At the Women 2.0 Pitch Conference and Competition this past Valentine’s Day, I hung out with 300 talented and inspiring technology women to watch women-led startups compete for meetings with Silicon Valley VCs. The startup ideas range the gamut from financial management for solo-entrepreneurs (Prosperity) to coupons for doctor visits (DocPons). Women are vastly under-represented in technology start-up leadership roles. Only 8 percent of technology startups are led by women. Women 2.0 was formed to empower women to start their own companies.
The top 9 startups were chosen from a pool of over 200 applications to publicly pitch at the Valentine’s Day Pitch Conference. Startup teams had 5 minutes to win the panelists over. Panelists included big names in startup investing, such as Dave McClure, founder of 500 startups and Thomas Korte, founder of Angel Pad. No matter how clean the pitch, the panel always challenged the plan. As an entrepreneur who has sat through many investor feedback sessions, I was still able to glean some new insights. Here are a few tips from the panel that you may not expect:
- Press coverage can be perceived as a negative. If press is the main fuel behind your initial user traction, be careful not to highlight it too much and spend time explaining your user acquisition model. One finalist highlighted her 75k unique visitor statistic and media coverage in the same slide, and was severely questioned on her user acquisition model.
- How will you rise above the noise? Addressing the competition is standard practice and one must assume that investors have heard 30 pitches on the same idea before. The only way to cut through the skepticism seems to be traction. Pitches that demonstrated customer traction were not questioned on competition details.
- Be ready to answer scalability questions. One business owner demonstrated great traction with customers, and a sustainable model for user acquisition. But she was drilled on scalability in her internal operations, which included coaching services. The panel did not believe that her coaching services were scalable. While her answers demonstrated otherwise, it’s important to set a good impression during the initial pitch.
Is your startup pitch ready to face up to scrutiny?
Connie Kwan is the founder and CEO of RealMealz.com in Silicon Valley, CA. She holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, and covers stories about triple bottom line businesses and projects. Follow her on Twitter @realmealz and @conniemkwan.