Pitch Me and I’ll Want Answers to These 12 Questions

I get pitched a lot. No, I’m not giving out money; the companies that contact me crave a different currency: attention. And if not attention or funding, contacts are after advice, referrals, feedback, endorsements, or help in the form of a conference talk, article, or social posting.

"Babe Ruth Boston pitching" by Frances P. Burke - Francis P. Burke Collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Babe_Ruth_Boston_pitching.jpg#/media/File:Babe_Ruth_Boston_pitching.jpg
“Babe Ruth Boston pitching” by Frances P. Burke

I’m not special. Thousands of us — analysts, writers, and other industry intermediaries — who listen, interpret, and then advise tech companies and buyers — get pitched. Long live influencer marketing!

Myself, I welcome the contacts; often I initiate them. I and other industry analysts aim both to stay on top of trends and to quickly grasp the reality and potential of the new (or improved) tech, solutions, and companies we encounter.

You need our help, and we need yours. Let’s set up a briefing!

I especially like hearing from start-ups, whether they’re seeking to craft and position a product or are on a quest for early-stage funding. These folks are often unsure of market needs and the competitive landscape. Sometimes they need help valuing, packaging, and pricing their assets and devising a route to market. Other comers, by contrast, are oversure and in evangelism overdrive. They’re not seeking advice; they know what story they want to tell.

In all cases, ability to communicate value proposition and differentiation is key. Best if you know the competitive scene and tech trends, including what research is close to commercialization, and are able to say how you’re different and better and going to succeed. But if you build your pitch around competition and trends alone — “We’re going to disrupt Sector X with our patent-pending deep learning gobbledygook,” or something like that — you’d better have serious star-power and a track record and something to show. If not, your message will fall flat.

So if you brief me — whether your company is early-stage or established or in-between — whether you’re seeking money, advice, exposure, or connections — use the opportunity to explain why and how you’re better. Make sure also to cover the basics.

Key points will be covered, I think — basics, differentiators, and promise — if you address…

12 things I’ll want to know if you brief me (start-up version):

  1. Who are you — you, your team, advisors, and partners?
  2. What are you selling or planning to sell?
  3. What assets do you own — IP, codebase, reputation?
  4. What outside assets do you rely on, whether commercially obtained or free, open source?
  5. What’s your target market? What business problems or technical challenges do you address and for whom?
  6. What’s your route to market? That is, how do customers find and buy from you, or how do you intend that they will?
  7. Who are a few notable customers, if you’re already out in the market, and how are they using your tech?
  8. Who’s the competition?
  9. What makes you special?
  10. How might you fail?
  11. Could you tell me about your development roadmap?
  12. What questions do you have for me?

Keep in mind, I’m rarely looking (only) for straight answers to these or any other questions. Nor is a prospective investor, business partner, or customer. Part of the exercise is to gauge your confidence, competence, planning ability, and, frankly, whether you’re for real. Evasive non-answers are telling, by the way.

But believe me, I know that I’m not the sole judge of reality. No single analyst, writer, investor, or advisor is. If you can create your own reality, cool! We’re all in this game to learn. Myself, if you teach me and convince me, you’ll help me do my own job and you’ll help me help you. I’m sure others like me think the same.

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