Think Before You Pitch – DEMO US Takeaways – Part II

The previous article provided a snapshot of the startup landscape in terms of trends & emerging sectors, based on pitches from about 100 startups. In this post I want to focus on the presentations themselves and let you take the audience seat:

Startup number 59 gets on stage. 20% of the audience is on their smartphones. 30% of the audience is reading emails or reviewing their Facebook. The presenter starts “We are a mobile/social/universal content discovery/shopping/ marketing company…..” At that stage I’m thinking “wasn’t startup 58/57/56 also a mobile/social/universal…” and together with another 20% of the audience – stop paying attention.

I tend to have a good memory but I don’t remember most of the companies who presented at DEMO (well actually I might remember what they are doing but not their name nor any other details). I will remember VisualBee, who used their tool to build their presentation in real-time on stage, as they were pitching. I will remember Gumhoo, who made the audience laugh in the first 20 seconds, while presenting a problem most of us can easily relate to – shopping alone and looking for advice.

Why? Because these startups were unique.

The majority of the startups attending pitching events and conferences, like DEMO US, fail to clearly define the goal and their audience. The goal is not to present the product, how you use it, how cool the design is and its robust feature-set (which about 50% of the startups did). No one is going to write you a check for doing that nor will you be able to present all your features in a 5 minutes pitch. The goal is to GET ATTENTION ! Details? The relevant audience will approach you after your presentation for details, if you are successful enough in getting their attention. At that point they are likely to pay more attention and will engage in a more effective (two-way) discussion. Think about it: Your potential investor might be sitting in the audience reading his emails. Your goal is to shift his attention back!

If five startups pitch their product to a crowd, e.g., four teams with a great product but a standard presentation and one with an average product but a unique sharp presentation, it fair to assume that the average product superb presentation startup will get the most attention.

Your first 30 seconds will make a huge difference to the rest of the presentation. Mention an experience they can relate to, make them laugh or just surprise the audience, and you are likely to have their attention for a fair number of minutes. They are expecting additional surprises and therefore are likely to listen carefully to every word you say, not to miss your next joke/surprise.

30% of the investment decision is based on the team. The product/design/business model is likely to change. An engaging and inspiring presenter is likely to get attention even if the product is average.

To finish up this post, a quick disclaimer: this approach is primarily relevant when it is not a one-on-one pitch. People tend to pay more attention in one-on-one meetings. Having said that, a unique way of grabbing someone’s attention is always useful.

Finally  – always think about your audience.


About shanishoham

Shani is an entrepreneur, investor and business leader with technical background and deep understanding of dev tools. He is currently the President and COO of He built the business from inception to over 100 customers, increasing ARR x4 YoY, ACV x7 YoY, growing its lead base to over 50K/year, hiring over 20 team members and leading 2 round of financing. Prior background: scaling 5 B2B technology ventures and one VC fund to signifiant size. I’m an alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of business - Sloan Master in Management program, a 10 months intensive program for 57 carefully selected experienced Executives and leaders from all around the world.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Ideas must be presented « The book of inspiration

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