Even in the fast-paced tech world, startups often spend months building their team, honing their product, and practicing their pitch. Startup Weekend Calgary compressed this cycle into a 54-hour event, giving developers and entrepreneurs just enough time to choose a team, develop an idea, and present a pitch to a panel of judges.
Event organizer and serial entrepreneur Devesh Dwivedi spoke excitedly about the weekend and its impact on Calgary’s burgeoning tech sector. He hopes the event will result in new ties and new ideas within the growing tech community. As a lifelong entrepreneur and mentor, Dwivedi actively encourages young entrepreneurs to take advantage of community resources such as Startup Weekend Calgary and AcceleratorYYC to meet like-minded individuals and build successful teams. Dwivedi stressed the necessary diversification that a strong tech sector will bring to the Alberta economy.
Prepare, pivot, and pitch was the theme of the weekend, with teams improving their business concept and adjusting scope, while preparing for the inevitable pitch that came merely two days following their initial meeting.
Within 54 hours, the 45 participants managed to form five diverse startups, ranging from mobile gaming to social couponing to wedding planning. Reflective of the variety of expertise in the Calgary tech community, these developers, designers, professionals, and students received mentorship and guidance by local entrepreneurs leading up to the Sunday night pitch session.
Mobile game Kawk Fighter claimed first place with a perfectly practiced pitch that inspired laughter while demonstrating meticulous research and a sound business model. The Kawk Fighter team managed to assemble a video trailer and convince the judges that the game has the potential to sell hundreds of thousands of units through the Apple App Store.
In second place, StartUpGauge showcased an impressive demo of their beta Web site, which had been created over the weekend. The demo proved the team’s ability to execute on their concept-the team proceeded to sell their innovative concept for idea validation and collaboration by demonstrating a sound business model to the judging panel.
Every Little Detail brought together wedding planning expertise with tech savvy to create a service where vendors bid to be part of a bride’s wedding. The team placed third and notably impressed judge Sheldon Pereira, suggesting a followup conversation regarding the further development of their business.
Fail fast and fail often is a popular mantra among entrepreneurs, and this ideal was demonstrated throughout the weekend. Although some of these businesses may not progress much beyond the initial 54 hours, the event serves to teach entrepreneurs to accept failure as a prerequisite for success, and to build upon knowledge gained from failure to iterate into a profitable business.
Five tips to perfect your pitch
(From judges Christi Millar, Christian MacLean and Sheldon Pereira.)
Keep it simple
You only have a few minutes to pitch investors, so don’t waste your time by diving into complex projections or trying to justify hockey stick-graph growth. Demonstrate your sound business model and show them what’s exciting about your product. Give investors a reason to take the time to speak with you about taking your business to the next level.
Make it memorable
Use your best writer and most talented speaker to come up with a brilliant pitch. Make sure it’s impeccably rehearsed it and stay on script-you only have a few minutes, so this isn’t the time to start ad libbing. Startup Weekend Calgary winner Kawk Fighter delivered a perfectly practiced pitch, selling the room on their concept for a mobile game.
Show off your knowledge
Although you don’t want to weigh down your pitch with complex financials or granular details of the marketplace, show investors that you’ve done your homework-give them a cursory look at the numbers and the competitors in the space. Investors want to know you have customer validation-demonstrate your research and show that you know what you’re talking about.
Clarify your ask
You’re asking for money, so make it clear how much you need, how you intend to spend it, and how investors can get in touch. Make it easy for potential investors. Don’t assume they know how to get in touch-make yourself approachable.
Nothing beats seeing an idea in action-if you can create a minimally viable product to demo to investors, make every effort to do so. Startup Weekend contestants that had a beta site up received serious accolades from the judges. Investors need to know that you’re able to execute on your idea.
Entrepreneurs-how quickly have you had to create a pitch? What essentials do you have to share with the startup community? Sound off in the comments below