“The framework I found, which made the decision incredibly easy, was what I called - which only a nerd would call - a “regret minimization framework.” So I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, “Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to minimise the number of regrets I have.” I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision.”
- Jeff Bezos
Not involving any spreadsheets or a business plan, isn’t the above a beautiful way to think about what to do with one’s life? When we set out to do things, there is no guarantee of success. However, failure though hurts passes quickly whereas regrets hurt forever. It is hard when you look back if opportunities were missed due to a lack of initiative. Many successful people when asked about their failure more often talk of acts of omission than commission; those related to not willingly performing an action versus resulting from actions performed.
Jeff Bezos was echoing the thoughts of Mark Twain, who said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream, Discover.”
As an entrepreneur, one of the skills you will be gauged on will be your soft skills. While the initial idea is paramount, marquee investors bet on the team more than the idea. That is one reason why investors prefer serial entrepreneurs; the ideas may be drastically different from one venture to another, but they are putting their money on the individual or the team of individuals’ capacity and capability to sell a vision, assemble a team and execute flawlessly.
6 Essential Soft Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master
Skills can be divided into hard and soft skills. Hard skills as known as technical skills are skills that pertain to the domain of work. For example, for a teacher, it would be his or her understanding and command over the subject. On the other hand, soft skills are a collection of skills that pertain to personal and social lives. They are complementary and a balance of both skills would be the right mix.
Communication is one of the key skills that will help lubricate the start-up journey. Your other skills such as leadership, team building, problem solving and prioritisation will have a dependency on how good a communicator you are. Communication involves listening, writing, speaking and presenting to small and large audiences effectively. Ability to tailor the communication to the audience and react judiciously knowing the audience's pulse will be key.
Once you have validated a start-up idea, the next step is pitching it to the world - other prospective founding team members, customers and investors. While it may seem daunting, there are steps we can take to make it a success.
Tell a story
Can you present a real-life scenario or situation in which you can describe the pain point that a prospective customer or user faces today? What are the problems being faced and what is the time, effort or dollars that they expend today to get something done? It always helps to quantify if you can, for example, how a certain task takes x hours or the number of people that have to employ to get the work completed or the $ amount they have to spend. Then, go on to show how your new product or service can fix the issue.
This helps the investors get into the shoes of prospective customers and engage actively with the problem they are trying to address. A real-life depiction or scenario that you have painted helps to go into the specifics in a structured manner. It is important to get into the key or highlights of the problem right in the beginning and in a way that they want to hear more. You can peel the layers one at a time and present more details based on how the conversation proceeds. Once the problem is acknowledged to be one of further exploration, the story can go into the size of the market, how you will attract customers, achieve the product-market fit and other details of what it takes to go after the opportunity.
Forms of pitches
Generally, there are 3 different kinds of pitches that are in use today: elevator pitch, short-form pitch and long-form pitch.
The Elevator pitch
is one of the most popular pitches and one you can deliver in 60 seconds or less. This needs to be concise with the problem you are going after, the value proposition of your solution and the capital requirements laid out in the simplest manner.
allow for a little more detail and run for 3 to 10 minutes. This accords you an opportunity to cover additional elements such as the market size, competitive landscape, variants of the offering for different sets of customers and how the requested capital will be employed.
which can be from 1 to a few hours, are an opportunity to present a lot of details of the business plan. You can dive into the real-time scenario, inefficiencies of the current approaches, and present or emerging competitors and you will ward them off, a detailed roadmap, the month-wise execution plan for the upcoming year and even an exit strategy for the investor.
It is advisable to have all three pitches ready so that you can deploy the right one, based on the opportunity. It is also not uncommon to start with one and then go into another. So you will need a mental picture of how you can double-click from one to another, based on the investor appetite.
Also, be prepared for unexpected questions. Try and anticipate questions, however in the event of a completely unanticipated question, just acknowledge and ask for time to revert. Do not lie or try to fake it. Honesty will go a long way.
Investors also look for the passion that comes through your energy, gestures and expressions. Independent of the format of the pitch, keep in mind to be real and authentic.
Dealing with rejections
True for entrepreneurs too. It is quite common for entrepreneurs to be criticised and even rejected. When faced with rejection, entrepreneurs must remain objective and professional. Make allowance for what was shared and see whether anything needs to be changed to accommodate just and fair criticism. Do not take it personally. Believe in your idea.
J.K.Rowling’s manuscript was rejected by 12 different publishers before the final acceptance. Not just that, even after the success of the “Harry Potter” series, one of her newer manuscripts was rejected when submitted under a different pen name. Determine the next steps and take the criticism/rejection in your stride and use that fuel to your start-up fire.
Present your best self to the world!
SoME Education believes pitching is an art and, like any art, requires effort, practice, and feedback to improve upon. Our Pitch Perfect Programme is for all entrepreneurs who want to work on brushing up their pitching skills, strengthen their communication, and present their products with confidence. The course will focus on understanding the basics of pitching and what makes a successful pitch, preparing a strong script and visuals, and learning to manage audience reactions.