal of this one is to awake your future audience (coffee is there to help you!) to get its attention during the coming elevator pitch. It is also the occasion to practice and correct your first mistakes (hoping that your target won’t pay to much attention to it due to the early hour).

The elevator pitch On the stage, you have 5 minutes (and no extra sec) and you want that these 60-70 people to remember you during the whole day (and even longer!), and get a good opinion of you and of what you do. The challenge is even harder when they already heard about 18 other start-ups and had no break for almost two hours. You should definitely practice a lot for this one.

The lunch pitch Now, if you got it right, people remember whom you are and what you do. They have in their head the single message you wanted to pass them (that you and your startup rock) during the elevator pitch, and they come to you to get deeper information. The lunch pitch is a difficult one: you have to keep talking and pitch your interlocutors, while trying to grab food everywhere to refill your batteries. If you fail eating at this time, you won’t make it until the end of the day…but it is the opportunity to have a privileged contact with the people that felt the most interested in your project.

The mentoring pitch During the rest of the day, we had four mentoring sessions with a panel of 5-10 advisors. 40 minutes shared between two teams to pitch and ask for advice. You better get prepared also for this one, knowing who are the people you are talking to. The difficult but most interesting part comes from the questions. You have to be prepared to answer specific questions on your business, and believe me; these people are smart and quickly point out the strength/weakness of your project. You better perfectly know these points to get as much as you can of these short discussions.

The restroom pitch Time to fresh up… but it is likely that the very famous guy you unsuccessfully tried to talk to during the whole day is the one washing his hands next to you. You cannot miss this opportunity…pitch him!

The wrap up pitch The day is almost over, it is 9pm and your throat feels like dry paper, having pitched the whole day. You feel exhausted, and these cups of champagne seem to be the definitive answer to your throat issues. You think you have succeeded, as you have been among the five winners. But it is not over yet. The wrap up pitch is the opportunity to gather the feedbacks of your day pitches. It is also the moment when you can engage in more passionate discussions, being more deconstructed and show that you might also be a pleasant and sympathetic person.

The investors pitch The day after, we were asked to pitch in front of the Seedcamp Investment Committee. OK, it seems that they liked our service and the team, but the question here is “should we put money in this project?” Of course they want to go deeper into your product, understand the problem you are trying to solve and the solution you propose, understand where you are in your development road map and what and when do you expect to launch. But they are also very interested on the value that their investment would procure: what are your expenses, your funding history, and how much do you need their money. You get into much further detail here than you did before, and have to be pretty convincing, as you will be highly challenged.

The TechCrunch pitch We were then invited to pitch during the TechCrunch talk held in La Cantine during the afternoon. It was almost the same format as the elevator pitch. However we only had 3 minutes to present Wozaik. This is a “media” kind of pitch; the goal is to convince potential users. They must feel that you are building the killer app and must be eager to test your product. I think the success of this kind of pitch should be an exploding beta invite queuing list.

So how to pitch? Even if we had an extensive two days to practice pitching, I am still a young beginner pitcher (and I must confess that most of the time Vincent was pitching). However, in a discussion with Laurent Chiozzotto, we agreed that a good early stage pitch should answer the 5 following questions, in this order:

What problem do you solve? Who will use your service? How do you solve the problem? (Your product/service) Why are you doing this? And finally, who are you?

We are definitely going to follow this advice to prepare for Mini Seedcamp Berlin pitches!

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