The Great Elevator Pitch Competition: You Have 60 Seconds to Convince Me to Give You a Million Dollars (or $10 Million)
It was a good crowd, probably close to 130 people, that piled into Kirsch Auditorium at MIT’s Stata Center on Monday night. Four brave students were there to stand in front of them, each with only 60 seconds to pitch their business idea. Talk about pressure. And to add to their angst, the students had just listened to one of their teachers wax on about how eloquent and passionate and convincing they needed to be. Yours truly was to be one of the judges of how well they pulled that off.
Such was the scene at the first stage of a new business competition, the MIT 100K Elevator Pitch Contest that is being launched this year to add a new dimension to the famous MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition held each spring. Don’t be misled by the “100K” part of the name. The Elevator Pitch Contest, although it complements the 100K competition, carries a top prize of just $2,500. (There are also eight separate $1000 awards, including one for the most popular pitch, as judged by audience response.) For the spring event, teams need a real business plan. For the elevator contest, which is open to anyone with a business idea that hasn’t yet been fully commercialized, they just need a pitch.
The EPC, as insiders fondly call it, will take place on Saturday, October 13. (I suggested that we place the contestants in a box resembling an elevator, but that pitch, anyway, appears to have fallen on deaf ears.) Monday night’s event was a training session to go over some of the best “elevator” practices and offer an opportunity for a few daring souls to actually get some practice and demonstrate what to do—or, to be honest, what not to do. You could call me, then, a training judge or a warm-up act judge: no doubt through an oversight of the committee, I have not yet received my invitation to judge the real contest.
Still, it was a great night. After a brief introduction by Burt LaFountain, a first-year MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a member of the 100K planning team, Bill Aulet took center stage. Entrepreneur in residence at the MIT Entrepreneurship Center and a senior lecturer at the Sloan School of Management (and an Xconomist), Bill has ridden in many elevators. He’s also helped raise over $100 million for companies he’s worked with and even won the 100K as an MBA student himself (although as he noted, “I’m so old, I was a winner when it was the 10K.”). In any case, Bill, ever-dynamic and enthusiastic, was a perfect choice to lay out some basic EP principles for the audience. From a show of hands, the crowd was almost all students, most of them Sloanies.
Aulet noted that an elevator pitch can be tailored for different goals, from selling customers to attracting partners to raising money. But whatever the aim, he said, remember this: “It’s a pitch, it’s not a presentation. It’s the bare essentials.” The point is to generate enthusiasm and follow-on interest for an idea, so elevator pitchers need to deliver a picture that compellingly captures these ingredients, Aulet said: What is the pain today, who is feeling it, what aspirin you are offering—and why you, why now? “Sounds simple, but sometimes it’s forgotten,” he added.
To define the challenge more clearly, Aulet then pushed a button on his laptop so the students could hear first-hand the words of that famous business philosopher, Eminem. The inspirational … Next Page »
Trending on Xconomy
By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.