“The way to tell your story is very important and the Italian startuppers I saw at the Demo Night have a lot of room to improve their pitch”, observed Alessandro Piol, one of the investors attending the event organized by VentureOutNY on December the 3rd in New York (see previous post).
Underestimating the importance of the pitch and assuming that their product speaks for itself is apparently a common mistake among non American entrepreneurs, according to an article recently published by The Wall Street Journal. Interestingly enough, to show how a good pitch could lead to positive results the WSJ mentioned an Italian startupper: Alessandro Petrucciani, the 26 year old co-founder of KLASH, a Web app for challenges and dares. Alessandro’s startup is based in Berlin, where also the consultant Christopher Sollich – aka “The Pitch Doctor” – operates.
Last year Alessandro was invited to appear on “This Week in Startups,” an influential Web series filmed in the U.S. So he asked Sollich to train him for the one-minute pitch he had to deliver. “The coaching lasted two hours plus the exchange of several emails – explained Alessandro to StartupItalia! -The most difficult part, and somehow embarrassing, was to make my cofounder Baris draw KLASH’s logo on my naked buttock”. In fact in order to attract the audience’s attention with something special in line with the startup’s “daring” culture, Sollich convinced Alessandro to wear a lime-green, Borat-style mankini (see here his performance: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXixP1oMb1k). “The pitch helped the audience understand what we do and which kind of entrepreneurs we are. It also helped us find two German investors, but it was just a small part of the work needed to convince somebody to give us a few hundred thousand Euros,” added Alessandro, who is now preparing the launch of the 2.0 version of KLASH.
The “American pitch” has very precise rules: it starts striking a personal connection with the audience, it goes on clarifying the ability of a product or firm to fill a market need, and boasting about their strengths. Very short and neat, it is becoming a global standard in the tech field. But non US entrepreneurs are not familiar with this style, which the Americans practice from preschool with the “show and tell” presentations.
That’s why a whole new industry of “pitch coaches” is growing according to the WSJ: they teach international executives and entrepreneurs how to create a good “story”, to improve their English pronunciation and their use of the body language, to learn American acronyms and business jargon, and to play for the audience’s emotions.
This training is not cheap. It may cost $2,000 to $5,000 a day, with lower rates for startups; “The Pitch Doctor” in Berlin charges around €1,000 ($1,317) a day, but it pays off as you can tell from Alessandro’s experience. Another pitch coach is Marie Perruchet in Silicon Valley with her company One Perfect Pitch: “as a mentor at 500 startups, the largest accelerator program in the US, she helps the startups to get prepared for their Demo Day”, so reads her presentation on the web. And in Amsterdam there is the American Beth Susanne with her firm Visions In Focus: she does “pitch and cross-cultural coaching” for European companies willing to enter the US Market and especially the Silicon Valley.
Through LinkedIn In Italy StartupItalia! found Valentina Maltagliati, who describes herself as “Elevator Pitch Coach; Entrepreneurship Lecturer”: she teaches at the Scuola Scienze Aziendali in Florence, specializing in “Public Speaking and Elevator Pitch” for the spinoffs at IUF, the University of Florence’s incubator, and for the Technology Incubator’s startups. Do you know other Italian pitch coaches?