Should Startup Founders Focus Less on Pitching and More on Product Building?
And The Answer That Allows You To Do Both
It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur.
Today, the barriers to entry for startups are lower than ever before. This means that if you have a great idea, you can build a product and release it into the world with minimal capital.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of a solid pitch. A strong pitch is still the first step to building a successful startup. It’s your ticket to meetings with investors and it’s what gets journalists interested in writing about your company.
There’s just one problem: building a solid pitch takes time. And if you’re an early-stage startup, you don’t have much of it. You need to focus on building your product and getting users, not on how to explain your product to other people.
This is the classic startup dilemma:
what do you do when you have to choose between pitching and product building?
This post will give you a better understanding of why pitches are important, why they take time, and how you can be successful without spending all your time on them.
The Importance of Pitching:
If you’re reading this post, it’s likely that pitching is something that concerns you. You might think that the only way to get your startup off the ground is by spending a lot of time on perfecting your pitch. And I get it. When I started doing fundraising for Cudy, I spent an insane amount of time perfecting my pitch. I went through dozens of iterations and edits until I felt like it was ready for investors. But then I had an epiphany: pitching was taking up so much time that I wasn’t able to build the product I wanted to build.
The best way to put your pitch together is by building a product that you can be proud of. Once you have a product that you can stand behind, then you can use it as the foundation for your pitch. You’ll be able to talk about what makes your product great and why it will be successful in the market. This will allow you to spend less time on the “how” and more time on the “what”.
That said, pitches are still incredibly important. Here are just a few reasons why:
You need investors: One of the most common ways for startups to raise money is through angel investors or venture capitalists (VCs). These people typically aren’t technical experts, so they rely on your pitch to understand whether or not they should invest in your company. A great pitch gives them enough information about your company and its value proposition that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they want to invest in it. If you don’t have a good pitch, then you don’t have a good chance of getting funding from investors who don’t understand your product.
You need customers: There are lots of ways to get customers for your startup, but one of the most effective is through word-of-mouth. The best way to get word-of-mouth is by talking to your customers and getting them excited about your product. If you can do that, then they’ll be happy to tell their friends about it. But if you can’t tell people what your product does or why they should use it, then you won’t be able to get them excited about it.
You need journalists: Journalists love startups. They want to write about startups because they are interesting and new and often have great stories behind them. But journalists don’t just want to write about startups, they want to write about successful startups. This means that they are much more likely to write about a startup if it has already proven itself in the market and has customers or revenue behind it. So in order for journalists to write about your startup, you need a pitch that shows that you have potential for success.
So what does this mean? It means that while pitching is not the most important thing for an early-stage startup, it is still extremely important. If you spend too much time on pitching, then you won’t have enough time left over for building your product and getting users (and eventually customers and revenue).
Why Pitching Takes Time:
Pitching is hard. It takes a lot of time to get it right. There are so many different elements that go into it:
Your pitch should be well-researched and accurate. You need to know what your company does, how it works, and why people should care about it. You also need to understand your target market and how you fit into it. And of course, you need to know your competitors. The more information you have about your industry, the better off you’ll be when you pitch investors or journalists. You also need to do some research on the person or people that you’re pitching. This includes knowing what they’ve invested in before, what they’re interested in investing in now, and whether or not they have a good track record of investing in successful companies. Pitching is more than just telling people about your product — it’s telling them why they should care about it and what makes it unique in the market. That means you need to be able to talk about the problem that your product solves for customers and how exactly it solves that problem better than anything else out there.
Once you have all of this information, you need to put it together in a way that makes sense and is easy to understand. That means that you need to write a solid pitch deck and practice delivering it. It also means that you need to make sure that your deck looks good. That might mean hiring a designer or even having your pitch deck professionally printed.
You might be thinking, “I don’t have time for all of this! I just want to build my product!” And I totally get it. But the truth is, pitching takes time because building a great product takes time. If you want to build a successful startup, then you have to make sacrifices along the way. You can’t just focus on one thing — you have to focus on everything: building your product, finding customers, getting funding, etc.
So if you really want to be successful with your startup, then take the time to put together a solid pitch deck and deliver it well. Even if it doesn’t get you any more funding or customers today, it will pay off in the long run when people are interested in writing about your company or when potential investors want to talk with you about investing in your company.
How to Make Pitching Less Time-Consuming:
Okay, so you understand why pitches are important and you’re ready to start putting together a solid pitch deck. But now you’re worried that it will take too much time and you won’t have enough time left over for building your product.
That’s understandable. I mean, how can you get your startup off the ground if you have to spend all of your time on pitching?
The good news is that there are some things that you can do to reduce the amount of time that it takes to put together a pitch deck. Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful:
Find other people who can help with your pitch: This is the easiest way to save time on pitching. If you can find someone else who knows about your industry or has experience with pitches, then they can help you put together an accurate and compelling pitch deck. Just make sure that they know what they’re doing — the last thing that you want is for them to build a bad pitch for your company!
Know how long it takes to deliver a good pitch: Most VCs or journalists won’t want to spend more than 10 minutes listening to your pitch. And if you’re presenting at a conference, then you might only have 5 minutes or less. That means that you need to make sure that your pitch is concise and well-structured. It also means that you need to practice delivering it. A good way to do this is by recording yourself practicing your pitch and then listening back to it with a critical ear. If there are parts of your pitch that are confusing or hard to understand, then take the time to rewrite them until they make sense.
Don’t get bogged down in details: This is one of the biggest mistakes that early-stage startups make when they put together their pitch deck. They think that in order for their pitch deck to be compelling, they need to include every detail about their product and every statistic about their market. The problem with this approach is that it makes it difficult for people who don’t understand your product as well as you do (i.e., investors and journalists) to understand what you do and why they should care about it. The best way around this is by keeping things simple and talking about the most important parts of your product or business model.
Focus on building a great product: This is the most important thing that you can do. Building a great product is the best way to get people interested in your company. And if you can get people interested in your company, then you’ll have an easier time getting them interested in your pitch. That’s why I always tell startups to focus on building a great product first and then worry about pitching later.
I hope that this article has helped you understand why pitches are important and how to put together a good pitch deck and why you should focus on building a great product instead of worrying about pitching.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces, and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.