Gone in 60 Seconds

I’ve worked with a number of higher-level decision makers; and have at times wondered if their directness and urgency, their push “to get to the point” was a bit of an act – a convenient persona; but after this exercise, things are changing.


I hear the EVA voice inside my head pushing to get the pitcher to hurry up.  It’s not that I want them to speak faster, but I want them to spend less time on material that is not relevant to my decision.  There is one question I want answered before I can devote any attention to the deeper levels of consideration and analysis.  Answer this: Does it work?  As a product, as a business, an idea, a venture – can you help me believe in this with you?


With that in mind – here are my bullet point re-writes that would have helped pitchers stay with them past the first 60 seconds:


Recombo ’04:

  • The Content Object approach to computing is changing everything – the US Department of Defense sees this as a significant new development in computing.
  • Our company builds hardware that makes this type of computing work.
  • The chairman of the board is the guy who built Lycos Terra
  • Motorola and Sun Microsystems are buying our hardware
  • We’ve just taken on a client that’s using our hardware to deliver on contracts with 800 of the Fortune 1000.


Recombo ‘05

  • We’ve been in business for more than three years, and we’re reaping some of the rewards of having survived the early start-up challenges.
  • We’ve just signed one of the largest companies in the publishing industry – they are switching their entire operation over to our platform – they are really excited about the advantages we’re opening up.
  • Mindleaders has a client base of approximately 700 major corporate clients.
  • Mindleaders wants to leverage their huge client base to develop new customers for our company; our agreement rewards them if their clients buy from us.



  • Our team is composed of the top E-learning developers in Canada:  I’m the director of E-Learning BC and co-chair of the National organization. We recruit experts from universities across the country.
  • Our company is doing well; we have solid contracts with a list of significant clients.
  • We have the option of expanding into Vietnam – a hub for multinationals and international banks.
  • The Vietnamese Education Sector is growing (X) times faster than the North American market.
  • Our early trips have already produced a number of contracts; we think we could take the leadership position in this market within the next 18 months.


1 Carolann Fraenkel { 09.13.08 at 9:52 pm }

Hi Michael,

Well written. I like the “points” that you outlined. I must say I couldn’t even tell in the Recombo pitches what exactly the product was.

2 davidp { 09.13.08 at 10:47 pm }

I see a new venture –> Peterson Pitchmeisters.


3 David Wees { 09.13.08 at 11:37 pm }

I like the bullet point version of the pitches, its much easier to follow than what I heard.


4 Laura Macleod { 09.14.08 at 4:10 am }

Michael –
There’s certainly a difference between convincing passion and desperation for money, although a good actor can morph one into the other. The article from the Harvard Business Review was really helpful in thinking about differentiating the strength of ideas from the strength of personality.

My experience with sales reps tells me, though, that personality goes a long, long way!

5 davidp { 09.14.08 at 9:23 am }

Although it’s an older link from the early days of high-tech venture capital, some of its principles likely still apply re. angel investment …


6 davidp { 09.14.08 at 9:24 am }

And another more recent article in the online business press about venture assessment criteria …


7 Joe Dobson { 09.14.08 at 10:16 am }

Michael’s comment “Answer this: Does it work? As a product, as a business, an idea, a venture – can you help me believe in this with you?” hits the nail bang on. The 12 minute pitch comes down to that aspect of credibility – of people & idea, and without these falling into place the details – plan, status, etc. won’t be enough.

8 Jarrod Bell { 09.14.08 at 12:28 pm }

I like the idea of short and to the point but would you invest in me if I gave you five bullet highlights on a piece of paper? I think the story of the people and the business can be lost a little in translation. I’d like to see that the leader believes in their company and their vision. With just the bullets and the sixty seconds I’m not sure that will come through…

Perhaps the 60 second pitch would be used as a gate keeper for what gets you to the 12 minute pitch.


9 Gillian Gunderson { 09.14.08 at 12:53 pm }

I agree with you, Jarrod – the efficiency could be used in an “elevator pitch”.

I could also see the bulleted points being part of the 12 minute presentation. They are a strong and compelling reason for potential investment.

They could be main points around which supporting evidence could be discussed – perhaps somewhat like the Minto Pyramid suggested by someone else (sorry can’t remember who posted this link).

No one likes to have Power Point slides read out verbatim, so the points could provide the background, while the “passion” of the presenter creates the excitement.

Or, they could be the start of the presentation (the attention-getter, to make the VCs want more) with the details filling out the rest of the time.

10 Gillian Gunderson { 09.14.08 at 1:01 pm }

The paper suggested by Dave, “Venture capitalists’ evaluations of start-up teams: trade-offs, knock-out criteria, and the impact of VC experience”, brought up some interesting points.

Earlier this week, I was confused about different information concerning the importance of management teams to VCs. In one of the suggested videos, the investors talked about being able to fill in managerial areas that were “missing”. This suggested to me that the management team was not particularly important.

This paper does highlight the importance of having a strong team, even if all elements are not present, and it also shows how to use strengths to balance weaknesses.

Another interesting point raised was the concept of less experienced VCs being the ones that often listened to the initial pitches. At times, what inexperienced VCs consider important differs from that which is important to more experienced VCs.

I guess that who is in the audience is as important as what is in the pitch!

11 Deepika Sharma { 09.14.08 at 10:05 pm }

I agree with Michael (and others) – about the fact that senior management is impatient – a liitle something that experience taught me – Make your first slide the bullet points of the whoe prez – just what has been bulleted by Michael and if there is something the mgt team wants to skip – they will let you know – but at least you got to show the entire case to them 🙂

Also, another point that davidV made in my post – that of personality – goes a long way – what you pitch + how you pitch..goes a long way and that is why the “showrunner” within the pitcher has to be let lose 🙂

Well said Mike!

12 Marc Kampschuur { 09.16.08 at 4:24 pm }

The venture assessment criteria article was very interesting, not just as a predictor of funding but also relative value of what individuals bring to the table.

Recall well qualified growing beards just out of university to look older…

13 Marc Kampschuur { 09.16.08 at 4:33 pm }

Here is a link to the article with tables intact.

http://members.shaw.ca/ETEC/VC Article.pdf

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