June 19, 2018
Startup pitch competitions are everywhere. Everywhere you look, there are events every week in every major city that revolve around pitching or some sort of presentation in front of a panel of judges in pursuit of a grand prize.
Pitch competitions have grown in popularity in the startup culture, and the problem is that it’s often a waste of time. Startups attend hundreds of pitching events every year in the hopes of meeting that one investor who will be the answer to everything. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is not that easy. The best of the investors will most likely not attend these pitch competitions, and it is not sustainable for a startup to attend every pitch competition possible in the hopes of gaining maximum exposure.
However, pitch competitions can greatly help startups if it is done right.
The key is relevancy. Most pitch competitions have specific themes and topics with a tailored group of panel judges. Usually these pitch competitions will also attract a specific audience, tailored to the theme of the pitch competition of course. This is important to remember so that your startup is not participating in random pitch competitions just so you can gain exposure to everyone and to people that aren’t relevant to your target market.
Attend if you know the audience is similar to your target market, or if you know an investor you are after is in attendance. Be selective, and make sure you are pitching where you are going to get the best return. Weigh the benefits of what is important for the business and also the benefits of the publicity. With this in mind, you can enter in pitch competitions where you not only have a chance of winning on stage but winning off the stage as well.
Startups can only participate in pitch competitions for so many years, and at some point, the judges and audience will question why your startup is still entering in pitch competitions after several years. It doesn’t look good if your startup is participating in pitch competitions after being in business for a long time. There’s no real timeline on when you should stop, but a good rule is to evaluate the ROI after each pitch competition.
Was it worth taking a day or two to prepare and participate in this pitch competition? Did you create valuable leads after this pitch competition? Did you receive a boost in revenue after this pitch competition? If the ROI is in the negative after several pitch competitions, it may be a sign to step away from competing in further competitions.
But generally, young startups can use the time on stage to further validate their market and product, send a message to competitors, and recruit new team members. Pitch competitions are great for a young startup to get the initial word out and to gain initial traction and attention.
So next time before you enter in a pitch competition ask yourself this. Do you think entering this pitch competition will help grow your business, and if so, how?