Your startup is worth sharing, and here’s a tip on how to do it.
“I can’t stand startup culture,” she said.
Funny, I thought. She works for a startup.
The founder of the company sat to her right, relining in his chair. Legs crossed, stroking his beard.
“I was pedal to the metal during the first month,” she continued, “but man did I get burned out.”
She was fitfully reliving that first month. It was full of networking events, happy hours, and one coffee after another.
And, of course, one pitch after another from hopeful entrepreneurs.
“Here’s what I’d tell them,” she said.
She smiled, and I smiled too.
I could feel her pain. Really, I could. See, I get pitches all of the time because of my work. Surely not as often as investors, but certainly more than average.
She didn’t enjoy how everyone only talked about themselves.
“When they finally shut up about themselves,” she went on, “I tell them, ‘I’m a photographer.’ Then I do one of two things: change the subject or walk away!”
That line got a laugh out of us.
However, a laugh is not what you want to get when you’re pitching.
I’ve given more horrible pitches than I’ve received.
That’s a fact! Here’s how I know.
When I had opportunities to network with investors and other entrepreneurs, I usually took that opportunity to blow it. Most interactions were imbalanced; I talked about myself too much, and I asked about the other too little.
People would act interested. In some cases, they actually were interested. But the interest evaporated the longer I talked about my startup.
After many frustrating experiences like these, I began to study the people who people listened to. I wanted to become the person that people listened to. I wanted to make others as interested in my projects as I was.
Here’s what I noticed.
The best pitches were patient.
Sometimes, those pitches didn’t surface until much later in the conversation. Some pitches weren’t pitched at all.
The best listeners wanted to eventually be heard, of course, but they knew that they wouldn’t be heard unless they paid attention to the person in front of them.
It turns out that the best listeners were also the most listened to.
What’s the best way to pitch your startup?
In many cases, the best way to pitch your startup is to not pitch it.
Not at first, at least. Wait. Ask questions about the other person. Listen, learn, and find ways to help them make progress.
Good people will eventually ask about you.
They’re ready for you.
Photo: Flickr/Alan Levine