Two minutes. No slides.
Those were the parameters laid out last week at the Pitch Breakfast quarterly IDEA Fund Partners pitch. The three companies in attendance could talk for two minutes straight — no visuals allowed. Then the judges would impart 15 minutes of feedback.
As the judges pointed out repeatedly, that’s no easy feat. Your message has to be tight and effective to score a follow-up conversation under those circumstances. And so much of their advice centered on the key pieces of information to make a strong first impression.
The startups running the gauntlet this week included:
PureSurgery, a digital platform that helps elective surgery patients find the right doctor at the right price.
OffrBox, an ecommerce marketplace for residential investment properties.
Txtra, which allows companies to collect customer feedback via text messages.
The judges were:
Lister Delgado: Managing partner, IDEA Fund Partners
David Jones: an IDEA Fund Partners investor and the founder of Peak 10, a national IT infrastructure provider
John Cambier: Managing partner, IDEA Fund Partners
Here were some of the main takeaways from the morning of pitches:
Talk about why you’re different
Joel Suckow created PureSurgery to help elective surgery patients make more informed buying decisions. You want lap band surgery? You should be able to shop around and find the doctor and price that work for you, he said.
The problem for Lister Delgado was, how does that make PureSurgery unique?
“We have heard pitches like yours before and whenever you’re pitching about a space that is similar to where others are competing, you want to be able to talk about your differentiation. I really have no idea what your differentiation is. And without that, it’s going to be difficult for me to say, I want to have another conversation with Joel,” Delgado explained.
For John Cambier, that can include customer acquisition.
He honed in on something Suco had mentioned during the pitch about a pilot that resulted in at least one physician-owned surgery group eager to sign on with PureSurgery when it’s ready for launch.
“I would work that into your pitch that you essentially already have customers lined up. At this stage, that’s a differentiator. You’ve run a pilot, and you’re raising money to be able to scale this,” Cambier said.
Keep it simple
Eric Andrew is the founder of OffrBox, which allows residential real estate investors to buy and sell investment properties online. It was a need he’d seen personally, as a residential real estate investor himself for the past 15 years.
But the need and the market for Andrew’s product weren’t immediately clear to the panel of investors at Pitch Breakfast.
“Where’s the gap and how big is that gap?” said David Jones, of Peak 10. “Not all of us are real estate brokers, and understanding that piece is difficult for me.”
“You obviously know a lot more about this space than we do. You need to make it simple enough for us to understand the opportunity you have. And real estate is tricky because there are so many ups and downs that I want to see that there’s a sustainable growth opportunity, and it’s not just about taking advantage of a moment in time,” Delgado said.
Know your niche
To date, many of their customers have included online retailers, thanks to a recent integration with Shopify. Going forward, Herbkersman said, Txtra is looking to focus on targeting brick-and-mortar businesses. Any business looking for more customer feedback is an area of opportunity.
For Cambier, such a broad target presents a problem.
“To say you’re serving brick and mortar, that is a huge ocean of retail, and a Macy’s is very different than a Nancy’s Card Shop. So I would suggest that you want to think about that and narrow it down — because it is entirely different to focus on the enterprise of retail, compared to the [small to midsize businesses] of retail,” Cambier said.
“In order to establish credibility, you have to narrow down the market because if you don’t, you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. You sound like an entrepreneur who hasn’t done enough homework. What allows you to show off a little bit is to describe your niche,” he said.
Next month’s Pitch Breakfast will be held on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. The organization will be celebrating its fifth birthday, and there will be cake. As always, Pitch Breakfast is free for all to attend — see you there!