Tips on Developing Your Elevator Pitch

Thanks for joining the Duke Start-Up Challenge at the DEES Elevator Pitch Practice Run with Live Judging event this past Thursday, October 29, 2009. It was a great opportunity for the DSC organizing committee to do a rehearsal of the pitch event. More importantly, though, it was a great opportunity for those planning to pitch to get a sense for what makes a winning 2 minute elevator pitch.

A summary of the event is available on the DEES website - "Summary of the Elevator Pitch Practice Run with Live Judging - 2009".

Many participants commented afterwards that the most valuable part of the night was the summary the judges provided at the end of the event on what elements they expect in a winning elevator pitch. For the benefit of those that were not able to attend, we thought we would summarize those elements here.

Here's what David Pierson '92 of Intersouth Partners (with additional thoughts from  Jed Carslon '05 of, and Jonathan Gindes '03 of Affinergy) commented on what makes a winning 2 min elevator pitch (thanks to Joe Knight '11 for taking detailed notes):
  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain how you are related to the project
  • Provide a high level overview of the concept (50,000 foot perspective)
  • Consider using a metaphor that serves to help the listener visualize what you are talking about (something memorable)
  • Describe the problem you're addressing
  • Describe the solution/technology to that problem and how it's unique (relative to other solutions)
  • If you have any proof of traction (proof of concept results, test results, pilot results, customer contracts, etc.), highlight those as third-party acceptance of your solution adds credibility to your claims.
  • Describe the team – it is great to have someone who is really credible in your space that is willing to risk their name on this; venture capital is about investing in people.
  • Explain why you are making this pitch - what do you need from those you're pitching to help you move forward with the project?
  • Make a call to action; get the investors involved
Another key insight the judges provided was to not deviate too much from the standard elements of a pitch. There are many resources on the web that provide guidance on what to put in an elevator pitch, so please leverage those! As an example, here's a nifty interactive Elevator Pitch Builder provided by Harvard Business School.

Keep practicing! And we'll see you all at the Elevator Pitch Competition!