How to pitch in Silicon Valley

Pia Schneider · 4 min · 22.08.2017

“Our time together is limited, there is no time to be nice. Don’t be surprised, but my feedback is going to be fairly brutal” these were the words of Chris Burry, Co -CEO of US Market Access Centre and a serial entrepreneur himself, when welcoming to the 3 day pitch camp organized by Swisscom for the finalists of this year’s StartUp Challenge. It will be tough, that’s what everyone knew by that moment.


Chris Burry, giving a pitch coaching session at the Swisscom Pirates Hub.


The finalists of this year’s Swisscom StartUp Challenge had the opportunity to attend a whole-day workshop with Chris as well as two 1:1 sessions of one hour each. It was tough and intense, but worth it: “It’s amazing how much we were able to profit from Chris’ expertise in these three days. The direct feedback that he gave is extremely valuable and something that will help us to improve our pitch in the future ” said finalist and Co-Founder of CARU, Susanne Dröscher. And these are the main points of the pitch camp:


  • The importance of sales: Sales or death. If you don’t manage to sell your product, you’re going to fail. More startups fail because they lack customers than because of a failure in the product development. Therefore…
  • Be customer centric, not solution centric/don’t talk about your baby: The customer doesn’t want to know how beautiful your baby is, he wants to know what problem you are solving for him and why that is better for him than letting your competition solve that problem.
  • Define your value proposition according to the NABC approach: Define N: the need -what problem are you solving? A: approach – in what way is your approach unique to solve that problem? B: benefits – what is the specific benefit that the customer will receive? And C: competition – how does your benefits differ from the ones offered by the competitors?
  • Don’t exaggerate: Saying that your solution has a disruptive technology that will be world leading is most probably not true and doesn’t add any information.


A cultural perspective

  • Be aware of the cultural background of the ones that you want to convince: Treat them according to their culture, not yours.
  • Some cultures are numbers-oriented, others are human-centred. Some languages are listener-oriented, others are speaker-oriented. The same words (and among them very important ones like the word “yes”) can have a total different meaning in different languages.


Plan your pitch according to the human nature of attention

  • First of all, you need a 20-30 seconds statement that gets the listener interested and answers his question, why he should care about your solution and give you his time to explain.
  • Congrats, the listener gave you some more time: You need to have a short pitch of 2-3 minutes that goes a little more into detail and is essential to the question whether the listener will give you even more time.
  • Finally, it’s time for the long pitch: You need a 10-15 minutes pitch where you can go deeper into business model and value proposition.


  • Keep it short: Learn to take away all the things that aren’t absolutely critical to the pitch. People tend to use more words than necessary to describe the relevant stuff.
  • Part of a pitch is about the ability of human connection: Connect to the audience, it gives the audience a sense of who you are as people, not as businessmen/-women.
  • You need to address 3 parts of the body: the brain, the heart and the gut. Most important of all is the heart. No one invests in your startup if he doesn’t like you, no matter how great your startup is.
  • Don’t be shy to tell what you lack and need: Every investor knows that you lack and need certain things, it is better to express them in a precise manner.
  • Be concrete with what you want: Amount of time, amount of money, mentoring.
  • Connect as a person: A great team can fix a messed-up product but not vice versa.
  • Don’t lie. Or at least be creative when you lie ;-).


Pia Schneider is an Open Innovation Developer at Swisscom’s Pirates Hub – in a team that is scouting startups for potential co-creation projects. She is responsible for the communication activities in and around the Pirates Hub and blogging about like the Swisscom Startup Challenge, the Kickstart Accelerator and all the current hot topics in the startup ecosystem.

Pia Schneider, Startups, Communication, Tech

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