Preparing your pitch: Identify potential chinks in your armour and stay on course

Giving your idea the best chance of success with investors

I recently came across two posts that made me stop and think about ways to identify potential chinks in your armour and stay on course when it comes to preparing a pitch for investors.

 

One of the blogs was, “The real reasons why a VC passed on your startup”, written by Sarah A. Downey at #Accomplice and reposted on OrthoStreams by Tiger Buford. This is a highly informative article from anexperienced VC who knows what she is talking about. All of the reasons Sarah describes are also applicable to the reasons why an Angel, Super Angel, Family Office as well as a VC will passon an investment.

 

The list Sarah has createdis a great list to use in a workshop with your startup team, to identify potential chinks in your armour. Once identified, thefaults can be discussed and resolved. Even weak pointsin the team makeup, using the eye of an investor, can be discussed and resolved. Depending on the strength and depth of the team, any issuecan be overcome. The trick in the first instance is identifying the chinkin the armour and agreeing that it needs to be discussed and resolved.

 

The other piecewas a post by Julissa Shrewsbury bringing to our attention a revealing new TED Talk by Dana Kanze discussing the bias of promotion v prevention questions asked by investors, and how this negatively affects rates of investment for female entrepreneurs. A revealing talk, and Dana is an experienced entrepreneur who has pitched to a lot of VCs. It highlights that you need to be aware of promotion-focusedquestions and prevention-focusedquestions during question time.

The classification of investor questions Dana has described is also a great technique to use in a workshop with your startup team, to create positive promotion responses to promotion-or prevention-focused questions and stay on course. As a team you can develop a list of promotion or prevention focus questions and a corresponding list of positive promotion responses to all of the questions. This can prove invaluable when you want to make sure the Q&A session at the end of your pitch stays on the track, maintains momentum and finishes on a positive note.

CSIRO ON Accelerate 5 – Reflections on lean/design thinking

I recently put in another week at CSIRO ON Accelerate program in Sydney. David Ireland and I run the ON Accelerate program (sits under the National Innovation and Science Agenda) for CSIRO and the broader research sector including all publicly funded universities and research centres and partner organisations like the Defence Science and Technology Group. ON Accelerate is the premiere national science and technology accelerator open to the top 10 teams from institutes across Australia (20 teams get into the bootcamp and up to 10 are selected to go on to the Accelerator). Over the course of the bootcamp we facilitated a series of great interactive sessions on the importance of Structured Customer Discovery, Value Proposition Design, Business Model Design and also facilitated mentoring sessions for the teams. The program is called ON Accelerate 5, celebrating the fifth time we have run the program.

 

I have recently written a lot about developing a deeper understanding of the customer and using lean / design thinking and value proposition design within organisations.

 

It is great to see 20 teams who have all experienced the value of quality customer discovery and lean / design thinking and value proposition design. They have all de-risked their projects and enhance the potential uptake of their product or service (solution) before launch.

 

I have also seen corporate product management teams experience workshops like this in action. The workshops enable teams to understand the need to develop a deeper understanding of the customer and to focus on early adopters and innovators in their customer groups.

 

Having now run many of these workshops for research teams and product managers, I’ve made some observations about the typical things that surprise participants when they undertake these programs:

  • How valuable it is to have a deeper understanding of the customer,
  • how valuable it is to identify potential early adopters and innovators, and
  • how valuable it is to enhance your solution language to resonate with customers.

 

This clearly highlights the importance of structured customer discovery and value proposition design processes, both for new innovators and for existing businesses.

I have been amazed at the exciting new projects CSIRO ON Accelerate 5 teams are

working on. I can’t wait to see these products and services in the market!

INSEAD Paris trip: Reflections on entrepreneurship

I recently put in another week at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. I presented a couple of great interactive sessions on the importance of Structured Customer Discovery and Value Proposition Design and also ran mentoring sessions for MBA Candidates.

 

I have recently written a lot about understanding the customer and using value proposition design within organisations.

 

While participants in these kinds of sessions quickly see the value of ‘doing the work’ and getting into quality customer discovery and value proposition design, in the busyness of every day life, product management teams don’t always stop to consider how much money they may be wasting on things customers don’t really want, or how much money is being left on the table due to missed opportunities. So I thought I’d quickly highlight why a thorough approach makes such a difference.

 

Why structured customer discovery matters:

·       It enables a deeper understanding of the customer and their perspective, in order to give them what they really want.

·       It can enable a focus on early adopters and innovators in the customer group, creating scale quickly.

·       It enables a structured method of de-risking product development and launch.

 

Why a strong value proposition using design thinking makes a difference:

·       It’s a great way to quickly get all of the teams’ assumptions documented, in order to be tested.

·       It’s a great way to map out how to build value from a customer perspective.

·       It’s a great way to focus, and to de-risk, a product development program.

 

Where businesses quickly start to see results after the ‘hard work’ of planning and product development in this way is:

·       The ability to shift a product from just another product to a highlydesirable product.

·       Enhanced, customer-centricproduct language, used to promote the product, at launch time.

·       Building strong support of early adopters and innovators in the customer group.

 

These approaches are now being widely used with much success in ‘thinking centres’ like universities/research centres and businesses that want the edge, across Australia and around the world. Businesses will soon discover their competitors will be taking on this thinking too.

 

I have been amazed at the exciting new projects INSEAD MBA’s are working on. Many of the ideas I saw are also entrants in the INSEAD Venture Competition. I can’t wait to see these start-ups in the market!