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The Entrepreneur’s Journey: How to Pitch Your New Venture Idea

Larry William Cox, PhD
Larry William Cox, PhD

On Nov. 11, the Graziadio School of Business and Management’s entrepreneurship program and the School of Law’s Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law will be hosting “Entrepreneur’s Journey,” a day-long event featuring a keynote address from Blake Irving, chief product officer of Yahoo!

The day culminates with an alumni fast-pitch competition in which participants present a 90-second business proposal before a panel of venture capitalists. As a precursor to the event, I thought I’d share my “Top Eight Tips for Pitching Your New Venture Idea.”

1.    Use your two minutes wisely:

  • 30 seconds – Use an interesting story or question to help the audience “feel the pain.”  What is the problem (i.e., pain in the marketplace) your business will solve for its customers?
  • 45 seconds – Describe your innovative solution to the above problem.  How will your business idea relieve the customer’s pain?  How is it unique?  What is your innovation?
  • 30 seconds – Explain your “value proposition.”  Why is your business concept better than previous solutions?  What are your benefits?  Why should customers buy your service or product instead of others?
  • 15 seconds – Ask the audience to do something that moves them closer to purchasing your product or service, or financing your venture.  Should they try a sample?  Will they be contacted for a quote?  Should they visit your Web site? Tell them how much money you are seeking and from how many investors—and then ask them if they would consider becoming an investor.

2.    Memorize the pitchdon’t read.

3.    Avoid technical language, terms, or jargon that the listener won’t understand.

4.    Use analogies.

  • For example, if you are conveying an idea to provide national certification for lab technicians, you might say, “It’s like a CPA for lab techs.”

5.    Express your excitement and passion for your innovation.

  • How will this idea change lives or the market?
  • Why is it important that you start this business?

6.    Avoid unsupported generalities and huge numbers that will cause the listener to question your credibility.  Be believable and substantiate your claims with facts based on research.

7.    You may use a prop to demonstrate your product or service as long as you remain within your allotted two minutes, and if you can carry it off the stage with you.

PowerPoint slides are not allowed for pitches since such visual aids are not normally available when giving a pitch in an elevator or taxi.  Also, slides may distract the audience, especially if there are too many of them or they contain too many words—people will stop listening while they read what you’ve written.

8.    Answer their questions concisely and quickly—the more questions you address, the better.
Click here to learn more about The Entrpreneur’s Journey, and stay tuned to for future events.

Author of the article
Larry Cox, PhD, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship
Larry Cox, PhD, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship
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