An elevator pitch is the fastest way to describe what your startup venture is about and what makes it so special. It’s the pitch you prepare for when you only have a short moment of a minute or even a few seconds to catch someone’s attention—like when you meet him in an elevator or see him on a street waiting for an Uber or at a startup event.
The secret to all great pitches is to combine the somewhat familiar with the highly intriguing. You must start with something your audience has some idea about. Then, surprise them with a twist that captures their interest and makes them want to know more.
I’m here to tell you that the elevator might be hypothetical but the situation is real. Although you may not be trapped in a small ascending room, the entrepreneur’s life is full of sudden moments and: brief opportunities to shift the destiny of your company. And a proper pitch is essential to take advantage of such situations.
In fact, the elevator pitch is only a simple, basic example of a much more powerful tool: the pyramid pitching technique.
The pyramid Pitch
The pyramid pitch is based on Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of motivation. Maslow stated that people had many “needs,” but some were more fundamental than others.
Until fundamental needs like food and water were met, people would not be able to strive to achieve needs that were higher in the pyramid, like belonging, morality, spontaneity, and self-actualization.
So the concept is simple:
When you pitch your venture, talk about the most urgent matters first. What those are will vary depending on your company and the person you are pitching to. Here, a useful tactic is to know the elements of your lean startup canvas (see image below) by heart.
My pyramid pitch for Tactyq usually starts with someone asking me what we do.
“We are making the world’s first AI powered business coach.”
This is the first line of the pitch.
It addresses the most urgent and pressing matter in the investor’s mind at this point in the conversation: “Do you do something that an investor finds even a little bit interesting and have some idea of?” So for example, if you are talking about revolutionizing an industry via blockchain and the listener has no idea about blockchain, you are not going to make an impact, irrespective of how game-changing your startup might be.
If they seem to be somewhat interested, my next line could be
“We are replacing business consultants with digital assessments to solve the top 20% problems of 80% of business, bringing convenience and saving time & money of entrepreneurs. “
There are now two possibilities. The first is that the person, for whatever reason stops the conversation and leaves. The second is that the other person is thinking, “Hmm, sounds interesting, so tell me how do you do that?”
Ok, so I say,
“We are using pattern recognition to identify why most businesses succeed or fail and have turned these patterns into DIY assessments for entrepreneurs to evaluate their business and take key decisions.”
You get the idea. The pitch goes on from there, but the philosophy is incredibly simple.
- The most important things goes first.
- If you stop at any point, the listener walks away with an idea of what you’re doing.
It basically follows the pattern:
- What? – bring attention to the listener
- Why? – state the importance and size of the problem
- How? – make it believable
This may seem simple and obvious, but too many people mess it up by going for one of the following types of pitches instead:
The story pitch
The story pitch is when you talk about your startup as if you’re telling a story. You lead the conversation with a backstory on how the idea came to you, how you met your cofounder, why you care so much about this business, or how you plan to change the world.
There are times when this works—like when you’re having coffee, a beer or dinner with someone, and you know the story’s good—but it’s usually the wrong move as an elevator pitch. Because, if they cut you off at any moment, they know only parts about you, your life, your company, etc. Also, investors are a bit too familiar with startup storytelling and hope that you’ll just get to the point. And, if you’re not a great storyteller (and it’s not a great story), they, instead of listening to your story, try to figure out how to escape.
The standard business plan demo day pitch
You lead o with the standard pitch deck speech covering market sizing, competitors, and business models. This works when you are either doing demo day or doing a standard pitch to an investor. Not so good for an introduction. This helps investors develop confidence in an idea that they already think is exciting, but you can’t lead with it—you have to start with the excitement.
The feature pitch
You start listing all the features your product has. This strategy probably only works for colleagues or friends. But no one else cares about features, especially at the early stages of a conversation.
Elevator pitch formats
You are going to pitch your business to various stakeholders along the way- customers, suppliers, venture capitalists, banks, etc. Your business should be clear to you and clear to them. If you can’t explain what you do in a single short sentence, your stakeholders might be confused about what your business actually does.
According to a study by Microsoft, the average human being now has an attention span of eight seconds.
Clear and short pitches are memorable and stay in the minds of your customers. Short pitches help you get attention from reporters, VCs, potential hires.
If people don’t understand what your company does,
Investors will not invest. Reporters will not promote. Consumers will not buy.
With a clear one-sentence pitch, Investors can describe the business they’ve invested in. Your customers can share it with their friends. Team members can describe the company they (hopefully) love to work for.
One place that forces this clarity is a growing community on Product Hunt. To submit a product to the daily flow, you have 20 characters for the name, and 60 characters for the description. This format works the same way, when you are tweeting or placing an ad on Google or Facebook.
There are a few formats you can use to come up with short and memorable pitches for your business.
Format 1: (Our product) solves (problem) for (target customer segment).
Format 2: We are building (“Uber”, “Netflix” or “solution”) for (target customer segment).
Format 3: Our company/startup, (name of company), is developing/making (product offering) to help (customer segment) (solve a problem) with (the secret sauce).
Format 4: We help (your customer) do (your solution) by (your product).
Format 5: We are a (your product) that helps (your customer) do (your solution).
Elevator pitch examples from successful startups
- Slack—We help businesses and organizations communicate with a simple chat interface.
- Uber—We help individuals get from A to Z with a simple ride-sharing app.
- Amazon—We help people buy and sell things online.
- Facebook—We help individuals stay connected and share experiences online.
- Netflix – Never visit a video store to rent a movie and never pay late fees again.
- Google – Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.