How to Pitch Like a Boss

David Stewart graduated as part of the Charter Class at GrowthX Academy and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with GrowthX Academy Mentor, Mark Breier, a venture partner at In-Q-Tel to discuss how to pitch like a boss.

In-Q-Tel’s mission is to identify and invest in companies developing cutting-edge technologies that serve Unites States national security interests.

Mark has seen over a thousand pitches and he absolutely knows how to pitch like a boss…

First and foremost, you need to be able to tell a story. Your pitch should be a compelling story that grabs the listener and causes them to act.

No one cares about your chips, widgets, and tech. You need to be able to tell a story in three parts.

Mark, being a firm believer in the law of threes, believes that there are three questions you need to answer in your pitch.

What Is It?

Using a metaphor gets you 80% towards answering this question. “We are AirBnB for warehouses.” I know what a AirBnB is, I know what a warehouse is, so you connect companies with extra warehouse space with people who need temporary warehouse storage. The remaining 20% that gets you to answering “What is it?” is telling the listener what your product does for your customers and what your product does for you. “We get extra revenue for warehouse owners by filling their unused space, we get warehouse space for people who need a safe place to temporarily store their stuff, and we get 2% on every transaction.”

Why should I care?

Following the law of threes, there are three things that you need to answer this question.

  1. There needs to be a large screaming market. “12 billion cubic feet of warehouse space goes unused each year and there are 12 million people looking for 24 billion cubic feet of temporary warehouse space each year.”
  2. Tell your listener why now is the time and you are the person to do the job. “XYZ suddenly became so cheap and available that the ABC that makes this available is affordable. I have thirty years experience in Warehouse management, my team consists of two people from UPS logistics, a FedEx logistician, and someone with twenty years of microwarehouse management.”
  3. Customer testimonials. “We tested this out San Diego (the third largest warehouse inventory in the US) for three months with three warehouses of three different sizes and the warehouses were happy with the service and made $XX, the customers were happy and paid $XX, and we made $XX” John T from ABC Warehouse said “this is the greatest thing since the invention of the forklift”, Michele C. said “I needed to store my merchandise for three days before a conference and it was great.”

What do you want me to do?

De-risk the investor. If you need to hire three statisticians and get more servers and it costs $500K with leeway, ask for $500K, don’t ask for $2M. Two million isn’t going to get you to the next level any faster or more securely than $500K. It will show poor judgement on your part.

A few gems on the side:

  • A good concept can be a good business, the product can catch up to the concept. If you tested your warehouse app using humans instead of the latest and greatest AI, that is OK. You can finish programming the AI with the next round of money.
  • You need to know segmentations. Hardware, software, customers, logistics. If you find that warehouses with 1M cubic feet have ten times the repeat customers of warehouses with 5M cubic feet, you need to know that that segmentation exists and explore it. This frequently requires getting out of the building, having a software engineer go and speak with the lead warehouseman.

It was a great time speaking with Mark about how to pitch like a boss, he is a great storyteller and has a wealth of pitching experience. If your team has a product to help the intelligence community, I am sure that In-Q-Tel would love to hear from you.