• 10 September 2019
  • USB-ED
  • 6 min

Get your business elevator pitch to be pitch perfect

We help individuals get from A to Z with a simple ride-sharing app.” “We use a simple chat interface to help businesses communicate better.” Those are Uber and Slack’s elevator pitches – short, sweet summaries that condense the business mission to the core vision. Getting a pitch perfect is trickier said than done, because it requires a crystal-clear vision and strategy.

What is an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch is the best way to share what you do. It should last no longer than the average elevator ride of 20-30 seconds. It’s a passionate summary. You need to get it pitch perfect. It shouldn’t be salesy or pushy. Rather, it’s a way to convey just what makes your business special, memorable and vital to the world! End with a strong call-to-action and make sure your enthusiasm shines throughout.

What should be included in an elevator pitch?

Follow these steps:

  1. What’s your goal? What’s the nugget you want people to take away from it?
  2. Explain what you solve and how you make a difference to people’s lives.
  3. Talk about what makes you special.
  4. End with a call-to-action or question… for example, ask an open-ended question like “What business challenges do you have? Maybe we can chat about how we could assist?”

Here are three ‘elevator pitches’ from three successful South African start-ups. Can you guess the start-up from its pitch?

Elevator pitch A: We are a job board that automatically sources and screens job applicants, so employers don’t have to. This enables us to help businesses find the best staff, faster and more affordably than any other way.

Elevator pitch B: We provide an end-to-end solution to help farmers all over the world manage their farms throughout the year. We offer early-stage pest and disease detection enabled by drone imagery and artificial intelligence. This allows farmers to conveniently inspect problems on their farms using our web and mobile app, after which they can make actionable decisions – saving them time and money.

Elevator pitch C: We make great food accessible and convenient, promote ethical eating and help people to learn to cook. We started the business out of a garage; today, we deliver tens of thousands of meals every week, nationwide, to people who are just as passionate about cooking and food as we are.

Did you manage to guess? A is Giraffe, a recruitment start-up; B is Aerobotics, an aerial/ agriculture start-up; and C is UCOOK, a home catering start-up.

What it takes to create a strong elevator pitch

You need a very strong business concept, strategy and vision. UCook, for example, was founded by friends who were brought together by their common obsession with delicious, easy-to-prepare food. Founder David Torr says the idea first occurred to him when he was wondering where to eat in Thailand – food became a recurring topic, and the idea of dinner kits came into being. Torr says the concept immediately made sense, “I love food and cooking, but fundamentally do not possess the time to think up and page through recipe books and then buy ingredients for a week’s dinners.”

It also made market sense. He adds, “I figured the commercial opportunity was interesting with factors like Woolworths’ strength in a period of relative economic decline and the success of brands like Yuppiechef indicating two factors of interest. 1: People were willing to spend money on good quality food; and 2: The early adopters of ecommerce within SA clearly enjoyed cooking.” Hence UCook – making great food accessible, ethical, and convenient – took flight.

Giraffe’s story is also predicated on spotting a need. The start-up was founded with one specific objective in mind – to tackle South Africa’s unemployment problem head-on. Siobhan Zurnamer, Growth Marketer at Giraffe, says that the team noticed a common issue South African employers face is staff attrition. They hurry to fill a gap and may ‘settle’ for someone who is not necessarily right for the role – same goes for job seekers who may settle for the ‘wrong’ employer.

So, Giraffe was conceptualised to use tech to matchmake employers with employees. It spotted a fundamental challenge and came up with a proactive solve and business strategy. It’s helped hundreds of thousands of candidates to date.

The same goes for Aerobotics. The team realised farmers aren’t always aware of what’s happening on the ground. So, it decided to capitalise on drone technology to collect data at scale and build the analytics and software to provide solutions throughout the agricultural supply chain. And bolster food security in the process. This aligned with the team’s technical skills in aeronautical engineering, agriculture and machine learning.  It now has clients in 18 countries, with offices in Cape Town and Los Angeles. The common thread? Spotting a real challenge faced by South Africans and solving it.

Both businesses have a very clear mission and values. Both were built to solve real-world challenges. Both are committed to making a difference to society. These factors feed into why these start-ups can do a great elevator pitch. They have all the foundations in place.

Getting the foundations right:
Some other advice from the successful start-ups on mastering the foundations:

Start with the basics. Make sure you upskill yourself with the entrepreneurial mindset and skills required to build a business that lasts. James Paterson, CEO of Aerobotics, says, “I believe the best way to upskill in this space is through experience, which can be achieved through starting your own venture or joining another start-up. Having said this, it is also necessary to learn some of the fundamentals and theory, all of which can now be found online.”

Be open to learning, continuously. Paterson adds, “It’s crucial to be open to change and learning – you need to instil a culture of high frequent learning (and feedback) cycles for yourself and across your business. Starting a venture is all about having assumptions around some problem that you believe is worth solving – as a result, you should continually be testing these assumptions and learning from the results, as outlined in the Lean Methodology (which entirely revolves around continuous learning).”

Build something bigger than yourself. Torr says, “It has been amazing to watch the team and the business grow beyond the confines of the garage; being part of that growth journey across from all facets has been truly incredible.” Scale carefully and responsibly, when and if it makes business sense to do so.

USB-ED offers myriad business strategy-oriented courses that can help you set the fundamentals for a new business venture, so you have all the basics in place to build on and get your pitch perfect.

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