How to nail it with your pitch

“Story is the 👑”

If you only read my article without watching and reading the sources I shared, I have some bad news; you can stop reading my “Nail with your pitch” article since I will not explain in depth what the sources tell. In case you still read my e-paper, it would be an honor for me to share my memories of raising around 250K USD non-equity funding for my startup and winning many awards only with my story. My pitch has been selected as one of the top 2 pitches in the Boston cohort of Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative, Global Social Impact winner of Entrepreneurs’ Organization — Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, and more awards that I will mention below. No prototype, only the story I had led me to connect with the co-founder of Skype, having a conversation with Tim Draper, investor of Tesla in a boat in Istanbul, do a real elevator pitch to Y Combinator partner, Adora Cheung, with my co-founder in Startup Istanbul in a real “elevator” just before she was about to judge in the contest.

I was preparing investor pitch tools for the participants of the “Youth, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development” workshop of Rutgers University supported by the Hollings Center for International Dialogue for the demo day that we are arranging in February 2021. Given the pandemic, now, you can find all these resources online. There was no need for me to teach again, which already exists online. Instead, I decided to collect these sources for the students. For instance, Y Combinator shared Startup School materials on YouTube, which I already wanted to watch too.

I also did not want to put their sources without watching them. As I watched YC pitch materials, it was a good chance for me to start watching it, which also led me to re-watch Guy Kawasaki, Simon Sinek, Slidebean, and TED talks. Although it was a workday, I spent my whole day watching these videos that I share below and reflecting on my memories. Then I got a bit nostalgic and remembered how I pitched my startup. Here we begin; I ended up writing my first Medium article. I usually write in book chapters or journals on the scientific committees.

Pitching is like a theater performance, yet with a difference; you usually have 2 to 3 minutes on stage. During my undergraduate, I took three free elective courses on theatre. When performing a play, actors and actresses prepare, practice, and when it comes to the stage, they perform. The same occurs for the entrepreneurs; they pivot their startups, analyze costumes, forecast sales, collect feedbacks, develop their MVP, or Prototype and perform the pitch as actors and actresses.

The other difference is that actors and actresses enjoy the applause and the audience, whereas entrepreneurs ask for investment! Regarding performing a pitch, entrepreneurs would need a good stance, eye contact, use of their hands & gestures, be well-dressed, and not use jargon, please. When I participated in Startup Istanbul 2017, our pitching instructor, Bill Kenney mentioned that I still recall, “when you pitch your idea, pitch as you are feeding your child, go easy. You should make your pitch that easy even kids understand!” he said. I experienced this myself when I highlighted the big data usage in the migration field to solve problems of migrants without expressing it with my story.

When I teach public speaking and presentation after explaining these terms, I jump to play games where participants can practice. I find more helpful the experience of pitching and performing the pitch on the stage rather than listening to pitching fundamentals. I am not saying “do not listen to”; I am saying act the pitch and live the atmosphere.

Nowadays, you pitch online which stage becomes your room. My tips on that are to arrange your background, pitch while standing up, have a good camera and good microphone, dress well, show your energy, and don’t let your Internet connection cut you. TED Education has an application that I am willing to share with you “without sponsorship” to work on your public speaking and insert it to the TED. In order to perform public speaking, you can experience it with TED mobile app. Public speaking, acting, and pitching are different topics, of course. However, if you like to perform a pitch, then you should master public speaking.

I was selected in the top 11 startups among 4800 applications by the 2018 Collective Global Accelerator London program run by Collective Foundation in London, UK. We have had wonderful instructors helping our startups accelerate. Our pitching instructor explained the art of pitching, such as a Hollywood movie. She said that the producers and writers work on the characters in Hollywood movies, making us, the audience connect to the characters. Afterwards, characters start to face challenges; as we connected to the characters, we fall in love with their stories, and we would love our characters to succeed. As a result, after facing so many challenges, the leading roles plan, execute and save the world. So should be your startups.

You should explain the character in the story: you, as an entrepreneur and your startup, show the challenge as the problem you aim to solve. Show the potential, your MVP, users, team members as in the movies. If you would like to nail with your pitch: Story is the 👑. What one all need to do is Learn, Watch, Read, Know and Practice! Do not forget to speak from your heart. Do not memorize; you know your business the best, organize your speech, and don’t dig into too many details.

  1. Learn

2. Watch

People in the emerging economies and developing countries may check Startup Istanbul startups to see some of the top startups. I collected the videos of the winners below. One might also contain other videos to get inspired by what entrepreneurs in emerging economies innovate.

3. Read

4. Know

During the UNDP program of SDG Impact Accelerator, which I graduated as pre-accelerator alumni, Ozan Sönmez mentioned something else; Ozan said to start with your name and startup name so that audience can connect with you. On the video, it says to do it differently. My suggestion would be to connect them both. Introduce your name and your startup, so that, people can connect with you but do not say just “my name is Berat Kjamili, co-founder of Migport”. Do it with your style as mentioned in the video. There is another good memory with Ozan, when I pitched him in Jordan at MIT Enterprise Forum, Innovate for Refugees program. Ozan warned all the participants not to make a spelling mistake, and I unintentionally made a misspelling. Thanks to Ozan, I realized that one character was missing, but he did not listen to my pitch because of the mistake. Then he came back and asked whether I fixed it; after I changed it, he mentored me. So, do not forget, spelling matters!

5. Practice

Now meet with an entrepreneur, pitch your idea, show your pitch deck, get feedback, and not take it personally!

Before my pitch at the Startup Istanbul in 2017, I met with Burak Dayıoğlu, an entrepreneur and the first runner-up in the previous year of Startup Istanbul. His feedback helped better arrange my pitch. He said to me to use real photos of the people instead of painted graphics, but the team decided to use graphics of the people, as we worked with an artist to prepare the pitch deck. Burak might not know, but in the other competitions, we only used photos, he was right. Listen to mentors, evaluate, and act. Tim Draper said in the Startup Istanbul, “do not do everything that the mentors tell,” which I agree with him. In the end, the entrepreneur knows the startup the best and what to pitch!

I met with YC partner, Adora Cheung at the Startup Istanbul 2017, where I literally had to pitch her on the elevator. YC selected ten startups to speak with during the event which my startup was one of them. We started the meeting; however, Adora was one of the jury members, and presentations started before our session was finished. There I went to the stage to continue pitching my idea, and with my co-founder and me, we walked with Adora to the stage and pitched Migport in the elevator. They do not say elevator pitch for no reason. We have had an excellent conversation with Adora about social enterprises.

By the way, good to know:

  • Pitch: 2 to 3 minutes presentation of your startup and ask. Entrepreneurs can ask for investment, network, or connections.
  • Pitch Deck: (One version): The presentation slides of the 2 to 3 minutes pitch with visuals and text (to be honest, less text) which entrepreneurs present in the demo days or events.
  • Pitch Deck (Second Version): Text and information about your startup that you share via email — Guy Kawasaki does not suggest sending it in advance, just for your information. Watch Guy’s video above to understand why!
  • Investor Pitch: Guy Kawasaki 10–20–30 Rule & Investor Pitch Format. More or less, the pitch deck with visuals but with more information about the financials to start due diligence with the investors.
  • Elevator Pitch: “What you do for whom, how you do (How can be reduced) and unlike who (Competitors)” or be more creative. Pitch in less than 30 seconds or even 20 seconds.

I am elevator pitching Migport as “Quora for Refugees” or “Q&A mobile app for refugees to connect locals.”

  • Sales Presentation: Your deck to make your client buy your product, not to receive investment!

Last but not least, I have enjoyed every minute of my entrepreneurship journey, ups and downs, winning and losing, being strong and vulnerable. That’s my story as an entrepreneur. Personally, I used in my pitch deck: “The Story aspect,” “Guy Kawasaki Methods,” “Simon Sinek Start with Why,” and the clear explanation of “What as Kevin from YC explained.” It is not easy to combine all of these at once; YC mentioned that startups spend a month pitching it correctly. So, start as soon as possible and nail it with time, practice, and preparation. If you wonder how I pitch, one can find them below:

Impacted over 15 million lives with social entrepreneurship & technology | Traveler | Writer | Impact Entrepreneur