6 Powerful Expert Pitching Tips for First-time Founders

‘Well begun is half done’. Leaving a lasting impression during your pitch is the first step to winning. Hundreds of startups have pitched to the expert community on Startup-O platform but we’ve seen some struggle in delivering an effective pitch.

As an expert for previous seasons on Startup-O Fasttrack Program, here’s 6 points you must include in your pitch to leave the judges go ‘Wow, that was amazing!’.


1. Who’s Your Target Customer?

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Judges evaluate how deep your understanding is about your target customer and the problem you want to solve.

Pitches which left a deeper impression were those who spent time demonstrating their understanding of the customer. The profile of the target customer should be substantially supported by primary and secondary research.

Large numbers picked and projected from published industry reports are good for support, however, it doesn’t cut ice when looking at specific customer problems.

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They cannot be used as proxy for fundamental customer insight. Hence, you have to go out there, and interview at least 8-10 potential customers of different profiles. Find more evidence to substantiate your solution and its credibility. Cite others who are doing similar work.

In so doing, you give the judges confidence that you know who you’re targeting.

2. How You’re Going to Acquire Customers

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Anyone who has run a tech platform or an app is highly aware that customer acquisition is a difficult task to surmount. For B2B businesses, where the user is located within the enterprise, this problem may be less daunting.

For example, a wellness app could tie up with corporates to establish ‘stress-busting habits’ or a sales enablement app could collaborate with a large organization to upgrade their sales force.

In either of the cited examples, the app does not have to recruit users from social media or be ‘out there’. Their efforts are further supported by organizational mandate.

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This does not hold true for B2C products or services. Acquiring B2C customers online requires a highly engaging acquisition model, which can also be expensive.

Startups should learn the tricks of the trade from existing success stories and apply some of the principles in their own business plans. It is not enough to say in the pitch that “We will acquire customers/users online!” Please explain how.

3. The Team Triumphs

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Most teams are founded by a single founder or two co-founders. From a judge’s point of view, it is impressive when founders have thought through possible skill gaps and recruited advisors to fill up those gaps.

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For example, an education platform should have an instructional design professional, or a psychological counselling site should have a certified counsellor as a key member of the team, whether advisory or dedicated. A well-rounded team with prior experience in the relevant domain suggests that they are able to execute on their ideas, and later, emerge as the market leader.


4. Initial Traction & Proof of Concept

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Founders should be able to cite customer success stories to demonstrate initial traction. Without this, it’s hard for a judge to assess whether the proposed idea can solve the problem. 

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It is recommended to include statistics on initial traction and video testimonials of satisfied early adopters to prove your case.


5. State Your Assumptions

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For financial projections, the key consideration is what assumptions have been made for Year 2 to 5, when the business is supposed to increase exponentially.

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These financial assumptions should be included in the Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement. Robust assumptions make for very convincing pitches.


6. Moving forward: Scalability

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Most founders are adept at projecting scalability.

However, they usually do not factor in the cultural differences in Asia Pacific when it comes to the “how-tos”.

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Different localization strategies are needed to grow businesses in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, and these concerns and costs should be reflected in the pitch. The costs of scaling in different markets should also be shown in the financial projections.

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