What I learned about pitching my startup on TV and winning

March 14, 2020

One thing about being an entrepreneur…you’re always looking out for that next opportunity to pitch your company. Some startup founders enjoy pitching, while others shy away from it. When I went through Techstars, I learned that your founding team is as good as the weakest person who can pitch the idea. At first, I was not very good pitching. Though I enjoy public speaking, and I had done a lot teaching, presentations in my scientific career, I initially didn’t understand the mechanics of pitching an idea – it felt foreign.

It wasn’t until I started Sunu that I personally wanted to get better at this whole pitching thing. So, I did what every entrepreneur out there does, I practice. I intentionally found opportunities, no matter how small, to get out there and pitch. In time, with reading a few books and taking a few workshops; I began developing my ‘voice’.

My colleague and I competed a lot. And the stages, as well as the stakes, got bigger and bigger. I recently won the AARP Innovation Labs Grand Challenge, competing against 300 other startup entrepreneurs.

So, naturally, I jumped on the chance to pitch and compete on a TV. We/Sunu were selected to compete on Meet The Drapers – a groundbreaking reality show in Silicon Valley where the viewers get to decide the next big idea in tech. The legendary Draper family meets the world’s hottest new entrepreneurs, on the hunt for the next billion dollar idea. It was a unique experience. We successfully won to the semifinal round, and here is what I learned:

  • Your pitch is your story – The art of storytelling is powerful, and I’m still learning. What I’ve learned is that storytelling is a big part of humanity. So when you can craft a pitch as your story, people really react to it. When I pitch Sunu, I dig deep and share my own personal story of being visually impaired. People are conditioned to listed to stories. So you should use and play on that for your pitch.
  • Practice is power – No one is born a great public speaker. Public speaking is actually a combination of skills that you can learn. It take practice and effort. When you are well practiced, you project that higher self confidence to the audience or judge.
  • Have a spine – At Y-Combinator, I learns about Vertebrae Points. Basically, you pitch is like your spine. It will have key points, the vertebrae, that you need to deliver to your audience. I find this concept works great for many things like interviews, sales calls, etc.

There are a lot of resources out there to help you develop your voice. I’m still a work in progress. Take every opportunity you can, no matter how small and just do it. Below is our episode video and you can judge for yourself.