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Startupnepal: How to pitch your business idea

  • Knowing how to pitch an idea will give any entrepreneur an edge over thousands of others who are doing the same thing, and are trying to attract the same people
- PRANJAL GHIMIRE

Mar 13, 2017-

If you’ve sat through a long boring lecture, you’ve probably felt how being able to communicate succinctly makes all the difference. This stands true even more so for entrepreneurs who are vying to change the world. Simply put, a startup at its core is an idea.

Therefore, an idea is only as good as its communication. In a field as competitive as running a startup, where many people are struggling for attention, entrepreneurs who are able to make their point persuasively are the ones who will eventually succeed. 

Most of us think of pitching or communicating the idea as something you only do in front of investors. This however, is not true. The communication of your idea first begins when you are recruiting your team, to convincing your customers, and to pitching to impress the investors. Knowing how to pitch an idea will give any entrepreneur an edge over thousands of others like him/her who are doing the same thing, and are trying to attract the same people.

Step 1: What does your business do?

This is the first and most basic question one needs to be able to answer during their pitch, which will also need to capture the interest of the audience. There are many entrepreneurs who do not give this point much thought and tend to lose their audience.

It happens either because their explanation is too long or because their thoughts are scattered. Only when the audience understands what a business does, will they be curious enough to want to know more about it. One of the most popular ways to answer this statement is to think ‘How would I write this on Twitter?’

This thought exercise does two things. Since a tweet is limited to 140 characters, it forces you to prioritise the information you want to convey; additionally, it will also make you think of a way to make it as catchy and memorable as possible.

It is always encouraged to come up with an original and unique description for your business. However, if this becomes a struggle, one go-to strategy is called ‘X for Y’, where X is a renowned startup and Y is a familiar field of business. For instance, you could say, ‘my startup is the Google for restaurants’.

This helps people get a general grasp of the idea you are trying to convey. Following above strategies, the answer to ‘What does your business do?’ for a hypothetical startup could be, ‘We are Cycle City, a pay-per-use bicycle rent service that conveniently serves your transportation needs.’

Step 2: What problem do you solve?

Once the audience is hooked, it’s time to explain why you think the business is important. One of the best ways to show the importance of a business is to describe the problem it’s solving. Therefore, look back on the inspiration for the idea, the observation that was made, and the assumed problem that the target customers have.

If formulating a problem statement proves to be hard, a tool called journey mapping might be helpful. In this tool, an entrepreneur would observe the daily routine of target clients until they encounter the problem. They will then note down how said clients currently interact with this problem.

This tool is a great way to help you empathise with your target consumer.

For our hypothetical startup, a problem statement could be something like this. ‘Typical travel from Naxal to Thapathali takes more than 30 minutes, depending on traffic. Even though this distance can be covered in 15 minutes with a cycle, not many prefer doing it due to the effort it takes, and lack of ease of access to cycles.

We solve this problem by providing motorised bicycles that can be rented easily through just a swipe of your membership card at one of our 20 outlets throughout Kathmandu.’

Step 3: How is your product or service different?

As a rule of thumb in business, there are no original and completely unique ideas. Even the most successful companies that we know of today didn’t start from a single unique idea. These companies are where they are because they were able to provide a solution that was significantly better than what already existed.

In business, this ability to differentiate one’s product or service is called finding a unique selling point (USP). When you are pitching your idea to potential patrons, always assume that they have been exposed to an alternative solution and therefore, your aim should be to convey your USP clearly and to convince them to switch to your business.

However, a typical customer will resist changing their current solution to the problem because it would automatically require a change in their habits as well. Therefore, a USP needs to be significantly better to be able to alleviate the trouble of changing habits. Cycle City, the hypothetical startup, could have the following unique selling point; ‘While the existing rental services require lengthy interactions and complex processes, our service allows you to rent cycles autonomously and hassle free.’

Step 4: Why should the customer care?

Most of the time even though it’s obvious that the proposed solution best addresses a problem, most people still aren’t able to visualise its impact. This step is all about stating the obvious, and helping the customer visualise their life with your product or service in it.

An entrepreneur needs to be able to show that the problem at hand is worth caring about, and that their solution would make life much easier. This requires asking the customer to imagine a situation, and being able to paint a picture through succinct storytelling.

If you fall within your target customer segment, describe to yourself the relief you would experience because of the product or service. If your customer segment is different from yourself, talk to them about how a potential solution like yours would affect their lives.

When you are able to communicate this experience of relief to the audience you will be able to show them exactly why they should care. For Cycle City, the main reason customers should care could be something along the lines of; ‘Imagine being able to circumvent the heavy traffic of Kathmandu, weaving through vehicles with ease, and being able to reach your destination in time. This is the convenience we provide.’

The core difference between entrepreneurs who succeed, and entrepreneurs who fail, is whether they are able to communicate their ideas and visions to others. This act of communicating might seem insignificant at first glance, but it actually plays a crucial role in paving your path towards various opportunities for startups. Being able to perfectly pitch your idea will give you an edge over an ocean of entrepreneurs.

 

- Pranjal is an entrepreneurship enthusiast and a Program Development  Associate at M&S Next

Published: 13-03-2017 08:56

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