Pitching, Speech, and Start-Up Bootcamps

Final Pitch @ 3DS Aachen 2012

I am quite the twitter freak and following many topics and people there, one of which would be in the context of start-ups and the whole world around that.
Now, last weekend happened to be a startup-bootcamp event in Cologne and in the aftermath of it one Manuel Koelmann tweeted: ” We need to improve pitching skills. Who wants to build a pitch school. #SWCologne”
In addition to that he blogged about this topic. I invite you all to a very interesting read there. Let’s make startup pitches suck less

Anyway, that all lead me to rub my two brain cells together and try to start a fire. It kinda worked. My lady looked at me a lil weird, when smoke started coming out of my ears, but to no avail. So, here you have it.

Many or most if not all of the 2day or 3day Start-Up Bootcamps use a catch phrase to the effect: “Start your company in 3 days” or “Found your Start-Up in just 2 days” …
Even after having attended 3 Day Startup in Aachen and I must say I am very fond of the experience, I met great people and it was unbelievably well organized, but that is not the point … Even after that, I still asked myself, if it was even possible to deliver on those catch phrases. From where I stand now, the answer can only be a clear – YES and NO.
It’s no, if you think of the outcome as leaving the event on Sunday and getting your company registered on Monday and starting to earn on Tuesday.
It’s certainly yes, if you consider the fact, that you most likely come to the event with an idea in a state of vagueness and might, should, ought to leave with a real world business model (that of course still needs to be subject to revision and experimentation and validation – in this context I recommend the book by Eric Ries).

But what happens between the Friday one arrives and the Sunday night or Monday morning one leaves? Usually you pitch your idea to your peers and try to gather excitement for it and have people join you to develop your idea. Once your team is founded, you get together, do your magic, do a practice pitch sometime on Sunday (maybe) and then pitch again for some investors or to a jury before the whole thing concludes in a, dare I say, party.
Now from my experience, most attendees are from the technical, development, programming side. Most Start-Up bootcamps do cater to the tech startup scene, so that is obvious. In fact, the terms social media, internet, web, app or the like almost seem to be glued to the idea of a start-up. If it wasn’t technical it might just be a company founding, which probably isn’t nearly as sexy.
Do I smell a bubble there? We may talk about that another time …

Anyway, what I saw happen at this event, was that the developers started doing what comes naturally to them – they developed something. The few business guys did, what they do best – which is talk.

What I would propose instead, I would call business model generation and it should involve the developers, too. Else if they just want to keep to programming, they only make themselves out to be cheap labor and might as well be replaced or better said outsourced. I am not saying here, that they should become business strategists, but they do need a lil more active role than just getting “orders” from the business side and implementing these or else they make themselves obsolete as part of the team.
Ok, so what do I think should be done? Answers need to be found. Answers to the most important questions -
- What is my product? Does it solve a problem? Will people pay for it? What is my competition? and so on
- What is my market? Will the market accept my product? Are there substitute products?
- How do I earn money with it? How can I sell it? What is the best marketing strategy?
In this regard, I personally like to work through Porter’s Five Forces Framework first and then go from there.

Ok, about 700 words and nothing about the pitching yet.
I was fortunate enough to attend a US-American High School, in which a class in Public Speaking was mandatory. I also attended college taking 2 semesters in psychology and 1 in management and marketing and for both subjects another class on the subject was mandatory.
Formal practice is good and can never hurt, but to be really successful in public speaking or pitching you also need a lil excitement.
It wasn’t until later though, that I learnd to enjoy public speaking or pitching. Now, instead of being too afraid and getting the gitters before a speech, I actually get thrilled to perform. And let me tell you, if a “Weiner” like me, can do that, you can too.
Giving a convincing speech is at least as much about energy as it is about preparation.

Let’s say that again. For a convincing pitch the energy, the fun, the thrill you convay is probably even more important than the topic. Watch a video of Les Brown on Youtube, if you find the time. That guy is having fun and therefore it is fun listening to him.
At the bootcamp event, you are attending, you are well prepared. You know your idea in and out. After all it is your idea and you should be passionate about it. So, the only thing missing to a greatly convincing pitch is carrying your passion for your idea over to the audience. You may be as interesting as a sleeping pill in its most awake moments yourself, but you have already made your decision to follow your heart, follow your idea, work on it, work hard for it and you have already found and convinced a bunch of people to join you, so why don’t you go out there and smack those money-bags in the audience right in the face with your performance?
Most of the time, the audience will not understand much of your concept anyway – so it is more important, that you capture them. Again, you need to capture them.
At this stage you are the only value point to your concept anyway. You don’t have customers yet, you don’t have a finished product yet, you don’t have anything really worth any money yet. All you have is yourself and if you can’t sell that … then you should not try to go down this path or at least put the remedy of that at the very top of your agenda or as Mr. Grota tweeted: “… pitching should be part of a founders DNA. You need to sell all the time …”
Remember why you are where you are, what you want to accomplish and that should be reason enough to enable you to give a good performance.

A last but nice example – I attended Business with Soul in Düsseldorf back in November of last year. It was a very interesting experience.
Among the speakers pitching their start-ups was a guy almost as big and strong as a bear. He did tell us about the interesting thing he and his co-founder are developing. What was most amazing was that he put a 10-12 minute speech into what felt like 2 minutes. My good friend, Clemens, described him as having Red-Bull pumping through his veins. So, yes the guy was probably very nervous, didn’t feel at all comfortable being there and presenting, but he really caught my attention. Now, contrary to what I said before, he could not sell himself, if his life depended on it, but he was clearly passionate about his baby and he did convey that to the audience and that is the next best thing. He simply infused the audience with the passion for his product and that was what made it fun listening to him.

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A not so rough start

This is my first on this new blog, but I suppose it will be followed by many more.

I have thought about making this an introductory post, but did not quite warm up to the thought. You will get to know me, as we go along anyway.

So, what is up for today?
Let me talk about a new app I just got last night. It’s called bloom* and it’s available for iPhone. The App is very neatly done, but what does it do?

Maybe you know mindfulness bells. What is that? Well, mindfulness originated from buddhist teachings. The goal is to be alert and in the moment. There’s many a meditation practice floating around for this purpose among many other things.
In this regard I would also share the appreciation of a book I am reading at the moment. It is called “Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)” and has been written by Chade-Meng Tan, Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat-Zinn. The title on the front cover is in google style and color, so you can guess where it comes from. But nevertheless what you may think of google, it is an interesting read about how the practice of mindfulness can improve living quality, just not in words as crude as mine ;-)

Anyway, back to mindfulness … Here’s what wikipedia says about it: “Mindfulness (Pali: sati,[1] Sanskrit: smṛti; also translated as awareness) is a spiritual or psychological faculty (indriya) that is considered to be of great importance in the path to enlightenment according to the teaching of the Buddha.” taken from wikipedia.org @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness, retrieved on Jan. 25th, 2013
It is even considered to help relieve some maladies.

Now, back to the bells. There used to be a nice app (but as far as I can see only on Android) that would let a bell ring at random times and intervalls throughout the day, reminding the phone’s owner to stay in the moment and be alert and mindful.

bloom* then can be interpreted as mindfulness bells version 2.0. It is an app that plays a lil video along with a song reminding you to be mindful in a lot of creative ways. There are some preconfigured blooms to the affect of “be mindful this morning”, “take a relaxing breath”, “take time to meditate”, and so on. One can also customize these blooms or prepare completly new ones of one’s own facility.
I have only used the app for a day, but I have been instantly fascinated by it and I think you may be, too.

Now, this is it for the first blog post. The next ones may follow at any time :-) and be of completly different topics – maybe business, accounting, start-ups, maybe IT, tech, maybe meditation, maybe car-selling, maybe people … but in any way, I will try to make ‘em interesting or at least useful.

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