MIT Enterprise Forum Annual Elevator Pitch

The MIT Pittsburgh Elevator Pitch event was held tonight at the Pittsburgh Golf Club, just a few blocks from the Carnegie Mellon campus. It was an entertaining event. Some 15 entrepreneurs pitched their company ideas to a panel of judges. The panelists then provided feedback and voted yes/maybe/no if they would give them a meeting after hearing their pitch.

Two of my schoolmates (Adil and Marta) participated and did well. They have some interesting ideas (one related to Internet video and the other about an alternative to Google Maps), and seemed to have made new contacts within the Pittsburgh venture capital community. Marta even got interviewed by a Pittsburgh Gazette Reporter for her idea. Cool.

It was interesting to see people pitching their ideas. Some were solid, others were, well, weak. One guy stopped in his tracks and had 5 seconds of silence during his pitch… which seemed like an eternity. I felt bad. Presenting your business idea in 60 seconds in front of a crowd of 120 people isn’t easy.

A lot of people started their pitches with “research”… “did you know a Harvard Medical School study recently found that…” I have to admit, if I were writing my own elevator pitch I would be tempted to start that way. However, sitting in the audience, it turned out to be a red flag. Maybe one or two people were able to pull it off, but most people who pitched that way lost out. They simply spent too much time giving background as opposed to talking about the bottom line: potential growth, market share, competitors, exit strategy, etc.

The panelists emphasized having a strong opening sentence. “If you don’t convince me in your first sentence, it’s over.” Also, emphasizing the potential return (with realistic numbers) is important. A few of the speakers never mentioned how much the potential investor could make. Some simply forgot to mention it. So, in summary, the annual elevator pitch event was great opportunity to see local entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and hear the panelists’ feedback.

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