Startup pitch tips from VC Adeo Ressi

Startup Pitch Tips from Adeo Ressi

Santa Cruz has a reputation for being a sleepy surfer town, but what most people don’t realize is that it is also a hotbed of innovation. I went to Santa Cruz Techraising’s “Pitch Your Idea to Adeo Ressi” event to find out what my fellow Santa Cruzians are up to these days and learn a thing or two about crafting a VC pitch.  I didn’t expect to laugh my ass off all night.

The social media geek in me was twitching, wishing the event were being recorded and I was posting video snippets of his responses. Out of respect for the event and the brave souls who dared to sit in the hot seat I instead scribbled down Adeo’s hilarious pearls of  wisdom as best I could. While the nugget is there the comedic genius when he gets on a tear – well you really must experience that for yourself.


Adeo’s Summary of the Start up Funding Game

  • Entrepreneurship is waterboarding yourself.
  • Pitching is a grind. It’s a treadmill of sandpaper. The people who get the funding are the ones who survive the grind.
  • Once you’re funded it’s waterboarding yourself with two pitchers instead of one.

Adeo’s Pitch Tips

Don’t ever use adjectives and especially superlatives.  You may think your idea is the best, the greatest, the first. Chances are the VC you are talking to has heard that same idea 100 times in the last two weeks. Ideas come in waves, if you thought of it chances are  at least 975 other people did too. In Adeo ‘s case, when he hears superlatives you lose so much credibility he has to fight himself to “re-listen to what is coming out of your mouth.”

His advice: Don’t squander your precious time in front a VC on superlatives. Just tell them what you product is, who buys it and what problem it solves.

All businesses have one customer. Tell me who you are helping – and it can’t be half of humanity. Yes you want to have a broad customer base, and it needs to be a specific segment of humanity. “Men” is not a specific segment. That is half of humanity.

The customer is who’s paying.  Always focus on the people with the money – especially when you are creating the market place.

Use the phrase, “My widget helps specific segment of humanity to” Not “I’m helping them by….”

Never, Never, Never, Ever! Start your pitch with Questions. 1) Unless you are actually gathering market data you are wasting time you could be spending telling about your business.  2) If no one engages you’re fucked.

Time is the one area where specificity is bad – You want to give the appearance of magic. This idea came from the ether and look at this prototype you created over night! Don’t tell them you’ve been slogging at this for years – they’re going to want to see all the customers you’ve garnered in that time.

You spend all day thinking about your business, we think about it – Never. Don’t give partial information. If there are 10 parts to you model don’t give only parts 4, 6 & 9 in your pitch. Your audience is all ???

Don’t lead with your oh so clever phrase or  your dataAlways  start with what you are creating. People need the context first for you stats or clever phrase to make sense. Otherwise they are confused on where you are going with this. Not the state you want the people with the purse strings to be in! Seriously, resist the temptation to be a what you think is a great showman. Trust Adeo on this, your stats or catchy phrase will be even more powerful when people know what the heck you’re talking about!

Start with this phrase  “My company (insert name) is developing (insert a concrete item – website, mobile app, software etc) to solve (name the problem) with (insert your secret sauce)”.

When you’re the winner, Shut Up!  When you’re pitch has landed stop talking.

Congratulations, you’ve just earned your second pitcher for self waterboarding. Have fun!

photo: Adam