After sitting through 200 10-minute company pitches for his upcoming TechCrunch50 event, Mahalo Chief Opinionator Jason Calacanis emailed around a 2,500-word guide to presenting a new company and/or product, aimed at novice startup founders who haven't figured out the ropes yet. Having suffered through many such presos myself, I gave Calacanis Valleywag's highest honor: an edit.
1. Show your product within the first 60 seconds
Don’t spend five or ten minutes "setting the stage" or "giving the background." If you don't have a product to show, don't take the meeting.
2. Take less than five minutes to demo
All the tiny little features, you don't have to show them. Larry and Sergey wouldn't open up the advanced search.
3. Leave people wanting more
It's up to you to make such a compelling core product that they are intrigued enough to explore it.
4. Talk about what you've done, not what you're going to do
Steve Jobs doesn't waste time on what Apple's going to do. Weak startup leaders immediately start talk about "what's next.” What really matters is the core functionality.
5. Understand your competitive landscape—current and historical
I've had three or four companies pitch me on [products that unknowingly re-implemented] Third Voice—the controversial "Web annotation" service from Web 1.0.
6. Short answers are best
Answer questions with the most concise answer. [Then stop talking!]
7. PowerPoint bullet slides are death
Slides that are not boring include charts, product shots, feature set tables and the like.
8. How to use this new device called the phone
When presenting over the phone use a handset and a land-line only! Mobile phones and speakerphones sound horrible, disrespectful.
9. How to handle questions you don't know the answer to
No one has an answer for everything, except b.s. artists. Feel free to say you don't know.
10. Always confirm the time of your meeting/call, and always be 15 minutes early
[Start off on the right foot.] Send a simple email saying "Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at your offices at 123 Main Street at 3pm. If anything changes you can reach me on my mobile at 310-555-1212." Show respect by being in their lobby or on hold on the conference call five to 15 minutes ahead of time.