Nov 2 • 8M

Can you pitch your startup in 10 seconds?

Most founders can't. Here's why, and how to nail it.

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Jeroen Coelen
Actionable insights for founders poured in stories, straight from my experience mentoring 150+ startups and my PhD research on early-stage startups.
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🔥📈 Welcome to the 700th and plus subscriber, onto 750😎!

Just before this summer, I was at a networking event in Rotterdam. Two tech founders introduced their startup.

For ten minutes, I had no idea what that Rotterdam startup did. The only thing I got was “Something techy with video”.

To give you an idea, watch this, it’s truly amazing (real magic starts at 00:40).

The founders mostly explained the technology. I’m not a developer yet I’m not a complete idiot, although I felt like one. I didn’t understand what they did.

That’s a shame because only when someone understands your business, they can help you.

Problem: wrong starting point

These founders started by talking about their technology. Technology often shows how you achieve something. They didn’t speak of what it actually was they provided or for whom this is important.

Starting with your technology can be tempting because it’s unique to your startup and you want to showcase how unique you are. But often it’s not the best starting point.

Solution: spill the beans, right away

The solution is actually fairly simple: spill the beans. It’s great writing advice and works too for verbal short pitches.

In other words, cut to the chase, and get to the point. You need to guide your listener in the right direction, immediately.

This will make it easier to think along. You are not a magician with some kind of big reveal. Just tell us what you do, using these three elements.

Build a 10-second pitch

Examples

⏱️ 10.26 seconds
What: AccuSelect helps homeowners to install home batteries
Why: In Belgium, you can’t resell your surplus energy so it’s wasted
How: We provide an end to end service from intake, battery advice to booking to an installer.

⏱️ 12.08 seconds
What: Unpluq is a app & gadget that cuts down your daily smartphone usage by 25%
Why: People use their smartphone too much but the zombie habbits are deeply engrained
How: Unpluq makes opening timewaster apps harder by adding small activities

⏱️ 14.74 seconds
What
: Praxa Sense’s remote patient monitoring system allow hospitals to monitor and diagnose patients while they are at home
Why: Current remote monitoring systems are not reliable enough for making diagnoses
How: Praxa Sense has better sensors and AI, which enables them to do it more reliable and cheaper.

A good 10-second pitch makes you want more

As you saw above, it’s quite possible to have a very very short pitch that gets the point across. With most of the above pitches, you probably had loads of questions.

That is good. That is exactly what you want. You don’t do a 10-second pitch to explain every aspect of your business. You do a 10-second pitch to get a conversation going.

Nailing your what

The above examples have their ‘what’ explained by describing the product via means of the job to be done: ‘install home batteries’ or ‘reduce battery usage’. This works for these startups.

Not all startups are best explained with a job to be done though. For some startups, it helps to explain the ‘what’ via a feature. See some examples below and figure out what works for you.

Examples of Product + Feature

⏱️ 9.67 seconds
What: Swapfiets is a bicycle subscription service including repairs
Why: Bicycles are great but getting them repaired sucks
How: They come to you to fix the bicycle you lease within 48 hours

⏱️ 14.26 seconds
What: Loop Biotech makes fully biodegradable coffins
Why: Most coffins are slow in decomposing and not adding to nature.
How: By making the coffin out of mycelium (mushrooms), the decomposting process of a human body is accelerated and nature is revibed with good materials

⏱️ 9.64 seconds
What: Breeze is a dating app without a chat.
Why: We found that users spend 40 hours in Tinder for each date.
How: We removed the chat function, when you match you get a date picker immediately.

⏱️ 11.10 seconds
What: Pieter Pot is a packageless online supermarket
Why: Most packaging is bad for the environment, although it’s everywhere.
How: Pieter Pot brings you supermarket goods in glass jars and picks up the glass jars on your next order, reducing the need for plastic packaging.

You can start with why

Lastly, you can also start with why. In some occasions, this makes the why a great hook and lets the 10-second pitch roll like a story. Experiment with this!

⏱️ 11.63 seconds
Why: You know how difficult it is to find a unique gift for your partner, right? What: Etsy is a platform where you can buy 1000s of unique handcrafted gifts
How: You buy directly from local or global independent creators. This makes each gift unique.

Get your startup across in the first sentence.

Whatever you do, you should get to the point fast. Viki (Pitchblocks), my favourite pitch coach says:

“If after the 4th sentence we don't know exactly what you do, you're doing it wrong”

Grab a stopwatch, 10 seconds is shorter than you think

Write down your 10-second pitch according to the format: what, why, how. Start that stopwatch. Read it out loud. You probably are talking way longer than you think.

Aim for 10 seconds, a few seconds extra is not bad. Write and rewrite. Trim the noise. Get it below 15 seconds at least.

Don’t forget to use words that roll off your tongue easily. It’s your pitch, in the end, you should be able to deliver it naturally.

Don’t forget to practise it with others. That way you will learn what works.

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