What makes for a great startup pitch?

I attended MIT’s Entrepreneurship Development Program in 2017 where we worked in teams to apply Bill Aulet’s ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship’ process and pitched our start-ups at the end of a week. I’ve since attended start-up competitions at MIT and Babson and seen some fantastic pitches from undergraduates, graduates and alumni. The winners typically cover the following items:

1.      Tell a story to introduce the target customer, pain points and opportunity: Describe the target customer’s persona so that the audience feels connected with this person. The team that did this best at MIT EDP, ‘Wear it Out’, introduced a grandmother, Mary, a 75-year-old widow with high blood pressure, living at her own home in Florida away from her children. The team quickly described Mary to be a proud woman who enjoys watching TV soaps and playing bingo, and doesn’t own a smartphone. They presented her daughter as a 45-year-old married, working woman, with 2 kids in Boston who’s concerned about her mother’s health before going on to present the target addressable market (TAM) for a wearable technology solution. The audience had a clear understanding of the user, customer and opportunity through their story.

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Insights from Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, at MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program 2017

Thank you, Brian Halligan, for sharing your insights at #MITEDP 2017. Here are my takeaways:

1.      Co-founder selection – 2-3 are ideal:

Find co-founders that share similar values and bring complementary skills / networks. It’s also highly beneficial to have industry representation for the problem you’re trying to solve. The ideal number of co-founders are 2-3 – A higher number of co-founders often results in “uninspired compromise” – compromising on choices only to build consensus, resulting in less effective decision-making.

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Apply ‘Sprint’ and ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship’ frameworks to select a problem

At BonBillo, we apply frameworks from ‘Sprint‘, authored by Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz from Google ventures, and ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship‘ by Bill Aulet to go from a larger goal to selecting a specific problem to solve.

We follow the Sprint framework of mapping the larger problem (including the journey of key stakeholders), talking to experts, asking ‘how might we?’ questions (HMWs) and using votes through coloured sticky dots to identify interesting problem areas to focus on.

Once we’ve shortlisted interesting HMWs, we then apply Disciplined Entrepreneurship’s criteria for selecting a Beachhead market to help select the specific problem to solve.  The specific area to solve should be economically attractive, accessible to your sales force, allow for competitive differentiation, allow you to offer a complete solution, allow for a strong value proposition, have strategic long-term value and be consistent with your values / interests.  We found that using this approach, the teams quickly agreed on the most attractive HMW to pursue.

Here is an example of the journey map and HMW selection from the team working on a social venture to combat human trafficking (sex trafficking).