Here’s a thought experiment: What would you rather have: 1,000 dollars or 1,000 engaged followers?
Sure, having cash helps you pay rent and put food on the table. And when you are living paycheck to paycheck, the choice is obviously the former.
But if you’re reading this on a smartphone while on a break from responding to email, you probably have more to gain from the latter. Because real influence is very hard to buy. If you can shoot videos or record podcasts or write essays that capture people’s attention and trust, you have a powerful asset. An asset that probably is worth far more than $1,000.
In October, I released Winning Isn’t Normal and have made a few thousand dollars in sales. But what gets me most excited is reaching new audiences with my book. So I’m giving it away for just $0.99.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve helped a handful of startups work on their YC applications and interviews. I spent much of the time brainstorming with the founders on the best way to explain their business in the most clear and compelling way possible. These founders knew a lot about the market and had spent months if not years developing their ideas, but that often meant they would be all over the place when talking about what they were doing. This caused their pitch to sound weak and not be as compelling as it could be.
Paul Graham is, among other things, really good at boiling companies down to their essence. When practicing for Demo Day, you’d see founders start to pitch their company and Paul would say “Wait, don’t say that. Why don’t you say you are doing ____” which summed up the company in a more beautiful and compelling way than anything the founder had previous pitched.
Startup Pitch Archetypes
When talking to an investor (or potential advisor, partner or other person who cares about the viability of your business success) you will talk at some point about all the major things: the market, the product, the team, the target customer, the business model etc — but how you lead the discussion and how you frame your points matters a lot.
From my experience at two demo days, talking to investors about Ridejoy and listening to lots of aspiring YC founders talk about their businesses, I realized that the best startup pitches seem to fall into several patterns. Depending on the type of business you’re building, who you’re pitching and your personal style, there are probably one or two archetypes that would be most compelling.
I’ve identified eleven compelling startup pitch archetypes (depending on how you slice it) and have tried to explain what they are, what they sound like, examples of YC companies that might have used this archetype and advice on how you might go about using it.
Take a look.
– I tried to match YC companies to pitch archetypes that I thought made sense but I was not at their meetings with investors nor did I attempt to verify this article with them (not enough time). The “What it sounds like” quotes are all simply illustrations of what this type of pitch might sound like and are all written by me, not by other YC founders. I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth. Finally, these pitches are not magic. Nothing works unless you do.
The Standard Pitch
What it is:
You’ve identified a problem / unmet need that a specific group of people have and have created product or service that addresses the need/solves the problem and is within your target customer’s budget.
What it sounds like:
“Over 40% of widget makers say they are “displeased” or “extremely displeased” with their widget designing software, particularly in areas X, Y and Z. We’ve built a better widget designer that is 2x as good in X, Y and Z than the competition” Continue reading…
——- 7 strategies I used in my effort to get a team dues implemented —–
1) Build a base of supporters
For a good idea to be adopted by a group, it’s not enough for most people to be on board – you need a few very vocal supporters to champion your idea. As captain, I had some positional authority, but I knew it would be important to enlist the support of former captains and friendly teammates before the presentation even happened. Taking the time to have one on one conversations to sell your idea to people you trust within the group is time consuming but vital to ensuring your pitch to the full group is successful.
2) Prepare to address objections
This seems obvious, but people generally don’t prep enough for objections. If you just dismiss people’s viewpoints, they don’t feel respected and will be more likely to fight your proposal. In this case, I knew there were at least three objections I had to address and I took time to appropriately address each one.
We don’t spend that much money as a team – I built out a very detailed spreadsheet with our team’s expenses which meant it was harder to challenge the amount I was requesting
I don’t have money on me – More of a timing thing, I waited until the guys had received their per diem
I don’t want to overpay – I promised my teammates we would stick to the budget and if that if there was money leftover it would be returned to them
3) Neutralize nay sayers
Even after addressing objections in a way that will please most people, there are often still nay sayers who just refuse to change, don’t want to do anything or perhaps dislike you personally. Making sure that Eric and Luke wouldn’t shut down my idea in front of the group was a key strategy for getting team dues through. Depending on your situation, there are a couple tactics you can take to neutralize naysayers:
Try to win them over in a one on one - Sometimes nay sayers just want attention. Other times, they have a genuine concern or misunderstanding. When you meet in person, you can create a safe environment to speak honestly, identify the underlying issue, and figure out what to do — without the pressure of egos or an audience.
Have someone they trust/respect win them over – you might have the right message for the naysayer but perhaps they need a different messenger. If you can convince someone they trust to make the case for idea (see building base of supporters) they might be able to get through when you couldn’t.
Use peer pressure to force them in line – if you have enough support, you can make them look like the bad guys – the ones holding everyone back from pursuing this great idea and thus pressure them into going with your proposal. This isn’t always easy to do and it could backfire. Plus, I had a feeling Eric and Luke would just dig their heels in.
Cut them a deal - I used this technique when I offered to let Eric and Luke pay individually. This can be a risky move, because if people find out about the special treatment, they may doubt my integrity and overall motives. Why do some people get a deal but others don’t? Do you have to suck up to Jason or make a ruckus to be exempt from rules in the future? In this case, it was worth taking a chance because I felt like most people would understand.
Strong arm them into agreeing – this is typically a last resort move – threatening to make their life miserable or eject them from the group (if you have that authority) are blunt objects that can work but will definitely cause some collateral damage and are best avoided.
4) Show them you have their best interests in mind
People need to know that you care about them and aren’t proposing an idea that really only benefits you. The best way to do this is to have a track record of generous contributions to the group (and to remind them of this track record).
In my case, I mention talking to Susan, who was an administrator in the athletic department and tried to get our team more money (by increasing the number of days of per diem we got from 4 to 6 or 7, which is what we usually got). I wasn’t successful but I mentioned it as a reminder of “Hey, remember, I’m out there busting my butt so we can get more money. Keep that in mind when you think about this.”
Find a way to show people you care about them and want what’s best for them – it will help them trust you when you suggest something new. Continue reading…