The startup pitch in the corporate context

You can tell a lot about a company by its approach to the business startup pitch.  Witness a large infrastructure company that requires its employees to submit business model concepts as a word document with spaces to “fill in the blank”.  Employees are encouraged to submit thorough research, which usually means dozens of pages with as many features for as many target customers they can think of – often in order to make the opportunity sound large and impressive, or to keep different departments and executives happy.

In other cases, there may be no set guideline.  Which might allow for flexibility, but doesn’t set a clear priority for the most important things in a business pitch (see the first tip below).  By having at least a set of guidelines, a large company can avoid confusion and headaches, and provide a set of values for how to identify, define, and communicate a business model. 

Generally, the corporate business pitch could take some pointers from the standard VC pitch – clear problem, compelling solution, differentiated, aspirational, inspirational, and visually communicative.

Note:  A pitch for a VC often starts with information about the team.  The rationale is that the team is the critical element in which the VC is investing.  Often this isn’t necessary in the corporate context since the team is already known and vetted.  Therefore: 

  • Start with a key customer problem.  What is the pain point, the customer frustration?  What’s the problem that the new opportunity will solve?  Without a clear problem there is no solution.
  • Startup strategy – be really good at one thing.  Companies like Mint and Twitter didn’t start out just trying to sell something.  They identified a clear need that people had and relentlessly delivered a focused solution for that problem.  They thought about the best way to solve the problem that was identified.
  • Sell don’t explain.  Just because you’re in a company doesn’t mean you should stop selling.  Let’s be clear here, a business pitch is about one thing – selling a convincing business opportunity.  The best salespeople do it through storytelling, visualization, rationale, and connecting with the participants on an emotional level. Enable them to connect with the customer need that you have identified.
  • Use numbers at the right place and time.  Have some quantitative data to back up your claims but don’t make them the hero of your pitch.  Make sure those numbers are credible and specifically relevant to your business.  There’s nothing worse than showing a bunch of market size numbers that aren’t relevant to your specific market or value proposition.
  • Show how you’re different or better than current competitors.  This is the kicker.  If you’ve set up the pitch properly, showing how your business model is different or better should be a no brainer and you should see a light go on in the eyes of your audience.  The “ah ha!” moment where people say – Yes, that’s exactly what we need! 

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