Passion, self-belief and a desire to make the world a better place will see social entrepreneurs competing for part of a US$1 000 000 prize in New York. Their chances of success will hinge on a few minutes in which they must make the perfect business pitch – a skill that all entrepreneurs need to hone to perfection – and your vote.
So says Shelley Reeves, Marketing Manager: Scotch Whisky at Chivas Regal, while discussing the lead up to the global final of the Chivas The Venture competition, in which social entrepreneurs from 27 countries have earned the right to pitch their socially conscious business solutions to an expert panel in New York that includes actress and businesswoman Eva Longoria, economist Sonal Shah, social entrepreneur Joe Huff and Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Alexandre Ricard.
“Generally described as an ‘elevator pitch’, the short business pitch rests on the presenter’s ability to interest a panel in the business, gain their understanding and support, and then turn that into investment,” explains Mrs Reeves.
“This is what makes it one of the most important skills to be mastered by any entrepreneur.”
The ability to deliver a strong pitch was a focus of one of the Oxford University-based workshops at The Venture’s Accelerator Week, in which all finalists, including South Africa’s national The Venture winner Jaco Gerrits, participated.
To be in with a chance for a share of the US$1 000 000, finalists will have to keep several things in mind during their pitches. These are:
- Understanding that the best business pitches are short and to the point. The more a presenter talks, the higher the chances are that he or she will frustrate or ‘lose’ the experts on the panel. The quicker the audience can grasp a concept and its worth, the better the chances of success are.
- Telling the panel exactly (and briefly) what your company does, what its markets are and the benefits your product or service offers.
- Concentrating on delivering facts and emphasising (if the company is already in existence), what its successes have been and what the future holds. Painting too positive a picture can lead to resistance by members of the panel. It’s best when talking about the future to present a best case, average case and worst case scenario, so the audience gets a full picture.
- Keeping away from technical talk and business acronyms – it will just confuse matters.
- Pitch a single product and its potential, rather than selling a panel on a company that has many products – especially if some or none of them are fully developed.
- Letting those assessing your business know that you have a strong team on board. A diversified, skilled management team will always be favoured over a single ‘I do everything myself’ person. But, at the same time, the owner/founder should let them know his/her strengths and value.
- Letting them know that the owner/founder has personally invested in making the business a success. Investors like to know that the people asking them for funding are invested in the business themselves and are committed to it.
- Briefly describing who the competition is and what differentiates the enterprise’s offering. Putting this in a matrix slide showing strengths and weaknesses accomplishes this quickly and effectively.
“Finally, samples of a product or live service makes a pitch come alive,” says Ms Reeves. “If it can’t be demonstrated live in the time allocated, show them what they can expect.”
Having developed the CrashDetech app, Mr Gerrits exemplifies what it means to win the right way. The app detects car accidents and then immediately summons medical help for motorists in distress – a socially based product that is ideal for a country where road accident injuries and fatalities are a part of everyday life.
Whether he succeeds in winning a lion’s share of the million-dollar prize will be influenced by his confidence in his product, and his ability to communicate this to the judges. Knowing that South Africa is supporting him all the way will also make a major difference.
All he really needs now is for fellow South Africans to begin casting votes, which will contribute to his enterprise’s funding. A total of USD250 000 is based on votes alone, and those who wish to support Mr Gerrits and his life saving service can vote once per week until 13 June 2016.
To do so, and for more information on CrashDetech, log on to www.theventure.com/global/en/finalists/crashdetech, look for the voting section further down the page and cast your vote. Be sure to vote weekly for Jaco as every vote leads to saving lives on our roads.