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“Pitch a business, not a solution” — Lessons from Pitch Hub’s Founder Aurelia Attipoe

Guest Contributor, Wednesday March 13th 2019

This post was contributed by MEST Class of 2020 EIT Faderr Johm. Faderr is a waste management and urban development expert that has recently ventured into tech entrepreneurship at MEST. He wants to deploy tech solutions to build businesses that improve lives and the environment.

Seven months since uprooting from Nairobi to Accra to learn the skills needed to launch and grow a tech startup, as an entrepreneur-in-training at MEST Africa, I find myself constantly challenged and overwhelmed. I also find myself constantly intrigued and excited about the challenges of entrepreneurship. I would attribute it to the foolishness of youth but I just turned 30 and decided to shift from a career in development with the Gambian government and the United Nations to entrepreneurship. Every day, I learn that there is still a lot that I need to learn.

Recently, in preparation for our second business pitch, MEST organized for Aurelia Attipoe, the Founder of Pitch Hub, to give feedback to our pitches. We’ve had 4 weeks to identify and validate a problem, develop and validate a solution and build a minimum viable product. With 2 weeks left before our investor pitches, Aurelia shared key considerations when pitching. Below I highlight these with some personal commentary.

Pitching is an art, and every artistic performance needs to feel natural to the observer. Aurelia emphasized that you need to know your business well enough that you don’t need to look at the slides while pitching. You need to know the explanation for every slide and practice your delivery. She emphasized the importance of tonality stating that 80% of decisions about business pitches are made based on the presenter’s tonality. I personally think this number is exaggerated and only intended to highlight the importance of tonality to your pitch.

Pitches need to be delivered with conviction. Aurelia emphasized that you need to be confident about the bold decision made to start a business. In her words, “don’t sound like a beggar. When you sound like a beggar you are at the mercy of the investor.” Confidence in your business is communicated to the investor by demonstrating that you have something amazing that could make him or her a lot of money should they chose to join otherwise you’ll be the only one reaping the rewards. The success or failure of the business should not be reliant on the investor’s decision.

Pitch a business, not a solution. Aurelia highlighted that many of the pitches she heard, while good, shared information about the solution and not the business. The pitch needs to breakdown how much money the business will make and how it will do this. In her words, “assume that the investor knows nothing.” The pitch needs to provide as much information as possible to give the listener an illustration. That is, if you get a customer, how much are you charging the customer? In a month, how many customers will you acquire? Can you project your revenue over a year? This breakdown communicates to an investor that the business is or will be profitable.

It’s important to discuss how the business will acquire customers, however that communicates the spending of funds. It is also just as, if not more, important to discuss the acquisition of funds, that is, how you will make money from customers. In relation to this is the need to communicate that you are aware that your business will not capture the entirety of your target market. You need to communicate how much of that market are you targeting in the first 3–5 years, how much money that segment amounts to and how the business will expand to take a larger slice in the future. The pitch should communicate that you are very aware and intentional about how you are directing your business.

The last point Aurelia highlighted was the need for our pitch to have an ‘Ask’. In her words, “You can’t have a business pitch without an ‘Ask’.” The pitch should communicate how much the business needs over a certain period, what the fund will be used for and the return on investment of those funds.

Sessions like these are the reason I chose to spend a year at MEST. It’s not often that entrepreneurs are able to build and pitch a startup within a learning environment. I look forward to applying the advice Aurelia shared.