Startups' Pitch Puzzle: Getting the Message Right is Crucial, But Often Missed

In my work with startups, I've noticed a common oversight: these high-tech ventures, born from academic rigor, struggle in the market. This problem often stems from founders' academic backgrounds.

Academia: Where Deep Thinking Rules

Academic life is all about thorough, evidence-based thinking. Every claim and piece of research must be rigorously questioned before its worth is recognized and shared. This mindset is fantastic for sparking tech innovation and discovering new ideas.

However, when it's time to sell these innovations to investors and customers, a different approach is needed.

Investors: Searching for Standout Ideas

When startups pitch to investors, they need to highlight what makes their product special. Are there patents? What's unique about their business model, and how do they plan to succeed in the long run?

Investors want quick returns. They look at how a startup might fit into their portfolio and whether its financial plans are realistic. They're also on the lookout for any warning signs, like potential problems, team dynamics, scalability, or legal issues.

Startups need to convincingly show that their idea and team are solid and that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks, using solid data to support their claims.

Customers: Looking for Solutions

Using the same pitch for customers as for investors is a mistake. Customers have different concerns:

  • Will this product/service be better than what's already out there?
  • Will it arrive quickly?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • What's the risk of working with a startup?

Customers aren't interested in the startup's financial details. They want a pitch that addresses their specific needs, and they might be curious about future improvements if they're relevant.

The essence of a customer pitch is simple: save money, save time, lower risk.

Stressing points like "Our product reduces your costs by 20%" with supporting data or research is key. The rest of the pitch should support these claims and explain how the startup will deliver.

One Startup, Many Stories

It's clear: a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work for startups.

Market research should help identify the right investors and customers. If you've got their attention for a pitch, remember, they're looking for good reasons to get involved. They'll only be convinced if they feel understood and believe the startup is ready to deliver.

"Know Your Investor" and "Know Your Customer" are not just good advice for startups; they're necessary.

Several people with different heights and sizes trying to use bicycles of the same size.

Image source: ChatGPT playing with the concept "one size does not fit all".