How to Pitch Your Startup to Investors

10 steps for crafting a story to pitch your entrepreneurial startup idea to investors using Square, AirBnB, and DropBox as examples.


How to Pitch An Idea

While TED Talks offer excellent examples of extended pitches, I’m always on the lookout for compelling examples of pitches that are more relevant to business, especially entrepreneurship.  I found a great example in the Stanford eCorner ‘Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders‘ series.

The pitch is by Heratio Harts, a graduate of The Last Mile which is a controversial organization that teaches entrepreneurial skills to inmates so that they can make a successful transition from prison to living productively in society.  Heratio’s one-minute pitch begins at 52:30 of the video embedded below.  Mr. Hart’s words are in italics and I have added descriptive labels and commentary.

Step 1: Frame the problem you are solving in a way that is personally relevant to your audience

By show of hands, how many of you have witnessed either a parent, a child, a friend or maybe your spouse struggle with obesity? You don’t have to raise your hand for this, but think about it. Did you ever feel helpless in their struggle?

[Commentary: While I'm not a big fan of the "By show of hands..." technique, I appreciate that Mr. Harts not only got right to the issue his organization addresses (obesity), but also used a question - "Did you ever feel helpless..." to connect his cause to a powerful, personal emotion.]

Step 2: Scale the problem up from the personal (micro) to the societal (macro) level so that decision makers perceive the size of the opportunity

If you have, you’re not alone. Many people who have lived in a low income community like I have where the obesity rate is above 50% have experienced the same feeling of helplessness. That’s why today I am doing something about it.

[Commentary:  Mr. Harts' phrase "lived in a low income community like I have" establishes his credibility as the right person to tackle this problem without boasting. His reference to the 50% obesity rate clearly demonstrates this is a large opportunity.]

Step 3: Introduce who you are and what you do

Good evening. My name is Heracio Harts and I am the founder of Healthy Hearts Institute, the co-op that will bring health and fitness back into our neighborhoods.

Step 4: Drill deeper into how you will solve the problem

HHI will turn empty lots into gardens and transform neighborhoods of food deserts into green nutritional oases. We will turn abandoned buildings into LEED certified fitness centers and provide our members safe places to exercise.

[Commentary:  Notice that Mr. Harts' descriptions of how his organization combats obesity are highly sensory.]

Step 5: Show what (believable) success looks like

Our goal is to get us back to the good old days when the community was ripe with nutritional foods, kids were outside and running and playing, and the obesity rate was below 17%.

[Commentary: Mr. Harts sets a benchmark for what success looks like - an obesity rate below 17%.  This benchmark is believable since it was achieved in the recent past.]

Step 6: Share your call to action

So join the Healthy Hearts Institute and let us empower the beat of your heart. Thank you.

[Commentary:  Mr. Harts ended with a reasonable call to action given that he was giving this pitch to a practice audience who were not expected to take any action.  A real pitch should have a call to action that is concrete, immediate, and easy.  For instance, Mr. Harts could have asked audience members to make a contribution or to share a fundraising link supporting HHI with their social networks.]


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