Pitch advice for French Startups

Nov 16, 2011
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Last Saturday Jason Calacanis stopped by Le Camping for the fifth edition of TWIST Paris. This edition was the first which he had attended in person, a trend we hope to continue in the future.

Alongside co-host Tyler Crowley, Jason was pitched by LifeShow, PrepMyFuture, and Pictarine – three great examples of French Startups. While I will probably be talking about these startups in the future as they do more and more great things, I wanted to talk a little bit about the advice that Jason offered to the three pitches. I think, in combination, they provide a good checklist for your pitch, whether it be one minute, 3 minutes, or 10 seconds:

Make it Personal

It’s no secret, people want to know that your startup means something to you. Did you work in the industry? Are you a disgruntled user? Was your mother killed by a competitor? Whatever it is, make it personal. When pitching a user case, make it about you. “I used to… and I always hated… I wondered why I couldn’t…. and so I decided to make ….” The good news here is that people identifying with your user case is proof of concept – the bad news is that if no one identifies with your story, it might be a bad idea. Either way, you learn.

Address the Four Trends

While I may not agree with this entirely, I understand the reasoning behind it when you’re pitching VCs for money. VCs have a mental checklist of key internet trends that they know money is being put into now. Whether your product is entirely social, or if it just has a twitter plug-in, throwing out how you address these trends is a good way to reassure a VC that you are aware of these trends, and that you’re not behind in the times. So say it with me “Social. Local. Mobile. Video. Social. Local. Mobile. Video”

Success to Projection ratio

Jason threw out a quick formula, which I think holds true pretty well: For every 5 ‘units’ of success you have achieved, you are allowed to give 1-2 ‘next step’ pieces in a pitch. That is to say, if you are Mark Zuckerberg, you can say “these are our next three steps,” and the audience will go “of course they are.” However, if you lack the track record, it is a little harder to tell a room full of VCs what your plan is without getting rolling eyes.

Add a “Killer Feature”

When pitching your product, you may have 10 features that really sum up your product, but you need to decide what the one killer feature. Whether it’s a feature that encompasses all the value of your product, or just the feature that is going to wow your users and the VCs, make sure you put one feature in front of the rest and say “This is what people will be talking about.”

Know what the “Take Away” is

Startup pitches come and go, and it’s difficult to remember every number, projection, graph and product. If you want to stick in someone’s head, make sure you know in advance what the message is that you want your listener to take away. Perhaps it’s your differentiation from your customers, perhaps it’s your killer business model, or perhaps it’s your solid growth metrics – whatever the case, mold your pitch around that idea coming across well.

Your best years are ahead of you

While this does not pertain to pitches, I thought this was an interesting point. As startups grow, they are (read: “should be”) constantly innovating, iterating, and adjusting their idea as they learn about their users. While year 2’s product may look completely different than the product you envisioned on day 1, Jason Calacanis says it’s not until year 3 or 4 that startups really come into their own. Startups need to be able to push through the terrible 2s and make it to age 3 and 4 if they want to really innovate in their space.

As more and more American angels and VC firms look to European startups for potential investments, it’ll be up to our startups to show off their value. The right idea with the wrong pitch can change everything, and while the advice above is by no means exhaustive, it’s certainly a good checklist of things to keep in mind.

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