Advice India Startups

11 Tips on Pitching an Investor, Mentor, etc.

Over the last few months, I’ve Been hearing lots of pitches from entrepreneurs. Before going on, I want to say, congrats to all of you on taking the leap towards building your businesses.

That being said, I want to tell you that most of your pitches suck! 75% of the time I want to go to sleep after the first 3 minutes. I guess it’s not your fault (the education system in India never really teaches public speaking). Do the research. It can only help you. Don’t “read Facebook” (I had to put that in. A lovely quote from an entrepreneur I recently met.)! Go read some incredible posts by people like Mark Suster, Dave McClure, Eric Ries, Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, etc.

I’m no pitch expert but here are a few pointers from what I’ve learned over the years.

  1. Do some research on the person/people you are pitching to and understand, as best as you can, their perspective BEFORE walking into pitch them.
  2. Start with the problem. In two to three sentences, explain what is the problem. If you can’t do it in three sentences, stretch it to five but get the problem across in e first thirty to sixty seconds. If you can’t hook the other party and help her identify with the problem in sixty seconds, you will lose them for the rest of the meeting. Check out this post by Dave McClure
  3. In another sixty seconds, explain your solution. Don’t take five minutes to do this. Sixty seconds to ninety seconds is the most time you should take to explain your solution.
  4. Don’t make up jargon that doesn’t fit with the industry vertical you are talking about. For example, I had two entrepreneurs working in the travel space talking about products and content and I’m thinking souvenirs and TripAdvisor. They were actually talking about customized city tours and concierge services. That was ten minutes of my life that I was never getting back. Stick to terms people identify with your industry. It makes it easier for people to follow along.
  5. Practice! Practice! Practice! Record yourself pitching on a video camera or webcam and watch it over and over. Critique yourself objectively and repeat. Share it with friends or family and see if they ‘get it’. Got to startup events like Startup Weekend where you can do 60 second pitches as well as long form demos and presentations.
  6. Refine your pitch every time you do it. Don’t stick to what you always do. If you have done 1), then you should be able to do your pitch in a way that resonates with your audience
  7. If the person you are pitching starts asking questions, that’s a good thing. You want them to interrupt you and be engaged. This means they are interested and/or trying to help. Don’t try to get thru the rest of your mental pitch in a specific order. Engage them in a discussion about the problem and your solution. (Check out Dave McClure’s talk ‘How to Pitch a VC’ from Startup Weekend Delhi)
  8. Be prepared to pitch without a deck. If you have one, pull it out but a demo is far more interesting if you really need to show something.
  9. Show passion! I find this incredibly important. Most of the entrepreneurs I come across in India may be passionate, but they don’t show it. Speak with conviction and show your passion about your idea, your business, and your team. Emotions can work in your favor if you do it right.
  10. Be open-minded. I may not know as much about your industry as you do but if you asked to meet, consider my suggestions with an open-mind. I may surprise you 🙂
  11. Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know. It makes you look more foolish than if you honestly say you have no idea what I’m talking about. You won’t believe how many times people pretend to know and follow Eric Ries‘ Lean Startup methodology but really know nothing more than buzzwords. If you don’t know something, it will show so don’t pretend.

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Startup Weekend is Coming to India

Startup Weekend is a 54 hour event where developers, designers, and entrepreneurs get together and build great new Internet and mobile products. Startup Weekend is coming to India

Get your tickets to Startup Weekend Delhi or Startup Weekend Bangalore before the early-bird pricing ends.

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Namaste India

Namaste India - Taj Mahal
Picture Copyright of Pankaj Jain

In early 2007, we made a commitment to open our office in New Delhi, India and begin building a platform to help connect India’s unskilled labor force with the Indian middle and upper class that had a requirement for unskilled labor like nannies, cooks, maids, drivers and other domestic services. We finally opened our office in January 2008, cutting through lots of red tape, hiring and firing a few unproductive legal and accounting “consultants”, borrowing office space and hiring a few college students as interns.

Some of the ups and downs that Teknatus faced have been documented on the Teknatus blog. However, the blog has been fairly silent for quite some time. I’ve finally been able to look back in a rear view mirror and talk about the journey, that eventually led to the closing of Teknatus’ New Delhi office, and my return to New York City.

This is the intro in a series of posts I’ll be doing on Teknatus’ journey in India and my decision to ultimately shut down Teknatus Solutions Private Limited. I hope other entrepreneurs in India and those considering a move to India get some valuable information from thus series of posts.

Stay tuned for Part I.

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Startup Saturday Delhi November Roundup

Startup Saturday Delhi held on November 14th, was a Food and Beverage theme this month. This was the first time we held a Startup Saturday Delhi with absolutely no connection to technology. We hope those of you in the audience found it to be a refreshing change.

Preet Saini of Mrs. Kaur's
Preet Saini of Mrs. Kaur's
Our first speaker was Preet Saini, founder of Mrs. Kaur’s. Mrs. Kaur’s makes premium American style cookies, brownies, and other confectionary items. Mrs. Kaur’s has also started a restaurant in Khan Market, New Delhi. Preet is a serial entrepreneur and has done many different types of businesses. He discussed his learnings from each and every business he started and how he was able to learn from each one to launch Mrs. Kaur’s and grow it rapidly in 3 years with no marketing budget at all. One example he cited was that even before they were ready to go, he had t-shirts, baseball hats, and delivery scooters covered in the Mrs. Kaur’s logo. As soon as they started putting up stalls at various local fairs, people immediately got the impression that Mrs. Kaur’s was a much larger company than it was.

Akhilesh Bali of Mithai Mate
Akhilesh Bali of Mithai Mate
Our next speaker was Akhilesh Bali, founder of Mithai Mate. Mithai Mate allows people to buy Indian sweets online from various distributors across India. You can buy the sweets for yourself or send them as a gift to others. Mithai Mate is run out of the bedrooms of the 3 founders. They launched the service approximately 7 months ago and are averaging 5-6 orders per day right now. Mithai Mate has developed partnerships with various confectioners across India from Jammu and Kashmir to Delhi to Jabalpur and beyond. One of the biggest challenges they faced in the beginning was the inability to get preferred pricing from their partners and logistical issues with delivery in India. As the orders have come in, some of Mithai Mate’s partners have recognized their growth and began entertaining a different pricing model, which would allow Mithai Mate to be able to make a profit on each delivery.

Nitin Agarwal of Chakhle India
Nitin Agarwal of Chakhle India
Our final speaker was Nitin from Chakhle India which has 15 locations serviced by push carts selling clean, tasty, authentic Indian food. Nitin faced different issues than some of the other entrepreneurs we’ve had come and speak at Startup Saturday. His challenges were goons and certain other people in and around Gurgaon trying to hit his vendors up for money. He also faced the problem of existing street vendors fighting with him for turf. Again, Chakhle India, began presenting an image the portrayed it as a much larger company that it was. As the corrupt and degenerate began believing that Chakhle was backed by a much larger and potentially powerful group, the extortion problem died down. Today, Chakhle has carved out a niche by servicing a large number of people (from all economic classes) around Gurgaon who enjoy street food but are afraid of getting sick because of a lack of hygiene.

Our thanks to Preet, Akhilesh and Nitin for sharing their entrepreneurial journeys at Startup Saturday.

The next Startup Saturday Delhi will be held on December 12th, 2009 from 2pm till 6pm at the American Center on KG Marg. We look forward to seeing you there.

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Startup Saturday Delhi October 2009

Bipin Singh from MobiKwik at Startup Saturday Delhi Oct. 2009

Startup Saturday Delhi was held at the American Center on October 10th 2009. This month, we had three great talks from Bipin Singh, CEO of MobiKwik, Manish Rathi from GlobalLogic, and Rajeev Kumar CEO of RockeTalk.

Bipin Singh from MobiKwik at Startup Saturday Delhi Oct. 2009
Bipin Singh from MobiKwik at Startup Saturday Delhi Oct. 2009

Bipin, started the afternoon off with an introduction to MobiKwik and their offering. MobiKwik launched just 2 months ago and currently is focused on mobile pre-paid recharge in India. MobiKwik wants to offer the first comprehensive list carrier agnostic PULL services. MobiKwik plans to add additional features and services in the future, some of which will be comparing plans across all Indian mobile operators.

Manish Rathi from GlobalLogic was up next to talk about opportunities in the health care space in India. Manish had a great presentation and the audience was extremely vocal about a few points that Manish made. Take a look at Manish’s post for the slides and his thoughts on presenting at Startup Saturday.
Manish discusses opportunities in health care in India
Manish discusses opportunities in health care in India

Rajeev discusses RockeTalk

Finally, Rajeev Kumar, CEO of RockeTalk was up to discuss his innovative startup. Rajeev’s presentation was only 3 slides but it also ran the longest. For a few minutes, I thought security at the American Center would have to walk us straight from the auditorium to the exit. However, Rajeev was gracious enough to continue the discussions in the atrium during the networking hour. RockeTalk has brought voice-based ‘chat rooms’ to smaller cities, towns, sub-urban and rural parts of India by developing a small downloadable app that allows people not connected to the Internet to use their mobile handsets to communicate with others, using voice and GPRS (sorry, no 3G in India yet and probably not for a while longer).