If you’ve run into me in person in the past couple of weeks, I’ve probably insisted on telling you about The $1,000 Minute, our YouTube elevator pitch contest for tech startups. I’m starting to feel like a broken record, and strangely meta, giving everyone I meet the pitch on this elevator pitch contest, but I’m doing it because I think every startup needs to have a video like this.

I didn’t start this contest because I think YouTube needs more videos, or because I think startup founders need some more work to fill

Brian Jackson, Associate Editor, ITBusiness.ca
Brian Jackson, Associate Editor, ITBusiness.ca

their time. I started it because I think startups in Canada need more exposure, and need to be willing to promote themselves more actively and spread awareness about their companies. What better and more simple way to do that than a one-minute video that can be widely distributed across the Web?

That’s something that Toronto-based startup HeroBox gets. Although this firm is newly born out of Startup Weekend Toronto’s 54-hour competition Nov. 18-20, it already has a 90-second promotional video explaining the concept with fun drawings, clear narration, and customer endorsements. The video will now serve as the main content that voters will use to determine whether HeroBox wins the global Startup Weekend competition and earn a chance to meet the top investors in Silicon Valley and Singapore.

HeroBox, which seeks to engage Web site users at a critical moment of decision-making, has already pre-sold $25,000 worth of its product and has won considerable support from the startup community. It’s received media coverage from the Financial Post, Sprouter, Toronto Standard, and more – so it seems like these guys know what they are doing. Other startups should follow their example and create a short video pitch.

I was surprised when I approached startups at a recent event at a Toronto-region college, offering to shoot elevator pitches for our contest, and was turned down by a couple of companies. They declined by telling me their startup was “too niche” to be featured in such a contest.

My response is that every startup is “niche.” That’s the mark of a good idea these days. But all the more reason that you need to gain as much exposure for your business as possible, in order to reach the right people that will actually care about what you’re trying to do. All it takes is making that one connection with an investor that will seed your startup with the capital it needs, or that advisor that can help you overcome specific challenges.

The risk/reward equation with making a one minute video is dead simple. You make a one minute video and put it on YouTube, which takes minimal time and effort. In exchange, your business gains free exposure and can suddenly be featured on Web sites across the Internet and entered in contests that require such videos (such as ours, or Startup Weekend’s).

I can sympathize with entrepreneurs who are camera shy. But if you overcame the fear of taking your livelihood into your own hands by starting up a new business, stepping in front of the camera should be a cake walk. It’s also a great confidence builder and practice for pitching your startup company to potential investors.

If you’re looking for ideas to get started with your own elevator pitch, take a look at the entries we’ve had submitted so far. And once you’ve got your own made, submit it to our contest for the chance to win $1,000 – and of course, exposure.

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