Droves of entrepreneurs show up at startup weekends to pitch their business ideas, form teams and attempt starting a company in one weekend. It sounds frenetic because it is. At a recent startup weekend in Provo, UT, I asked both the winner of the event and an investor for tips about what works.
The startup weekend winner was Brandt "Bubba'' Page, owner of Launch Leads, which provides business-to-business lead generation and appointment setting. He was invited to the weekend as a mentor. When he realized the event was open to everyone, his entrepreneurial side kicked in. He jumped on stage and presented his idea for QuotaDeck, an online platform to connect businesses with freelance salespeople.
Step one to winning startup weekend, Bubba said, is having an idea that actually could make money. Most of the presentations, he noted, were centered on mobile apps that didn’t have a clear path to monetization. Many of the ideas were entertaining, but he couldn’t see them becoming a real company. QuataDeck stood out simply for not turning you into a zombie or launching pigs at bird fortresses. Companies need more sales leads and people to follow the leads. QuataDeck helps with both.
Bubba admitted his nickname probably helped him stick in the minds of the investors but he stood out as much as his idea or homey name. Style, he said, does count. Startup weekends will have dozens of presentations. If you’re not memorable, you have little chance of making the final cut.
For starters, he recommends lots of energy. Bubba demanded applause from the crowd. He ran around on stage, talked loud with vigor, tossed out questions and made the audience part of his presentation. The more you make an impression, the better. The audience loses interest if they don't feel your excitement.
Ivan Ramirez, founder of Zerimar Ventures, has attended startup weekends as an investor and offersed advice from that side of the table.
“If someone says, ‘I want to raise a million dollars.’ the first question from any funder will be, ‘How are you going to use the funds?’ If you’re going to throw out a number, be prepared to back it up and be very clear and on point with that information.
To keep your presentation brief and compelling, prepare your pitch points carefully. Put together a 4-5 slide deck to succinctly present an overview of the market, the problem and your solution. Lay out the value proposition, your business plan, the revenue model, your funding needs and how you will use the money
"Don't talk too much and don't dwell on any one point at the expense of skimming over another,'' Ivan said. "Know the high points and share them quickly because the person listening doesn't have time for a long pitch. Being super clear on what you want gives you more confidence and a natural stand-out-style, so anyone you talk to, whether a VC or a fellow participant, walks away wishing they were as bad-ass as you.”
After being selected to make the final presentation to a group of investors, Bubba wanted to make sure he stood out even further from the competition. He texted every business owner he knew to ask if they’d be a beta tester for him. By the time of his presentation, he wowed the judges with more than 100 beta signups.
Bubba was selected as the winner by the investors and is now testing the market for QuotaDeck and accepting beta users.