Can you describe your startup in 60 seconds or less? Believe it or not, most people can’t.

You may have heard of the famous ‘elevator pitch’. Most people fail at presenting their ideas in 60 seconds or less. Pitching your grandmother is is not the same as describing your business to an investor who has little or no time for your “killer” idea. The people you are pitching often have no idea about the details of your market or the problem you intend to solve.

60 seconds pitch is the important test of whether you’ve got your positioning, value proposition, and differentiation right.

The problem is, it is very difficult to describe what you do, the value to your customer, and why you are different in 60 words or less in 60 seconds or less.

If you intend to pitch to an investor, be the devil’s advocate and ask yourself all the difficult questions your potential partners or investor will probably ask you. Summarize your answers in simple words and try to get that message across in 60 seconds. Pretty difficult, right?

You need to be your own devil’s advocate to increase your chances of being successful in any niche or industry. Don’t be caught unprepared, answer all the possible questions yourself before you make that important step to present your idea to a prospective investor.

-Investor pitch mistakes you should avoid.

Unique features” are not competitive advantages. The fact that you are capable of throwing in a few features does not make you immune to failure. Customers don’t want more features, they want a solution to their problem. Are you solving it.

—What makes you different. Your inability to clearly state why your are different from the competition could cost you.

–Who actually wants to buy or use your product? Have you validated your idea. Can you prove that there are real buyers out there for your product. Have you found a single person willing to give your money or sign up for your product when it’s ready. If your pitch does not clearly have answers to these questions, you have a problem.

Why an elevator pitch crucial?

Normally, you only have between 30 and 60 seconds to make a great first impression. The attention span of the average person or an investor could be just 30 seconds before their mind starts wandering.

The other reason is that investors have less time. Most of them receive thousands of pitches every week. You need to grab their attention quickly  or lose them forever. Make it count in the first 30 seconds and the next 30 will still be relevant.

Your elevator pitch MUST be: clear, concise, tell a story, aimed for a specific audience and grab your listener’s interest and makes them want to know more.

An elevator pitch should clearly but simply state what you are, how you are different and why your listener should care-throw in some numbers if you can and always leave them wanting more.

–The formula

You should be able to answer each of the following four questions in no more than two sentences to be able to effectively deliver a great 60 seconds pitch

1. What do you do?
2. What problem do you solve?
3. How is your product or service different?
4. Why should I care?

Two EXAMPLE OF 60 SECONDS PITCHES that actually work courtesy Anne VanderMey of CNN Money.

1. “What if I told you I could save one million lives every year with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer?” –Disease Diagnostic Group at Case Western Reserve University

The team plans to use the magnetic charge of malaria parasites to develop a new, cheaper, way to detect the disease in developing countries.

2.  “1.6 billion people ride the New York subway every year and virtually all of them are cut off from cell phone coverage, costing millions per week to advertisers and service providers.” –EnKinta Energy, University of Southern California

The team wants to use the kinetic energy created by moving trains to generate power and bring Wi-Fi and cell phone service to straphangers. That morning subway ride could get more profitable — and louder.

In the examples above, problems have been clearly identified, solutions are obvious and their listeners are likely to want to more.

On the other hand, general startup pitches should be short and informative.

The only exception here is if you can be as compelling as, say, Steve Jobs, who could tell a captivating story with just one slide that prominently features a chart of a few words. But don’t fill it up and “make it look boring,” Scoble advises.

“Remember, hope doesn’t pay the bills,” Scoble says. So when you’re asked about expected growth, the answer isn’t that you hope people will buy your product. You have to model the likelihood that customers will be into it and be confident in your analysis.

Mark Suster advises on how to pitch a VC (and not piss one off)

Don’t “tell and sell.” The most effective pitches are two-way conversations. So stop talking once in a while and elicit feedback. Raise open-ended questions. Allow VCs to challenge you, and don’t respond defensively. And if you don’t have an answer right away, be honest. Use it as an excuse to follow up after the meeting.

Once you are able to get your pitch right, you will soon be able to attract that investor you have been looking for since last year.

Dream It ▪ Try It ▪ Become It


  1. Hi Thomas,

    Tell and open up a 2 way street.

    Tell and let your customer – or potential customer – speak…or whoever your 2nd party is, allow them to open up and share.

    We do business with other people…..not ourselves….so allowing these other people to speak is the smart thing to do.

    Thanks for sharing!

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