Posts Tagged ‘startup’

Your Elevator Pitch is Important for YOU

20 Oct

It was StartupWeek 2017 in Seattle, recently. It was a time when anyone with a startup or an idea to start a business was roaming the city’s talks, gatherings, and events to learn how to become a success. Networking and chatting was a big part of the activity, so I got to hear a lot of people try to describe their ideas. I noticed that many of those early in their startup are not very clear about what they are trying to do or they take 20-minutes before they are… they have no elevator pitch.

What is an Elevator Pitch?

Can you encapsulate the essence of your startup idea so that you can express it in the time it takes to travel a few floors of an elevator? If you were to meet the person that could most help you with your startup, as you enter an elevator, can you clearly articulate and spark their interest before either of you exit the elevator?

An elevator pitch encapsulates a description of your startup, its meaning and purpose, in as few words as possible.

Why is An Elevator Pitch Important?

At every stage of the evolution of a startup, you will need help. Whether looking for employees, co-founders, investors, advisors, or customers, you will need to pique their interest quickly. You’ll want them to say, “I want to hear more!” You want them to invite you to follow them off the elevator.

In an elevator, you have a captive audience; but you will only hold their attention for so long. Of course this even more true outside an elevator where it is more difficult to hold their attention. So, it is important to keep your pitch succinct.

Why Else is an Elevator Pitch Important?

Okay, if you are already familiar with what an elevator pitch is, then I haven’t told you anything new. The real reason why it is important for you to create an elevator pitch is to help you crystallize your startup idea. The process of building and refining a pitch forces you to think very carefully about your idea. It forces you to narrow in on the essence of your idea… to identify the most salient elements of your idea. In that process, it might even help you set priorities for your startup.

Get into the habit of iterating your elevator pitch. As your startup lives, it evolves. It’s goals may change. A pitch should correspond to the changes that are occurring to the company. Regular updating of the elevator pitch might highlight changes that you did not anticipate and allow you to encourage or halt changes, as you see fit. It will certainly ensure that your message matches what you are building.

What Does an Elevator Pitch Look Like?

There are a lot of books, blogs, and advice (like my prior post) about what should be covered in a startup elevator pitch. At a minimum, you should identify what the problem is that you are trying to solve and how you are solving it.

How long should an elevator pitch be? Simply, as short as possible. Elevator rides can vary… you will have varying amounts of time to present your message. Start with a 3-minute pitch. Then work on shortening it to 2-minutes… 90-seconds… 60-seconds… 30-seconds! Ideally, you would be able to describe your company in a sentence or two.

Cutting words is not easy, but this exercise of paring down your message forces you to evaluate your company’s purpose. It is important to present a focused, achievable idea in the pitch message. If the idea is being lost as words are cut, then perhaps the company’s goals need to be simplified or scaled back. Or, you need to prioritize goals so that a message can focus on a narrower set of primary objectives.

Should you interest someone enough for them to want to hear more, be prepared to present longer descriptions. As the talks get longer, they begin to sound more like your full-fledged presentations. But, be prepared to work within any time-constraint you might be faced with. You can build out to 5-, 10-, 20-minute presentations. With longer pitches and presentations, you should create different versions targeted at different audiences, as necessary.

Eventually, you will have a range of pitches from a couple of sentences to a full-presentation at your fingertips… and on the tip of your tongue.

An Elevator Pitch Informs Others and Yourself

It is important to get your message across, quickly, as you meet people who might be helpful to your startup. Just as important, creating an elevator pitch will force you to identify and prioritize the “minimum viable product” of your idea.

  1. Research the elements of what goes into a startup elevator pitch
  2. Isolate the essence of your startup
  3. Articulate your startup in 3-minutes (or less)
  4. Further net out essential elements of your startup and your message for shorter versions of your pitch
  5. Longer presentation-pitches can fill the gaps between your elevator pitch and a full presentation.

Having a concise pitch means you had to identify the focus of your company. Continually adjusting your pitch to match your evolving startup keeps you in-tune with your venture. This, in itself, will improve your understanding of your company and allow you to sharpen its focus.

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Pitch Perfect Elevator Pitch

10 May

Elevator for your elevator pitchI worked with and advised a lot of small and startup companies over the past couple of years. When meeting a new founder, I ask what they do. Often times they ramble on for a while and I have to discern what it is that they do. So, I try to head off the rambling and ask them to tell me their “elevator pitch.” If they’ve been in the startup-community for more that a few months, then they should know what that means—often they don’t.

The Elevator Pitch

What is an elevator pitch? It is the statement that you could make to a chance encounter in an elevator—the person who might be your first investor—and finish before they get off the elevator. Everyone should have an elevator pitch that they can recite without hesitation. The goal is for that person to invite you for a longer conversation; not to tell them everything about your venture.

Elements of an Elevator Pitch

Since you never know how long the elevator ride will be, you want to make sure to cover the most essential elements of the pitch, first. Start with a 30-second pitch (perhaps even less!) and make sure you cover these points:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is their “problem” or pain-point?
  • What is your solution?

If you are in the elevator with someone with the means to finance you, then your ride will be longer. Extend your statement to include more detail:

  • What is your “special-sauce”?
  • What is your business model?
  • What is your “traction” and/or revenue?

With more time, you can cover:

  • Your team
  • Competition

You should have practiced different length versions of your pitch: 15-seconds, 30-seconds, 1 minute, 3 minute. Any longer than that probably involves an invitation rather than an elevator ride—in which case, you should follow Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule from his blog, book, The Art of the Start, or talk. Practice your pitches so that they are articulated crisply and with confidence without sounding mechanical. Be sure that your passion comes though.

Another good summary on the broader topic of presentation preparation: How to Present and Pitch.


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Startup Weekend Chandler Day 1

25 Jun
Image representing Startup Weekend as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Normal people look forward to the weekend to relax and hangout with their friends. Entrepreneurs, go to Startup Weekend and decide to get involved in another exciting project. Friday morning, I woke up, got ready, and packed my purse with everything I would need to work for the day. My gear included; netbook, power charger, phone, iPod, extended battery, headphones, mouse, notebook, pens, makeup, extra t-shirt with geek logo, webcam, mouse, and USB hub. Yes, I did pack all of that in my very stylish black patent leather purse that I had to use because they matched my shoes.

I stopped by Gangplank to drop off the stuff for the Women 2.0 Founder Friday happy hour. Hand Things Down was hosting this networking event for the ladies attending Startup Weekend. Then drove to the Chandler Public Library to attend Startup 101. Startup 101 was a chance to get a primer before the weekend for anyone new to the world of being an entrepreneur. They had panels talking about creating a team, product development, and execution.

I thought the best talk was about building teams and resolving conflict given by Derek Neighbors and Jade Meskill. Here are some of their key points.

  • Create a team with a common vision.
  • Look at the vision and use that to help guide decisions and conflict resolution.
  • Read “Core Protocols” to learn about conflict resolution.
  • Ask people at the beginning about their level of commitment.
  • You should NOT compromise, negotiate for the best of each idea.
  • Teams of developers and business people should sit together to discuss direction as the weekend progresses.

As the evening kicked off, the ladies of Startup Weekend got together for Founder Friday happy hour to get to know each other before we joined the guys. There was some good discussion and an exchange of Twitter handles so we could follow each other during and after the weekend.

When Startup Weekend kicked off, we heard about 28 pitches and then the mayhem of self-forming teams commenced. Two teams stood out for me. One of them was Chow Locally who is creating a locavore website to connect local farmers with consumers and delivering the farm fresh veggies and fruit to the Phoenix Public Market.  The second team I was interested in was called and this is the team I joined for the weekend. Surprizes collects birthday freebies and presents them to you on your special day with Facebook and Twitter greetings. Now you can feel the birthday love all day as you go out and collect your freebies.

So that wraps it up for Day 1. Tomorrow I will be writing up birthday related blog posts for Surprizes and greeting people for their birthdays on Twitter. Sign up for your birthday

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Stuck in Your Startup? Get Over Yourself!

23 Mar
Startup frustrations?

Photo by: Zach Klein

There are a lot of challenges to getting your own startup off the ground. The one thing that no one mentions, though, is the challenge of getting out of your own way!

If you are serious about your first start up—not just as a hobby—then you will need to push yourself, hard. There is too much work to do; there are the product creation issues, there are business and promotion issues, and there are issues that you could never anticipate. There are not enough hours in the day to do it; and that is even if you don’t have a spouse and you don’t have kids and you don’t have a money earning “day-job” to tend to!

If you are starting your first company and you don’t feel stress and pressure,  you are not taking it seriously enough.

Through this stress, you should learn something that you don’t read about:  you are your own worst enemy.  If you have the desire to start a company but haven’t done so or you are stagnating early-on, what is impeding you? Oh, you can blame it on “There isn’t enough time,” or “The idea is not good enough,” or “It will cost too much,” or “It has already been done,” or a myriad other excuses. There will be “roadblocks” at every stage of your entrepreneurial endeavor; from getting started to planning and execution. The real reason you can’t move forward is because you are inhibiting yourself.

During those frustrating times where you are not making progress, it might be worth your while to look inward to see whether it is your own psyche, habits, or preconceived expectations that are keeping you from moving forward. Once you begin to realize why you are not executing, you can begin to find solutions to break those patterns and beliefs.  Climb out of that box that you have spent your whole life building around yourself!

Learning and understanding yourself, then changing and growing… that may be the most valuable part of pushing yourself through the challenges of starting your own company.

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Interviewing Lawyers: The View & Cookie Factor

08 Jan

View from Perkins Coie

Mission: Choose a Law Firm
As homework for the Founder Institute this week, Bill & I had the dreaded task of interviewing law firms. This homework isn’t busy work or assigned for the sake of getting experience in interviewing law firms but rather to decide which firm, we would engage to incorporate our company. I was not looking forward to this task because I didn’t know what to ask the lawyers or even how to determine which ones would be better.

Getting Ready
To prepare for our meeting, Bill wrote up a few points to keep in mind, we had a brief animated discussion about the list he created because I was looking for 3 questions to ask each law firm to determine a base of questions we would ask all the firms that I could put in a comparison spreadsheet.


  • We want to form a Delaware Corporation because investors and lawyers know Delaware corporate law.
  • Discuss what is included in the incorporation package and how much it would cost.
  • Discuss “F” class stock.
  • Discuss whether the warrants we need to issue to Founder Institute would be included in the incorporation package.

Law Firm A: Small & Focused on Startups
Our first meeting was at One Union Square in Seattle. It was a rough start because we got a bit lost. After much swearing from Bill, we consulted my iPhone to find the entrance to the parking garage. I could only read the directions because I don’t have any map reading skills; GPS was invented for people like me. Luckily, we got to our meeting with a few minutes to spare and upon entering the conference room; we were treated to a breath-taking view of downtown Seattle. We started the meeting answering questions about our company, then we had discussion about various things we needed to consider around incorporation, assigning intellectual property to the company, terms of use, the lawyer’s experience with startups and of course how much it would all cost. At the close of the meeting, we talked about blogging since we read his blog to get a sense of his personality.

Law Firm B: Big & Well Known
Our second meeting was a few blocks away. After checking in, we were offered coffee and cookies…score! We were directed to go to conference room 4 to wait since we arrived a few minutes early for the meeting. Upon walking into this conference room, I was WOWed by the view of the Space Needle; I wonder if all law firms in Seattle have great views. The receptionist informed us, the lawyer was running a few minutes late so we treated ourselves to a second cookie and took pictures of the view like tourists. At the start of this meeting, we gave a quick overview of our company then had discussion around what would be included in the incorporation package. Since this law firm represented larger companies that could potentially acquire us, I asked what would happen if there were a conflict of interest. This would be a concern for us as the “little guy” because we do not want to be out on the street looking for a new law firm if we were fortunate enough to be in talks to be acquired.

Postmortem: Interviewing Lawyers is Hard Work
We have 2 or 3 other law firms to interview in the coming week, I told Bill I was making my decision based on the quality of the cookies and coffee we are offered. All joking aside, this is a serious decision, much like entering into a marriage. All the law firms and lawyers we scheduled to interview have been recommended by a respected entrepreneur or mentor in the Founder Institute. On paper, they could be equal; we have to determine which law firm is “the one” who can help us push our company to its highest potential. Since we are bootstrapped, we don’t have the money to pay lawyers all sorts of money that could be better utilized to attract rockstar developers to join our team. Another consideration is which law firm could help us secure the most favorable terms in financing rounds and eventually help us with an initial public offering or to be acquired.

It is easy to be seduced by the beautiful views (equal between the law firms we met thus far), the cookies, and the coffee. We need to decide which one will be the best partner for our company in the early stages and throughout our growth. I will release my decision table once we’ve concluded our interviews in the coming week.

As an entrepreneur, are you ready to incorporate your company and start fundraising?

Law Firms – Links to Startup/Business Formation

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Seattle: 2.5 days for Cheryl

03 Dec

I’ve been in Seattle for two and a half days and the adrenaline from making the decision to join the Founders Institute, packing my things and flying to Seattle has worn off. I might be a little delirious and distracted since my co-founder Bill was doing his best to pull my focus while I tried to record my video blog. We are going to be talking about what we learned through the mentors from the Founders Institute along with what we are doing to move our business forward.

Let us know what you want to know in the comments and we’ll make sure to cover them.

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Everyone is in Fashion

29 Nov

Think real world meets startup. Watch as one startup learns what it takes to create a successful company.

You are watching Cheryl & Bill as we go through the winter 2010/2011 Founder’s Institute in Seattle. We will be living in a 2 bedroom apartment, creating software, drinking lots of coffee, brainstorming with other founders, and hopefully giving you a taste of what it’s like to quit your day job and pursue your dreams.

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