What Investors Look For When Evaluating Your Pitch: Nina Curley

Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi Managing Director Nina Curley shares the elements that they focus on when evaluating a startup's pitch.

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By Nina Curley

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Choosing the companies that we take at Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi is one part science and one part art- there's no hard algorithm that we go by. There are some rules that we follow, but there are also exceptions to every rule. However, the basics are pretty simple; if you have the right ingredients and attitude, accelerators and mentors alike will open their doors. Here are some of the elements that we focus on:

1. A COACHABLE TEAM

It's very difficult to tell at an early stage who will succeed and who won't, and 80-90% of startups will fail. However, a good team will dedicate itself to finding product-market fit at all costs, building an iterative process of continual reassessment into its company DNA, and will have an open approach to cultivating mentorship and seeking advice. We look for founders that are open to feedback (in other words, coachable), who will take input and continue to evolve their mindset, instead of thinking that they already know everything there is to know about developing their idea.

Founders with a flexible, agile mindset are better equipped to look at data objectively and focus on developing good processes rather than focus exclusively on reaching a specific goal. In life, this is an essential skill; the goal itself may evolve, and being able to see and adapt to that reality enables flow towards success.

2. AN EXPERIENCED TEAM

Hand-in-hand with coachability comes experience (although the two aren't always synonymous). The more experienced the founder, they more "battle-tested" they are, and thus often have more tools in their toolkit for overcoming obstacles. That doesn't mean that a completely green founder won't be appealing, with the right idea and approach, but in general, experience often leads to a more mature approach to finding product-market fit and handling challenges.

3. MARKET KNOWlEDGE

At Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi, we're a fully global program. We attract entrepreneurs from around the world and enable them to set up in the UAE and then expand, either into the Middle East or other global markets. We often have applicants who have launched their products in other markets and are now interested in heading to the Middle East, because they see a specific market opportunity.

Sometimes, however, applicants with very interesting ideas have done little to no market research, and could just as well be applying to an accelerator in Siberia. If a founding team can't construct a convincing argument for why its product will suit the Middle East, or expresses that they expect Flat6Labs to basically do that market assessment for them, it's usually a guaranteed no-go.

4. A COMPELLING, SCALABLE IDEA

In line with the market knowledge point I outlined, we look for ideas that are not only compelling and suitable to the market, but also scalable. If a team is looking to enter the UAE and only focus on the UAE alone, with no aspiration to scale into any other market, it could be a fantastic business, but it's a less compelling proposition for us. We like to take on founders who can think at scale, and want to solve the world's larger problems.

Nina Curley

Managing Director, Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi

Nina Curley runs Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi, an accelerator program for technology startups focused on digital content and media. Previously the Editor-in-Chief of Wamda, a platform for empowering entrepreneurs, she specializes in supporting startups in the broader Middle East. With a background in cognitive neuroscience and decision-making, she is now exploring the psychology of collaborative team building and lean startup mentality.

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