Life Is A Pitch. And Then You Win

I can’t take credit for this title. At least, not for the whole title, only for the second part. The first part is actually the name of an event at which I was invited just a few days ago. It was a four hours long event dedicated to young entrepreneurs, specifically web entrepreneurs. I was part of the panel and my job there was to give to the attendees as much info as I could about how they could make a pitch as interesting as possible for a potential investor.

Interestingly enough, at the same time I was part of a larger event, Venture Connect (briefly wrote about it here). In this one I played even a bigger part, as a board member, evaluating businesses which expressed their interest in receiving a funding round. To make a long story short, we selected 11 online business to be presented in front of an audience formed by investors. One of the things I did the other day was to train the selected entrepreneurs. What was the training about? Pitching, of course.

As much as I want to talk about these events in greater detail, I won’t do it. Simply because I want to talk about something else.  But I won’t leave this topic without saying that Life Is A Pitch was just a small part of the biggest event dedicated to the online industry in Romania, NetCamp. I am still involved in this event, both as a board member in Venture Connect and as a speaker, I will have a presentation in the last day.

Now, let’s get back to our pitch problem. Why is a pitch important? What is a pitch, anyway? And what exactly you can get out of a successful pitch?

A Little Bit Of Background

3 years ago I decided it’s time to sell my business. It took me about 14 months from the start to end. I pitched my business in front of 7 potential investors and entered in negotiations with 2 of them. Both went up to the due diligence process but in the end only one remained.

Looking back at the entire succession of events I can see now that the most important part was the first one: the pitching. That part carried the seeds of the entire process. The unfolding of all phases was contained on that  initial spark.

What Is A Pitch?

In short, a pitch is an opportunity, limited in time and space, which will create a positive disruption in your current status-quo. Two parts agree to evaluate a situation (in this case, a business) and, if they come up with a common plan, they put the basis of a transaction which will transform that situation in a better one. For both parts. The pitcher will receive support (financial, logistic, know-how) and the investor will receive an amplifier for this money.

A successful pitch will have to give a consistent answer to the following 5 questions:

  1. What is my business about and how I make money? Product or service description.
  2. Who am I and who is in my team? Skills, experience, organizational culture.
  3. What is my market? Where do I move and how this market looks like.
  4. What makes me different? My unique approach and added value.
  5. Why should somebody invest his money in my business? A very concise answer. Investors don’t have time.

As simple as it seems, many experienced entrepreneurs are shifting away from the basis and try all sort of spectacular approaches, hoping that they’ll catch the investor eye for a second more than the last pitcher. Well, they didn’t. As a matter of fact, the more complicated, convoluted and elaborated a pitch is, the lower the chances to get a one to one conversation with the investor. Big part of my training the other day was about keeping the entrepreneurs on the “keep it simple, smarty” track.

And one of the things I kept saying to them was about a success story we had at the first edition of the event. It was about a job-related business which received 500.000 EUR in funding after they participated at the event. Their pitch was dead simple and confident.

How To Make A Life Pitch

After the training session, while I was driving home, something hit me. A thought was circling into my mind, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. And all of sudden, I realized it in a simple and incredibly powerful sentence: if you ask properly, you will receive. I know, I know, I had the same reaction. The religious approach of “ask and you shall receive”, (which, by the way, is not only in the Cristian Church). All that blah-blah from the Law Of Attraction. It all comes down to this, after all. The way you ask. Or, in other words, the way you pitch your “investor”.

As I got home, I started to look again at those questions and realized that they are applying almost unchanged to any life pitch you can make. When you ask for help. When you ask for divine support. Or, if you prefer, when you invoke the Law Of Attraction (substitute the receiver of your pitch with whoever you’re comfortable with). A prayer is just another word for a pitch in front of a benevolent investor, who is able to put his good will into your life. Changing your life for good, putting it on a new track. So, you’d better be prepared when you’re ready to face this “investor”. You don’t want to lose the next round of your life financing because you made a lousy pitch.

So, here are the re-written guidelines for a life pitch.

  1. What is my personal mission statement? What do I actually do in this life. People have a hard time to understand what they really do in their life. What is their direction. Where do they actually go. Because you can really set sail to some destination and get there. That’s what a personal mission statement does (among other things).
  2. Who are the people I love the most and what makes us powerful together? You’re not traveling alone. Never. You carry around people who are precious to you in many ways. People you love. People that makes your life worthwhile living.
  3. Who are the beneficiaries of my actions? What is the life market in which I’m acting right now? That’s a very important answer. Too many times we forget who are the people who get the hit when we blow up something. Or who are the people who get the benefits of what we call work. They’re very, very important. Because they can validate us.
  4. What is my unique contribution to this world? How do I create value? What is my unique selling proposition. How do I put this into a phrase? Am I the cleverest guy on the planet? The nicest? The most lovable? Take an honest look at yourself and find what makes you different. Even if that was the most difficult thing to bear for you. Or especially because of that. Too often, your biggest liability is in fact your biggest asset.
  5. Why should I be worthy of living a better life? Be brief. The “investor” is incredibly astute and he’s also short on time. There are so many others pitching their own life pitches as we speak.

Just try to give a consistent and coherent answer to all of these. In the comments, if you want. On your own blog, if you have one (just send a link back so I know about you). And let me know if you got your “one to one” conversation with your “life investor”.

And also, if you actually received the funding your life need to make that huge, positive disruption. 🙂



Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner


The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”

And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.

Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.

If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.

Running For My Life -from zero to ultramarathoner

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I’m blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You’re invited, by the way.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Hey Dragos!

    I LOVE these updates of yours where you share your personal experience. It’s so much more interesting and compelling to read!

    The pitch is a work of art, and there is so much that goes into persuasion and advertising. I’m busy reading a stack of books about it and it’s going to take me a while to master, but I’ll get there:)

    All the best
    Diggy

  2. Personal mission statement? Turning peoples heads so they start looking where they want to go.
    The people I love? A bit to private, but there are a few around me.
    Beneficiaries of my actions? Friends that I help and blog readers.
    Unique contribution to this world? Showing by example that YES YOU CAN is true.
    Why should I be worthy of living a better life? Because everyone is, thus so am I 😉

  3. Hey Dragos,

    I like how you take a concept intended for a very specific area and expand its use to life as a whole. Nice 😉

    I’m willing to be that 99% of the people out there can’t make a decent life pitch because they have know idea who they are, what they have to offer and they haven’t decided upon a clear direction for their lives. If anything, your post may stimulate them to think about this, which is why I’m retweeting it.

    Cheers,
    Eduard

  4. I like the metaphor.

    I think creating a pithy pitch where the unique value pops is the toughest part. One cutting question I find is, “What do you stand for?” It quickly reveals position.

    I used to think of life as the one long mission, but now I think of life more like a series of projects and a series of pitches.

  5. Interesting thing about personal mission statements is that they need to be written so that you can see clearly what you need to do. But as soon as you’ve written it, then it needs changing because life has changed. It’s a fine balancing act 😉

  6. “Keep it simple, smarty.” – yes!

    The key is to have short but powerful pitches. Too much talking and you’ll lose your audience (that’s part of what it means to live in an ADHD world).

    Tell your investors/clients exactly what it is you can do for them, and then they can take it or leave it.

    Helpful read Dragos!

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