Recently, I had the opportunity to see a high-end startup pitch contest, something similar to what you might see on Shark Tank. Eight startups had four minutes each to present their business to a panel of judges. Then they answered questions for three minutes. At the end of the evening, one startup had an extra $100,000 in the bank.
I was struck by the following:
- These entrepreneurs were comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Or they did an excelllent job of faking it.
- They has obviously pitched their businesses many times because they were able to cover all of the points important to an investor in four minutes.
- All remained unphased during the three minutes of questioning by the judges. They had obviously been grilled many time before.
- Each entrepreneur had assembled a team of skilled professionals to work in and support their businesses.
- There were very few women and minorities among the contestants.
- Most were graduates, or current members, of one of the local incubators or accelerators.
The pitch contest, called The Rise of the Rest, was sponsored by Steve Case, founder of AOL. RTP was just one stop on this tour.
As we look at how Wake Tech would create an incubator or accelerator or build runways from our entrepreneurs into existing ones, this experienced reinforced my belief that communication is a key leadership skill for the successful entrepreneur, especially if they plan to court investors or major strategic partners.