How to coach a pitch

Startup Runway has a number of coaches that are volunteering to help startups work on their pitch. To keep the same kind of dialogue going, we’re sharing a standard structure for those pitch coaching sessions.

Coaching pitch practice

Download the workbook. Startups should already have this, and coaches need to use the same framework.

Download Guide

2.  Meet with the startup. Our pitch coaching sessions are Friday afternoons at The Gathering Spot in the restaurant area by the big “garage” windows. You’ll likely see a few startups there at tables. Plan on meeting for about 45 minutes. Please confirm your meeting with your startup the day before. Parking is free.

3. Have the startup pitch you without a deck first. Then, have the founder go through their pitch deck timed for 5 minutes with no interruptions by you. Did they make it through the deck? The clock is a real issue–you can help them get used to it.

After the timed pitch, spend 2 minutes asking questions. Could they answer directly and briefly? Non Defensively? Now, pull out a sheet of paper and jot down some numbers…

4. Score the pitch.

Startup Runway scores pitches on three major elements: team, traction, and hypergrowth.

a. Rank the Team on a scale from 1-5. A 5 means you cannot possibly imagine a stronger team to do this mission.

b. Rank how visible the product is and how well customers are responding, on a scale from 1-5.  For example, a concept with no code is a zero on this scale. A company onboarding 200 users a day in their first two month is a 5.

c. Rank the business model’s Hypergrowth Potential: On a scale from 1-5.

For reference, a services firm would score zero for hypergrowth potential since even top growing services firms run at 20-25% year over year growth.

A product company with ecommerce distribution could score a 1.

A product company with some kind of highly preferred distribution might score a 2.

A services business with a software backbone, like Uber, could score a 2-4. A pure software business would score a 5.)

5. So now you have 3 numbers–a baseline for that startup’s pitch. Likely, not all 5’s! Talk with the entrepreneur about how they could improve those three important scores. You might focus on one area, if there is one area that is standing out to you as a coach.

Use the Socratic method–meaning, asking questions and lead them to think, rather than tell them the answer (even if you are sure you know it).

  • Please share your direct experiences and connections generously.
  • Please do not provide “empty advice”–ie, the, “if I were you.” Limit your constructive guidance to things you directly experienced and have first hand knowledge of.

6. If you are open to it, schedule a second pass in one week, same time same place, to see the revised pitch.

After your pitch practice

Pat yourself on the back for a serious service delivered to a company at a critical time. Consider taking a pic and tweeting it — if you tag @valorvc we’ll retweet you.