10 Lessons from The Pitch: How to Pitch Your Startup and Win, SxSW Style

March 27, 2015



Mark Twain is often associated with the quote, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It was in fact Pascal who most likely first coined that phrase, but the point remains. It’s hard and takes time and effort to communicate concisely, whether a short memo, a letter or a business plan pitch.

I had the privilege of judging two different pitch competitions during SxSW 2015: the SxSW Accelerator Finals and the Austin Technology Incubator Finals. What makes these pitch competitions so tough for the entrepreneur is that you have from only three to seven minutes, depending on the format and organizer, to get your story across. Yet, at the startup stage of a company, your story is often still being formulated, and there is much you don’t know, and much you haven’t refined about the product, the market, etc.

It’s very hard to fit so much unrefined and unfinished information into a tight, compelling three to seven minute pitch. The only answer I know of to successfully create a concise effective quick pitch is to really spend time on your pitch, test it often on anyone who will listen, and continually tune and refine it. Otherwise, don’t bother to enter a pitch competition.

Sitting in the judge’s seat, a number of things about how to best pitch your company became clear during these SxSW sessions — observations and lessons I am sharing here:

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