My colleagues and I were recently asked to prepare a virtual presentation for 50 student founders on my favorite topic: pitching. The university-level attendees are all participating in an 8-week program that’s meant to enhance their entrepreneurial skill set and help them grow their businesses (side note – where was this when I was in undergrad!?).
Of course, now is quite the exciting time for young people (or anyone for that matter) to be getting involved in startups. The cat’s out of the bag that the first half of 2021 has been another record-breaking moment in venture capital. I literally found an article last week called ‘Startups Have Never had it so Good’ – you can’t make this stuff up! With more Unicorns being announced than at any other point in history, I can’t blame graduates for turning away from traditional corporate jobs to start marching to the beat of their own drum.
So what will we be educating these ambitious young CEOs on during our virtual chit chat? Shark Tank.
Oh yes – every entrepreneur’s guilty pleasure has become our muse. And it’s not just because Mr. Wonderful is an attention-grabber – it’s because below the surface (ha – no pun intended), Shark Tank can offer a lot of insights into the art of pitching to an investor. Don’t believe me? Here’s my 3 favorite lessons:
#1) Know Your Audience
Unlike a pitch to a potential customer, partner or board member – investors really only care about one thing: making money. A little harsh I know, but it makes pitching to an investor unique. Mr. Wonderful needs to understand (in 10 minutes or less) how and when he’s going to get his returns for his investment.
#2) Preparation is Key
There comes a point in every Shark Tank pitch where the sweet story about the founders 5th generation granola business ends and the real fun begins. Mark Cuban isn’t afraid to interrogate the business model inside-out because at the end of the day, if there’s no road to traction – he’s out.
#3) Feedback is Everything
A lot of founders tell me the most frustrating part of fundraising is getting little to no feedback from investors. On Shark Tank, there’s no ambiguity as to why a Shark is passing on a deal. Whether a founder has holes in their business model, doesn’t have a solid go-to-market strategy or simply fails to ‘wow’ – it’s a no brainer why Lori Greiner is out.
So there you have it! While Shark Tank isn’t always the most realistic at times, it does serve as a great learning tool for how to nail an investor pitch. So grab a bowl of popcorn, pen & paper, and turn on your favorite season. It’s time to seize this exciting moment and get to work so you too can hear the magic words – I’m in.