Shivanu is the co-Founder and CEO of Teamie, a social learning platform that aims to make learning more collaborative and fun. Shivanu and his team are now working hard to make Teamie a global leader in education, and help schools, colleges, and training departments improve the learning process.
How To Win Startup Arena
Teamie has the privilege that no other company on this planet has right now. That’s right! To be the winner of the very first Startup Arena organized by Tech In Asia in Singapore in February of 2012. As much as that is an honor, it is equally burdening to wake up everyday and walk into the Teamie office and see the winning cheque proudly hanging on our office wall and realize that we must, must live up to the expectations that such recognition brings.
As I see all the tweets and chatter about the next Startup Asia event in Jakarta, I am feeling excited and remember the nerves I had two weeks before the event in Singapore. I feel pitching a startup idea is as much about the idea as it is about the way it is pitched. Not winning such a competition is in no way a reflection on the actual value of your idea, but winning it can certainly help, as I can testify.
While I am far from being an expert in pitching ideas well, or being a startup guru, I am writing this article to support the wonderful work the guys at Tech In Asia do, and to help fellow startups and entrepreneurs who must be tirelessly working on their pitches for their 5 minutes of fame on stage during StartUp Arena.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be a reflection of the actual judging criteria. This is basically a list of things we did at Teamie when we prepared for StartUp Arena. It worked for us, and hopefully, it will work for you. These are not ground breaking rules, some are pretty simple and obvious. If you are an expert speaker, please ignore and spend more time reading articles here.
So here it is, the 5 things you must do if you want to win StartUp Arena:-
Think of a Story – You have 5 minutes, and the only way people will remember what you said is if you tell them a story. And by story I mean a story of how your product or idea will be used. What happens when your product is used, what is the benefit, and why is it great. We did something like ‘A Day in the Life of Teamie users’ – We were so happy with what we did, that we took a section of that actual pitch and made it into a video to illustrate our product for future customer pitches (even the audio is from what I presented on-stage, although maybe we should change that).
Why, Who, Whaaat & How – Apart from talking about your idea, you must answer these 4 questions in your pitch.
• Why is your product/idea needed? (Or what is the problem?)
• Who is your target market? (try to give a one sentence description of your product/idea and try to name exact industries or reference companies to show your granular understanding of the market you plan to operate in)
• The overall market opportunity that should make the judges go “Whaaaat” (like Sean Parker said in the movie The Social Network – “you know what’s more cool than a million dollars? A billion dollars”)
• How you plan to sell? i.e. What’s your business model? (typical answers are freemium model, advertising supported, subscription model, licensing model)
5 Slides = 5 Minutes – Anything more can be suicidal, less is better. Time is a funny property of physics, it can slow down and speed up depending on random stuff happening around you. On stage while presenting, time moves at least twice as fast as it usually does. For our pitch, we did one slide on “Why,” two slides on our product and story (which was a video), one slide on “Whaaat,” and one slide on “How” as well summary of “Why” and “Who.” Here are the slides we presented for our pitch.
Write it down – One way to stick to the time limit is to write down what you want to say. I know you are a great presenter, but most times what yous ay will be a little different, sometimes less, sometimes more. You have 5 minutes, not 6, not 4 — just 5. Write down your key messages. There is always that one great way to articulate the value proposition or make the opportunity sound exciting. You must say it that one way. There is no shame in writing down and remembering the best way to make your pitch.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – and when you are done, prepare some more. You know you have prepared enough when your colleagues start asking you to stop, or when fellow startups tell you after practice “Man, you say it the same way every time.” This I can tell you with a bit more authority, as I had spent a good chunk of my life before I started Teamie being a keynote speaker at various industry events, that you can have the best idea, the best slides, but if you do not prepare how you will actually deliver those slides, the impact will be lost. Here a few things I did at StartUp Arena which I used to do for every speaking gig:
(a) Get a feel for the stage – Make sure you go up on stage. See how the audience looks from there. If you walk on stage, like I do, then define the area where you will walk.
(b) Decide on the Microphone – Do you want to hold a wireless mike, or do you want a lapel mike? I prefer a lapel, so I can use my hands.
(c) Test with the remote control powerpoint slide changer – We made this mistake. We did not test, and we went up on stage and tried it. It didnt work smoothly. Some slides went ahead, and then Ashwin (my co-founder) had to bring them back. So, please test on stage. These remotes always work when you are sitting on your desk, and for some reason, they get stage fright more than you do.
(d) Drink water – If you sound parched on stage it makes the audience uncomfortable. They begin to focus on your voice rather than the message you are trying to bring to them.
(e) Be confident – The only way you will be confident is when you have prepared enough. A little nerves always help. But on stage, you should be confident, loud and clear, and try to smile (I struggle with that).
That’s it. 5 simple things, and the $10,000 cheque is yours. Of course it’s easy for me to say now, but I hope it helps. Seriously, I had a great time preparing for Startup Arena, and it finally pushed me to create a slide deck I could also use for future discussions with customers and investors. The work you will put into this will definitely come in handy way after the event is over.
So all the best, and break a leg!