5 tips for building the perfect startup pitch, at Google Zurich

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A week ago, I ventured off on a special roadtrip: StartupBus Europe, a trans-European 3 day-long hackathon on wheels. In the first installment, I explained how participants spend their first week building teams and pivoting. In this piece, as the finale draws near, challenges are changing.

Visiting a Google office is always an experience. Google’s office in Zurich, Switzerland, the company's largest engineering office in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is as cool and colorful as you would have expected.

Like any other employees at Google, we started off with a breakfast you can’t forget – picture an infinite buffet with mountains of fresh fruit, personalized fruit juices and food from all over the world – in a huge bright cafeteria with a must-have slide (perhaps inspired by Oasis500- or was it the other way around?). 

Their offices are as playful as you’d expect: employees are going running at anytime of the day, Google Maps skidoos are parked in the hallway, developers walk barefoot in the cafeteria, and tennis tables are at everyone’s disposal. Yet it's no surprise that security is also tough: pictures are forbidden, and Yumi, our Google guide for the day, is tracking our every move: there's no way we’ll manage steal a single well-guarded secret.

As part of our activities, Jordi Montserrat, a major Swiss entrepreneur (Akodi, Xo3-MyComponents), investor (ventureLAB, venture kick) delivers one of the most intensive pitch workshops I’ve ever attended. Here are his main pieces of advice: 

1. Life is a pitch

If you want your startup to be known, do not miss a single opportunity to pitch, to potential clients, partners, investors or even a general audience. Always be ready, urges, Montesserat. 

2. Get a bang line

You need to get your audience’s attention from the very first second. To do so, find an intro that will intrigue them. A few possibilities:

- show off your traction: impress your audience with the number of users or the money you've already made
- compare your startup to a successful service ("we’re an Airbnb for X or Y") and explain what makes you different or better
- make the audience dream of the future: what if tomorrow…?
- move your audience by sharing the personal story that brought you to build that startup
- intrigue them with the story of your startup’s pivot 
- amaze them with a hot new technology

Any way you do it, you should always show that there’s a problem and demonstrate how you’ll solve it.

3. Then, explain

Now that you have your audience's attention, you’ll have time to explain your product. But remember: keep it short and simple. Go straight to the main questions:

- Who pays and why? Explain your product, what it brings, and how you’ll make money from it.
- What do you do plan to master? List the resources you have access to, and the partners you’re working with.

4. Show your work

Entrepreneurs are everywhere; why should people trust you rather than another? Gain their trust gradually, point by point.

- Show you’ve done your homework, and that you know the market and your competition.
- Prove you have unique technology. 
- Explain why your team is a winning one, what each member brings to the table, and why you’re different from others.
- Share your experience and network.

5. Adapt your pitch to your audience

You shouldn’t give the same speech to a consumer, a journalist and an investor; each have their own interests and languages. Adapt.

Likewise, adapt your pitch to the local language. In the U.S. you can boast - investors might like the confidence and will filter the info themselves - but in Europe, where boasting is often seen as pretentious and unrealistic, entrepreneurs are better off giving facts and letting investors judge, Montserrat says. (In the Arab world, investors might be used to hearing people boast, but it doesn't mean much if the revenue model doesn't hold water).

At the end of this workshop, the 19 "buspreneurs" on StartupBus Europe were out of their comfort zone; Montserrat, and his relentless tricky questions made them realize how far they still had to go.

That night, on the bus to Munich, the teams worked non-stop to be ready for the next day’s semi-finale in front of a jury of investors.

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