I am ambivalent about startup pitch events. There are a lot of them nowadays. Many would say this is a great thing. Some talk about how it exposes more people to startups. Others cite the fact that they are an outlet to reach investors and customers and recruits. Still others tout the benefits of founders getting out of the building and honing their pitch skills. Regardless of the reason, there are a ton of events these days.
When I first got involved in startups several years ago, there were not so many startup oriented events in the NYC area. Many were paid events where startups had to pay gatekeepers to present in front of a room of pseudo-investors. So pitch events were the one of the few low-key and nominally free opportunities you could socialize and commiserate with other founders. It was more catharsis than pitching. Did anyone ever tell you that startups can be a lonely experience?
I tend not to go to many pitch events anymore. Most are simply a complete and utter waste of time in many cases. It was not something that I really thought about too much though until I read a post called Eradicate the startup pitch event by Paul Orlando. I could not help but do plenty of head nodding.
Pitch events are the fast food restaurants of the startup world. Easy to leave feeling full, but not that nutritious.
If anything, pitch events reinforce the wrong message — that the best place to tell your story is in front of other startup people. That companies can be adequately judged by the way they present themselves, in a few minutes. And that entertaining an audience is as important as figuring out your business.
Startup pitch events have become another sort of entertainment for founders, investors, other startups, bloggers, service providers, and wantrepreneurs. Until Paul’s post however, it never really occurred to me why I found most events banal and empty. The worst tend to be the pitch events with judges that often have little quality input to provide other than barbed responses and witty comments. Just like a fast food meal, you eat a lot of empty calories and not much else.
Are there worthwhile events? Sure, but they are not necessarily “startup” events and it really depends on your objective. For example events, that cater to your potential customers can be great for lead gen. With Enhatch, we focus on vertical markets like Medical Device, so presenting at industry specific events is a better venue for us. If we attend generic “tech startup” events, usually it comes with the potential for customers and press. One solid event we recently pitched at was the New York Enterprise Tech Meetup which tends to attract a mostly corporate audience.
With this in mind, here are some things to consider if the opportunity to pitch your startup comes up:
While this list may come off as snarky in some ways, the point I want to drive home is that you should be judicious with your time. That is the one thing that founders have at their disposal, so do not waste it frivolously on events that probably do not move the needle for your startup. If you are going to pitch, pitch wisely and pitch to the right people.