Venture CupI attended a pitching competition organized by Venture Cup Finland on last Thursday. I was hoping hear some excellent pitchs, of which to grab some good takeaways. But I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

Two things let me down, the pitches and the jury work. I’m not saying either ones were bad, but I didn’t really see much excelling there. Beforehand, it was claimed the jury will judge the pitches by the presentation skills and by the business idea. However, watching the competition, it felt like the jury was missing a common criteria for evaluating the pitches. They were each picking up different things in different pitches, be it the idea in general, presumed technical feasibility or financial outlook, subjective feeling, etc… Also, what came to the presentations as such, very few comments were made – I would’ve expected a lot more comments than just “your presentation was nice…” And, if a pitch clearly gets cut off due to time ending, while missing some information, it should not get three times 4 points (out of 5) from the five-member jury, in my opinion…

Regarding the pitches, they were slightly modest, and some even unstimulating. There were a couple of exceptions, including the winning Maija Itkonen’s Power Kiss (in Finnish), which was delivered nicely. Also the content of the pitches was quite varying. Again, there were a few clearly rehearsed ones, but the rest would’ve needed a lot more dry runs beforehand. From two I couldn’t even figure out what the opportunity or product was exactly, and in many the financial opportunity was completely left out.

I’m not claiming I’d be any expert on this subject, but the way I see it, you need to start with the customer’s pain, i.e. the problem statement: who’s got a problem, and why it’s important? After that you need to state a clear, compelling value proposition: why it’s you(r company) who can solve the problem, and how? Then you’ll proceed to the financial potential. Of course you can start with your strongest point, but each element should be there. Four key attributes in a pitch would be: the pitch should be be succinct, easy to understand, induce greed, and be irrefutable. It should not leave the investor with more questions than answers. And you’d better show some enthusiasm.

A lot of the pitches I witnessed were missing much of the above, unfortunately. The organizers had done a good job, though – the cocktail catering afterwards was great, and facilitated some good conversation among those of us remaining… Anyway, I’d recommend checking out MIT 100k Elevator Pitch Contest and some other guidelines if you’re interested.

PS. We were discussing with Antti Vilpponen it might be nice to organize some sort of a gettogether around pitching, providing an opportunity to practice, present your company, and to discuss with likeminded people. If you think that’d interest you, let us know: info (at) arcticstartup.com.