By Nic Custer
Imagine you are riding in an elevator with a venture capitalist. You have less than one minute before they reach their destination and one chance to convince them why they should invest $100,000 in your business concept. Do you think you could do it?
This is the central premise behind a so called “elevator pitch.” Flint residents will have two opportunities to pitch their big ideas in early 2015. First, UM-Flint’s School of Management is holding a Business Plan Competition to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The winning student or alum will receive a $5,000 grand prize. The second competition, sponsored by Michigan State University’s Spartan Innovations, is called Greenlight Flint. This competition is open to anyone in the community as long as their business is less than one year old. The grand prize will also be $5,000 but there will be an additional $5,000 in prizes for second place, third place and crowd favorite. First place will also receive automatic entry to the statewide Greenlight Michigan competition in East Lansing to compete for a $25,000 prize.
To prepare students and community members for the upcoming competitions, the Innovation Incubator partnered with the UM-Flint Entrepreneurs Society to hold a 3-hour business pitch clinic Nov. 20. The clinic coincided with Global Entrepreneurship Week and was one of only nine events in Michigan that celebrated innovators and start-up businesses.
More than 20 people attended the clinic, learning the basics and watching winning competition pitch videos.
Dr. Michael Witt, entrepreneur-in-residence and lecturer in the School of Management, told attendees that a pitch needs to have a hook, should ask for a specific amount and should be 150 – 300 words long. He said the presenters need to have a thick skin when trying to pitch to potential investors. They also need to show they are passionate, have energy and enthusiasm for their idea and how they will make a profit.
A good pitch covers six basics:
- What are the products or services offered?
- Who is your market?
- What is your revenue model
- Who are you?
- Who is your competition?
- What are your advantages and what makes you different?
Eight people pitched their ideas and received feedback from Dr. Witt and President Bryon Killin of the Entrepreneurs Society. Business ideas included a mobile sushi truck, a fire safety coloring book, a mesh internet network, a bib with attached pacifier and a housing redevelopment project. Audience members who didn’t pitch their concepts were able to benefit by hearing the critiques other people received on their pitches and applying it to their own ideas and approaches.
Want to give it a try? Apply these basic rules to your own concept to develop a great pitch and maybe you could be the next grand prize winner.