One chance only: 8 tips for that elevator pitch

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
Elevator Pitches

Elevator PitchesLast week Techzim held the semi-finals for the 2014 edition of the ZOL Startup Challenge and we had the privilege of watching presentations from 23 startups demonstrating their business cases.

As is the case with every tech entrepreneurship showcase some of the startups that failed to make it to the next stage had brilliant ideas but failed to fully articulate them. It all came down to the ability to pitch their ideas in a clear way.

One thing that every startup has to work on is the presentation of ideas, and the most common form of this is the elevator pitch. This is a short narration of what problem the startup has identified, the solution that has been developed for it and how it works highlighting where the value comes from in its implementation.

Out of the tonnes of tips and hints that anyone can get on the elevator pitch and business presentations, here’s our own list of tips for making a solid, winning elevator pitch based on observations of startups locally and regionally.

1. Clearly lay out the PAIN and then weave in your SOLUTION

Your startup is only there in that office or in front of those judges because it wants to solve a problem. Clearly spell out what this problem is, how big it is and ultimately how big your market is. When this is clear, explain what your solution is all about, relating of course to the problem you have highlighted initially.

2. Keep It Simple

This can never be stated enough. NO ONE wants to listen to a complicated pitch laced with jargon, especially in a proverbial elevator situation. Leave out the fluff and hammer in the important points in simple and clear delivery. Just approach an elevator pitch as a delivery to the most simple minded listener you can think of who just wants to figure out what you do and how much impact you can make if you are given that chance.

3. Pitch to Fit

You are going to make an elevator pitch to several groups of people and each group has a certain focus. Investors are more keen about the Return On Investment which relates to the potential market  (#ShowMeTheMoney!) whereas potential clients want to see how you will solve their problem better than whatever solution they are using. Know who you are pitching to and zero in on what is relevant to them.

4. A Natural Delivery Works Wonders

As much as this is a business presentation relax and make it natural and conversational. A robotic recital of facts, figures and did-you-knows has the danger of putting a listener off and even worse to make your startup seem so forgettable. Add that dash of enthusiasm as well that shows that you naturally believe in what you are selling.

5. Make it Interesting But Authentic

Yes your pitch has to be interesting and captivating but keep it authentic and be honest. Any investor or judge is in that position because they listen to numerous proposals and offers so handle the fine line between captivating and dishonest. Cut out the BS and earn respect for laying everything out as it is.

6. What Do You Want? 

You’ve charmed and disarmed whoever’s listening and they totally get what you problem you have identified and how you want to solve it. So please tell them what you want. Is it money (if it is, then what is it for?), or a business contract? Perhaps you want their endorsement or you want them to be a partner? All this displays how you know where you want to take this startup.

7. Open the door to future conversation

It hardly happens in 60 seconds, so make sure there’s platform for future discussion. Make it worth that second meeting and open that door. Give a business card, angle for a meeting, ask for leads or get pointed in the direction of a better suited investor.

8. Perfect It!

An elevator pitch has to be practiced up to the point where it is easy to run through it to any sort of listener with a natural and smooth delivery. Own your pitch! This is something that everyone on the startup team should be able to do as well, not just “Our business and marketing lead.” Part of this practice involves answering lots of questions that anyone might ask any of the team members.


  1. victory

    Great tips, thank you

  2. Khal Drogo

    I took copious notes

  3. Silke Jager

    Short and sweet is the name of the game when it comes to creating the perfect elevator pitch. It takes time and lots of practice to get it just right.