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PREPARING THE PERFECT PITCH

Pitching is one of the most powerful and fundamental tools an entrepreneur can have. In fact, it is core to everyone’s work and life. However, for entrepreneurs, it enables them to present their business case in a clear and concise manner, and help the audience make an informed decision as to whether to invest or purchase the product. As the TechTribe Community aims to capacitate founders and help them become investment ready, we thought a pitching workshop would be beneficial to polish those pitching skills and equip entrepreneurs (maybe that’s you?) with the right tools.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the TechTribe Community hosted a very insightful pitching workshop for members of the community aimed to upskill and provide founders with tips on how to prepare and deliver a good pitch. The workshop took us through the different types of pitches, how to prepare a pitch, understanding the importance of a good pitch and the dos and don’ts.

Titled ‘Preparing for the Perfect Pitch’, the workshop was presented by Entrepreneurial Leadership Coach and Consultant, Dikatso Sephoti, and Communications & Engagement Manager, from mHub Malawi, Yolanda Bulirani.

With participants joining in from various parts of SADC, West Africa and as far as China, it was evident that the TechTribe Community members are serious about pitching and taking Africa forward.

The workshop was very interactive, with break-away sessions where teams could collaborate and prepare their elevator pitches for evaluation by the presenters. This was fun and we saw some networking connections being made in the chat.

Here is a recap of some of the questions the participants had for the hosts and their responses:

What are the different forms of pitching?

It is important to understand your audience to determine which pitch to make use of. There are 5 main types of pitching:
1. Investor pitch – used when pitching to potential funders. Highlight the problem your product solves; revenue and traction and investment ask.
2. Sales pitch – for potential clients. What is the product, solution, and unique value proposition?
3. Academic pitch – what is the concept and methodology, why the question matters and what stage of development you are in.
4. Networking pitch – all about you. Sell yourself, your experience, and the success you’ve had with companies you’ve worked with.
5. Media pitch – to get exposure for your business. Tell them about your product, the problem you solve and your unique value proposition. Give them information that is useful.

How do you tailor a pitch for different audiences and what is the most important thing to remember during a pitch?

To tailor your pitch, you need to use empathy, build empathy and be empathetic to your audience. In other words, you should put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself where this person’s mind is coming from. You want to feel what they would feel when hearing your pitch and then tailor your pitch to what you think will move them in the direction of your influence. Another way of looking at this, is thinking about serving your audience. How can you help them through your pitch?
That then builds on to the second part of this question. The short answer is: There is no one thing that is important. However, one of the key things that take a pitch to the next level that is not often discussed, is that a pitch is often the beginning of a relationship. At the end of the day, whatever kind of deal that you strike with your audience, it will be based on a relationship not a pitch. The pitch opens the door, sets the tone and makes a good impression. However, remember to frame it as a relationship, and then follow-through.

How do I structure my pitch to investors and what factors should I focus on?

When you are preparing your pitch, remember you are telling a story.
1. Introduce yourself, make it personal – your name, company name, key descriptor, # years. 2. Problem statement – what problem are you solving? Make it real, make them feel the problem. Use a name, use a real-life example. Ask a rhetorical question. Make them empathetic and then remind them you have the solution.
3. Solution & value proposition – how do you solve the problem, how does your solution work and what makes your product special? 4. Customer description & traction – who is your customer/target market?
5. Go-to-market – how do you find your customer, where are they, how can access them now and in future? 6. Revenue & business model – how do you make money?
7. Your team – who is behind your operation? What experience/qualifications do they have, why are they the ones that can pull this off? 8. Financial projects – how will you make the investor money, how will you become profitable and what are your assumptions? How have you tested them?
9. The Ask – how much money do you need to make it all happen? How will you use it and what will you give the investor in return?
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What is it that investors want to hear when pitching an invention?

There are key factors to remember when trying to convince someone of what you are saying. Inventions require a large amount of research and equipment to get them to a useable product, and to obtain licensing and IP. These are costs that investors need to consider for an invention and will be thinking about the amount of money they need to put in to get their return. Whatever you do, do not pretend it will work. If they are interested in something high-risk and new, they know the default is failure. Your job is to convince them that a) you will figure it out because you have a clear path of validating what you do not know, and b) if it does not work out, you can go about doing something else that will get them their invested money back.
1. Explain the invention: What is it? How does it work? How does one use it?
2. Customers & traction: Who is going to be using it? How big is the market? Is it a market that is going to grow?
3. What have you learnt: What have you validated, how can you ensure that it’s a low risk investment, what do you still need to learn, what don’t you know. Be transparent.
4. Ask: how much do they need to put in to make it happen?

How do you pitch a non-profit/social enterprise?

The content for this pitch would be very similar to an investor pitch, but you would need to change one or two things when you are pitching a non-profit or social impact start-up. You want to highlight the kind of impact you want to have: How many people will it impact? How will it positively impact them in a tangible way? If you can translate this to currency the better. For example, an edtech start-up will show the increased dollars of earning potential in the lifetime of their students. A health-tech start-up will show the dollars of taxpayer money saved on public health or the dollars saved by having another healthy person potentially being economically active. You can be creative but show the benefit of running this non-profit company/social enterprise.
Another aspect to remember when pitching your social enterprise to investors, is to show that your business will be sustainable, i.e., how will you be making money? What are your operational costs? What profit will be left behind?
So, show what impact you will have and how to remain sustainable.

How can someone generate statistics for a field/product that one does not have? (Asking from Malawi where online information is limited)

I can relate. There are not a lot of statistics in Malawi that start-ups can work with. A lot of them are quite large and can be farfetched, and it is hard to pull from these large statistics and to bring them down to address your problem. So, I usually suggest that you go and hunt for your own statistics. For example, if you are trying to open a shop in your area, it is as easy as developing a survey for maybe 200 households in the area and collect that information for yourself. This is research that you have conducted yourself and these are the statistics you that are going to support the type of product/service that you are trying to launch in the market. It is about being creative about creating that traction and prove to someone that there is an interest. As entrepreneurs we have so much faith in our products, but we need to develop the data and statistics that are going to support that whatever our business is, it is going to work.

How to do a 30-second pitch?

An elevator pitch – short, impactful, and straight to the point. My favourite! This is one of the most powerful tools a founder has in their arsenal and will set you apart from the others. You just need to tailor it for your audience: potential customer or investor. To create an effective elevator pitch, answer the following questions:
• What is the name of the company?
• What does the company do?
• Who is the target market?
• What is the problem you are solving?
• Who are your competitors?
• How is your product different?
• What is the call to action?
However, the point is not to answer every single one to every single person. The point is to leave a lasting impression and answer just the right ones that will make the person ask for a follow-up meeting. An elevator pitch is to create interest, and you must understand your audience, then offer what you think will spark the most interest to them.

Is there a need to mention your competition in your pitch deck?

Yes, it is important to show your competitors when you are pitching because it lets the investor and audience know that you have thought about the market you are going into. When you are showing who your competition is and who your competitors are, you need to show that these are the players already existing in the market and this what they offer, and take it a step further and say, because this is what they offer, “this is the gap that I have identified and this is how I will address it” - show the unique value you will bring to the market.
Include this information in your pitch deck when you are talking about your solution and value proposition. The value proposition talks about how you are different and how you stand out in the market. Therefore, it is a good place to highlight who is in the market, what they are offering, what are the gaps, and how you are addressing those gaps in a way that makes your business stand out.
Or if you have more time you can have a separate competition slide that highlights the gaps in an elaborate way. - highly recommend!

What are the things that become important when pitching for corporate sponsorship or partnership?

Do your research! Corporates are arguably the most transparent because they put up their values and interests, show their strategic plans and share which areas they are planning to sponsor. Having this information is a valuable first step in identifying organisations interested in your sector. It is important to understand where this organisation is, where is their lens and financing, and then being able to structure yourself to that. Aside from that, look at what is important to them. For example, there is a rising interest in social impact and businesses that are socially conscious. If you do understand those elements about that organisation, make sure that you tailor your pitch to speak directly to the areas they are interested in. Think about the key words they have in mind and use them in your pitch and make them relatable to what you are doing. A corporate is highly incentivised to serve their shareholders. It is done so by nature in a very inherent way of this kind of organisation. Everything they do, they believe and are working on, as you will find in your research, is driven by the bottom line. Your probability of success is much higher if your solution can speak to the bottom line in the mid-term (I.e., save costs or increase sales).
Point of caution: do not change your business model because of this. Draw lines of synergy between your business and their organisation and be clear about what they will benefit from this partnership.

If you missed the “Preparing the Perfect Pitch” workshop or would like to relive the session, you can watch the video here:

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