At the time of this pandemic that we live in, in which meetings and presentations are made virtually, pitch preparation is key. We detail some aspects to take into account when presenting your idea to worldwide investors and future clients.
The art of storytelling is essential to entrepreneurs. The difference between a good pitch and a bad pitch can mean millions of euros for your startup. And during a pandemic, when meetings and presentations are all done virtually, preparing a pitch has to take into account technical aspects like a good internet connection and quality audio, or your audience could end up boycotting your pitch. In addition to practical matters, other fundamental factors include cultural context (a pitch for US investors isn’t the same as one for Europeans) and your stage presence (which also conveys a message).
To help you prepare a good virtual pitch, we spoke with the specialists who teach the Biocat E-Pitch Training program: entrepreneur Luis Ruiz Ávila (CEO of startups like Ruti Immune, Leukos and Aquilon Cyl and mentor in the Mentor & Coaching Network of EIT Health), and Diana Sansó (psychologist, coach and consultant in Leadership and Team Development in the healthcare industry), who gave us some key tips to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
We also traveled to Silicon Valley, virtually, and spoke with two professionals from the BioRegion who live and work in the biotech and technology ecosystem there: Pablo Villoslada, serial entrepreneur and professor of Neurology at Stanford University, and Jordi Argente, entrepreneur, consultant and investor at New Market Venture Management LLC in Menlo Park (California). Both of these professionals took part in the Virtual Disruptour Silicon Valley organized by Biocat and ACCIÓ, and shared their take on what international investors are looking for in a pitch.
A good pitch has to be short and clear. The goal is to get investors’ interest initially, which could lead to more conversations when the entrepreneur can go into greater detail about their project. “A pitch is a short story with a goal. Its purpose is to influence, not inform,” explains Ruiz Ávila. “It has to be short and clear: no more than 10 slides and under 20 minutes of explanation... And you never read the slides.” According to Pablo Villoslada, founder of Accure Therapeutics and Chief Medical Officer of QMENTA, “you should sell one or two ideas, max. It has to be very specific.”
Diana Sansó emphasizes the unconscious message you are sending with your presence: “how you talk, what you do and how you look are essential. You have to make sure you’re sending your audience the right message.” Plus, a virtual pitch, Sansó says, must respect these sacred rules:
Another trick, Villoslada says, is to “record the presentation so you can send the video if something goes wrong.” Argente, for his part, notes that, the forced virtuality imposed by the pandemic means entrepreneurs have many more opportunities to pitch, but “they have to be more efficient than ever and provide a very good distillation of the message that is also entertaining so the over-saturated audience doesn’t fall asleep.”
It’s also important to adapt the pitch to your audience and cultural setting. As Pablo Villoslada says, “Giving a pitch isn’t the same in Barcelona as it is in Paris, London or the United States. It even differs from the East coast to the West, where they show up in flip-flops and a t-shirt.” He also highlights the difference in the tone and messages conveyed by entrepreneurs: “In the US, pitches are much more over the top, entrepreneurs have gone to the moon and back. In Europe, they’re more stoic.” Entrepreneur Ana Maiques, founder of Neuroelectrics and based in the United States, agrees: “In Europe, we weren’t prepared for such savage competition. When I got here, US investors gave me 15-minute meetings to introduce myself, understand what they were looking for and explain my plan of action.”
In terms of the pitches from startups in the BioRegion that Jordi Argente has had the opportunity to see, he finds them lacking ambition and a more global vision: “To raise money, you have to have a global view of the market and show you can become a leader in your sector. Venture capital won’t take a risk on an okay company, they want to invest in the number 1 or 2 of the future. If the numbers don’t convince them, they won’t get involved,” says Argente, who also says many local companies don’t show enough ambition and settle for the European market or, at most, Latin America.
A key part of any entrepreneurial project is the team and you have to sell it in the best light possible in your pitch. “The team will execute your idea and allow for the exponential growth investors demand,” says Argente. Both he and Villoslada agree that local startups have tons of scientific and technological talent, but they need good business profiles: “You might have a good product, but without the contacts to reach big pharmaceutical or distribution companies, you won’t be successful. You have to have a more ambitious vision of the business,” says Argente.
Biomedical engineer Laura Lizama and industrial engineer Sofía Ferreira are the founders of Heecap, a young startup that wants to revolutionize the treatment of respiratory patients in the ICU. Both have taken part in Biocat e-Pitch Training Program and recently they have won the EIT Health Fellowship Network Alumni Showcase 2020 (junior category), putting in practice the learnings of the program. Lizama says that the training “was a great opportunity to be able to practice the pitch without much pressure. I have learnt that, aside from the content, it is important to focus on the technical part: the internet connection, the light…” Both Laura and Sofía are fellows of d·HEALTH Barcelona 2020.
DyCare founder Silvia Raga has also made the most of the training: “From the first moment I have put into practice the inputs received and I have focused the investors’ attention in the selected points”. Likewise, Universitat Pompeu Fabra biomedical researcher Avencia Sánchez-Mejías, leader of Uni-Large project, has successfully applied the lessons learned in her presentations: “We have had a great number of meetings with national and International investors and I can say that we have achieved more engagement: they have understood our technology better and as a result we have had a more profund discussion.”