The art of pitching to investors – what worked and what didn’t at the DEMO Innovation Tour event in Toronto

Posted by Andrea Wahbe

DEMO logoThe DEMO Innovation Tour, sponsored by Rogers Ventures, stopped by Toronto yesterday in search of the best product innovation to showcase at the DEMO Spring 2011 conference in Palm Desert, CA. In the evening, 10 start-ups were given the chance to present to a crowd of a few hundred people at an after party at the Century Room after spending the day in 30-minute private meetings with leading venture capitalists and the DEMO team.

Writing a great 60-second product pitch is difficult.  It also takes guts to get up in front of a crowd people to present your pitch.  So, if you’re going to muster up the courage to present in front of a room full of technology professionals, investors and media to tell your story, yesterday evening’s round of pitches was a great training opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t. 

One of the attendees at the evening event, Steven Kraft from ComtributePlus.com, told me that “you can create the best product in the world but if you can’t communicate it properly then you have a big problem.”

There were only a few pitches that really stood out at the event.  One the best pitches of the evening was from Colin Pape, the founder of ShopCity.com, who told me that he has had many years of practice to perfect his pitch.

Here are some tips on what made the best pitches of the night successful:

Make sure to mention your company name two or three times
The best presenters mentioned their company names at least at the beginning and end of the presentation in case the folks who missed it the first time had a chance to catch it again at the end.  Also, try to come up with a memorable hook that sticks in your audience’s mind after they leave the event.

Speak loudly and clearly so that the people in the back of the room can hear you
This is especially important when the event is being held at a bar and folks are chatting away with their friends and colleagues in the back.  Also, get up there and show your passion for what you do.  If you don't come across as excited about your product then why should the audience be excited?

Stick to the key points
When crafting your story, focus on why people in the room should care about your product and zero-in on how your product is beneficial to your target market.  However, keep it simple and try to avoid too much technical jargon. Also, it’s important to identify how your business will actually make money and whether you have you sold anything yet?

Identify how you will stay ahead of your competitors
Many of the start-ups that presented last night had similarities to other companies in the marketplace.  That’s because there are few completely original ideas anymore.  The key is to identify how your company is different and why you have an advantage over your competition.

Because the pitches went by so quickly, the DEMO team gave other people from the crowd the opportunity to volunteer to come up and pitch their product if they had the guts to do it.  A few of the entrepreneurs that I was speaking with earlier in the night were too nervous to give it a shot.  So, my final piece of advice from the night would be that if someone gives you the chance to pitch your product in front of a room full of potential investors - take it!  Just make sure to have your pitch nailed down for the next time you get such a rare opportunity.

Here is a list of the businesses who presented yesterday:

  • Animated Media Inc. – they create cross-platform Adobe Flash-compatible software products  
  • Guard.ly – a communications platform for mobile personal security
  • Market Signage Technologies – a corporate network screensaver that displays internal communications while your employees’ computer screens are idle
  • Nuvyyo – a cloud-based service that enables you to access your entertainment media from anywhere, on any device
  • ShopCity – a platform that enables local businesses to promote, publish and sell their products online
  • TrendSpottr – a web service that filters, aggregates and publishes social media trending info based on keywords or topic of interest
  • ShinyAds -  a self-service advertising platform that helps web publishers to reduce the costs of acquiring small and local advertisers
  • Viafoura – a user engagement platform to enhance your website’s content
  • LeanIn – an in-video search and in-stream recommendation platform
  • GroupStore – an online service which facilities event ticket sales via Facebook groups
Company:
Shiny Ads
Website:
http://www.ShinyAds.com
Location:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Self serve advertising platform for web publishers. Allows long-tail advertisers to create banner advertisement, set up their campaign, and pay for ad buy in an automated interface. Ties into web publisher's existing ad server and handles payment automatically. more

Company:
Rogers Ventures
Website:
http://www.rogersventures.ca
Location:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rogers Ventures is a venture-style funding mechanism for start-ups with lots of value add. We invest our money, our leverage, our experience, and other strategic contributions to get Rogers Venture portfolio companies on the path of accelerated development and market growth. Technology innovation was fundamental to our founder, Ted Rogers, and remains a strategic pillar of our company today. Rogers Ventures is... more

Company:
Animated Media Inc.
Website:
http://www.animatedmedia.ca
Location:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We specialize in designing and developing multimedia applications for the mobile and consumer markets with a focus on 2D/3D graphics and innovative user interfaces (UI) that can be implemented across screens -- be it smartphones, tablets, desktop, consumer and broadcast devices. Our focus is on native development on Android, Apple iOS, Windows and Linux and we provide integrated software development tools that... more

Company:
ShopCity.com
Website:
http://www.shopcity.com
Location:
Midland, Ontario, Canada

ShopCity.com creates strong local economies by connecting local businesses with the residents in their community online. The ShopCity.com Community Commerce platform provides local partners with a turn-key shop local program they can use to generate better results for local business. The platform enables local businesses to: Promote via the business directory, newsletters & press releases Publish files, web... more

Company:
LeanIn
Website:
http://www.leanin.com
Location:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

LeanIn is a revolutionary new way for TV and Online video viewers to interact with and discover content that is relevant to them. We incorporate all of the latest advancements in social networking and gaming and deliver them to viewers right inside the video player. Our technology transforms content discovery from: ‘what’s on now?’ to ‘what have my friends been watching?’ and ‘what are they digitally saying about... more

Company:
Guardly
Website:
http://guardly.com
Location:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Guardly is a robust communication platform for emergencies that is changing the way mobile personal safety is delivered. Guardly is the first mobile application to give people the ability to both alert and connect in real-time with local authorities as well as their own personal safety network in a single tap. Depending on your configuration of Guardly, you can reach your personal safety network by conference... more


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Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who has contributed to the growth of online media businesses in Canada, such as AOL and Google. By day, Andrea writes about digital media and marketing trends and tips for Canadian startups and SMEs. By night, she’s an analog book reader, master swimmer and experimental chef.  more



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