Talk over the time limit, know your ‘addressable’ market & more from Pitch Breakfast

Each month, Pitch Breakfast invites startup founders to practice their pitch before a panel of business experts and investors. The goal is to learn and improve, for when the fundraising process starts getting real.

This month, Pitch Breakfast welcomed five companies currently going through the Queen City Fintech accelerator to present to a panel of investors from Idea Fund Partners, a seed and early-stage venture firm focused on tech companies in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Those companies included:

  • Remotize, a marketplace that provides alternative loan solutions funded by everyday investors.
  • Speakalytics, which uses artificial intelligence to dissect sales calls and enable sales training at scale.
  • Quarule, which automates compliance and risk-management activities, primarily in financial institutions.
  • Capway, a financial literacy company that caters to the underserved market of the unbanked, underbanked and working poor.
  • Qoins, an automated micropayment solution that helps people pay off debt through everyday solutions.

The format for the morning was: two-minute pitch, no supporting presentation materials, followed by a 10-minute critique. Here were the main takeaways:

Talk up your team

Josh Shifman is the CDO and co-founder of Remotize, a marketplace that provides alternative student loan solutions funded by everyday investors. When he pitched the panel from Idea Fund Partners, he talked about his friend who got the same high interest rates on her student loans as a senior that she got as a freshman, about his revenue model and the $400,000 seed round Remotize is raising to fund the business for the next year.

But for Lister Delgado, managing partner at Idea Fund Partners, Shifman didn’t spend nearly enough time on his team. Doing that lends credibility, he explained.

“When you talk about the team, tell us why you’re the guy who can do this well,” Delgado said.

Know your ‘addressable ‘market

James Knowles is the founder of Speakalytics, which uses artificial intelligence to dissect sales calls and enable sales training at scale. At the start of his pitch, he talked about how $2.2 billion is spent in sales training every year.

But while that number illustrates a massive market, it isn’t Speakalytics’ addressable market, said Seth Twery, a limited partner with Idea Fund Partners. And that’s what matters to investors.

“To show recognition that you understand the market, you might put forth what sliver of that you’re going for,” Twery explained.

Talk over the time limit

Wesley Moore is the founder and executive director of Quarule, a company looking to automate compliance and risk-management activities, primarily in financial institutions.

Moore said he’s spent 30 years in compliance, and he knows it well enough to talk about his solution — at length. When the two-minute timer went off during his pitch, Moore just kept talking.

That was a good thing, if you ask Chris Halligan, operating partner at Idea Fund Partners.

“My very favorite thing you did is when the timer went off, you didn’t care. You just kept going. Seriously, do that every time. Just keep going,” he said.

Make it up (if you have to)

Knowles, of Speakalytics, had the opposite problem. Rather than too many words, he found himself struggling to remember everything he was supposed to say, forfeiting precious seconds to a lost train of thought.

The good news: Delgado, of Idea Fund Partners, has a cure for that.

“Think about the three things you want to get across in a two-minute pitch,” he said. “The rest, you make it up.”

Get specific

Christian Zimmerman is the co-founder of Qoins, an automated micropayment solution that helps people pay off debt through everyday solutions. What does that mean? For every purchase you make, Qoins rounds up to the next dollar, and that difference goes toward debt payment automatically.

For each follow-up question Zimmerman was asked after his pitch, Zimmerman answered with hard, powerful numbers:

“How many users do you have?”

“5,000”

“How do they find you?”

“32 percent is through referrals, and the rest is organic, through word of mouth.”

That resonated with Halligan, of Idea Fund Partners.

“When you’re asked a question, you give a very specific answer,” Halligan said. “You seem to know what you’re talking about, and when an investor is talking to a prospective company, the vaguer the answer, the easier it is for the investor to just move on.”