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Two Essential Elements of a Great Pitch

Despite thousands of web pages listing advice on pitching to VCs, many world-be entrepreneurs (and some advice-givers) still fail to include two very important elements in their pitches:

1. Hands-on demo

2. Empirical evidence that the dogs are eating the dog food

Empirical research is simply research that involves human senses and observable events. If your venture involves consumer marketing, empirical research can be the difference between getting funding, and simply presenting a good idea.As an entrepreneur meeting with a VC, you're in the business of *selling* your idea. Yet it amazes me how often entrepreneurs fail to understand the effectiveness of "on the fly" empirical evidence (hands-on demo) and evidence of buzz.

Here's a thought experiment: Imagine a used car salesman pitching a user car to a room full of venture capitalists.How long would the guy stand there at the end of the table *talking* about the beautiful car he has outside in the lot, before taking the guys to see it? Do you think he'd even hesitate before handing the keys to the Managing Partner? Of course not.

If you've got a product that is potentially fun to use, hand the guys the keys/mouse. Want to get funded/invited back? Make it your goal that one of the partners in the meeting is going to go home and say to their spouse "you wouldn't believe what I did today.

"Notice I used the word "did" - not "saw", "did". Experienced.

Your second goal should be ensuring that the partners are not alone when it comes to experiencing your product and feeling excited.If the idea you're pitching involves targeting solar-powered iPod holster-chargers at teenagers for use on the ski slopes this winter, a slide displaying a picture of teenagers crowding your kiosk at an Aspen shopping mall may indeed provide some empirical evidence that "the dogs are eating the dog food".

Many (many) years ago, I spent a day hanging around with star record producer Jimmy Iovine at A&M Studios in Los Angeles, as he was putting the final touches on U2's Rattle & Hum album in the mixing and mastering studios.

I remember stopping in one studio where one of the audio engineers turned to Jimmy and asked him whether he thought the audience mike was too overpowering? The engineer demonstrated by pulling the fader down a little.

The negative effect on the "buzz" was immediately noticeable. Jimmy shook his head and motioned for the engineer to push the fader back up to the orginal level. He understood the need for listeners to "feel" the audience as much as hear the music.

Entrepreneurs should keep in mind the importance of demonstrating the "buzz" or potential buzz around their offerings. VC guys want to be jazzed - the reason they tolerate all the dumb ideas is so they can experience that (very) occasional intersection of genius, utility and excitement.  Be one of those great meetings. Take them for a test drive. Show them the buzz. Make their day.


Sharp John Sharp

John is a Partner at Hatcher Plus, the leading data-driven venture capital investment firm. John has extensive commercial experience at the senior management level, having been the Chief Executive Officer of Authentium, Inc. the Managing Director, Asia, of WorldSpace, and CEO of Hatcher, the precursor company to Hatcher+. A tenacious and driven executive with longstanding board-level and C-suite level management experience within high-growth companies, John also brings a strong history of capital raising from an extensive network of investors globally. As Chairman and CEO of cybersecurity pioneer Authentium (acquired by CYREN in 2010), John co-authored three US patents and developed and sold cybersecurity solutions to some the largest organizations in the world, including the US Department of Commerce, NASA, AOL, British Telecom, Comcast, Cox Communications, Google, McAfee, Microsoft, Symantec, and Telstra. As CTO at Hatcher+, DocDoc, Heardable, and ThoughtRiver, John has designed and developed several highly-innovative technology platforms using cutting-edge approaches to data processing, user interface design, and workflow optimization. John is a frequent blogger and an in-demand speaker at venture events globally, and has extensive experience implementing ESG solutions as Chairman and/or board member of numerous start-ups, including director roles at trade finance provider ASYX and payment aggregator Mozido, and roles as Chairman of MENA-based financial services pioneer Telr, and the leading Cambridge-based legal services technology company, ThoughtRiver.