Plan9 is a tech-focused incubator that has been generating a lot of buzz in Pakistan.
Conducted with the support of the Punjab Information Technology Board and housed in the Arfa Software Technology Park in Lahore, the incubator offers startups access to a network of national and international mentors, free office space, legal advice, a monthly stipend, and instruction on topics such as product development, intellectual property law and public speaking.
At the end of the incubation period, startups are given a chance to pitch to investors in Silicon Valley.
The inaugural class (which Wamda contributor Khurram Zafar also mentioned in his recent piece on Pakistan) includes Eyedeus Labs, a startup working on computer vision technologies that include Groopic, an iPhone app for group photo generation.
Piclome Inc is another, working to simplify the process of sharing photos through smartphones via a user-friendly interface. Nosh Genie is building a directory of businesses around Pakistani similar to Yelp, while Hometown is a social enterprise working with craftsmen around Pakistan to distribute their products through online channels.
These startups have now survived several phases of pitching to mentors in Pakistan and from the U.S. Some have found it challenging, but they’ve learned along the way. In a recent session I held with these budding entrepreneurs, I shared some tips on how to refine their pitches:
- Offer a solution to a problem
Too many entrepreneurs are so emotionally invested in their personal story that they center their entire pitch on the convoluted tale of how they conceived their business idea. Unfortunately, investors don’t have the patience to appreciate these introspective explanations. A better way to frame your proposition is to introduce the real-world problem that needs to be solved and show how your business plan attempts to solve it.
- Demonstrate Uniqueness
Investors in these scenarios are typically looking for a business idea that can generate high returns, and they want to see your ability to scale rapidly and acquire market share. It’s great to demonstrate that you’re building a proprietary technology or platform that cannot be replicated easily, or at least a clear sense of why your business plan is robust.
- Communicate your needs
Once the jury is sold on the business value of your product or service, it wants to know what you expect; you should conclude your pitch with an ask for as amount of investment to achieve your objective and an estimate of the kinds of returns the investor can expect. But there’s no need to confuse investors with streams of detailed financial data; a few key metrics such as breakeven period and expected return are all that can be digested during a pitch.
- Rehearse your pitch
The pitch itself is generally a sparse set of slides conveying the bare essence of meaning. You are still left with the tricky task of adding the right layers of verbal explanation to the message. No matter how clear your verbal pitch is in your head, it needs several rounds of iteration to perfect and ensure you convey the most important information at the right time.
No matter how gifted you are at public speaking, you still need to plan out the nuances of your delivery; the correct use of body language, pauses for suspense and the judicious use of rhetoric can make the difference in influencing your audience. It will also be good to anticipate queries that may arise and how you might address them.