Some weeks back, we had the pleasure of hosting a true expert in the art of pitching and a long-time friend of Startupbootcamp, Robin Dohmen, in our office in Aspire Dome. Throughout the week, Robin supported our 10 SportsTech startups in honing their pitches. With Demo Day around the corner, we thought it wise to look back at some of the tips and tricks Robin shared with us during his stay.
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Please introduce yourself. What is your background?
My name is Robin Dohmen. I used to be the head of design at Startupbootcamp in Amsterdam where I worked with a lot of startups and scaleups and grew my passion for innovation. Over the years I have founded a design agency together with my partner. We are now 21 people based in the Netherlands working more and more for corporates. However, every now and then I really enjoy to go back to my roots and have these super hectic and dynamic times with the startups as here in Qatar.
What have you been teaching the startups during your time here in Doha?
So the first thing that I focused on with them is a tool that we call the Pitch Canvas. A very dear friend, David Beckett, developed it over the years. It’s a tool that helps you get your message across in blogs. So think about a blog about your introduction, a blog for the problem that you are solving, a blog for the solution you are offering etc. That is what we did in the first half of the workshop. After that, the startups were pitching themselves, really showcasing their best blogs. They were showcasing the best side of themselves to really get into the state of mind of bragging about themselves and their startups.
What is proposition design actually about?
Some call it proposition design while others call it pitch design. Basically, what I am helping the startups with is to get them familiar with the different types of pitches that you have and how to best prepare for them. So I would say for the Demo Day that is coming up you have more of a general pitch from problem to solution towards business and market towards ask. You are looking for investment or you are looking for partnerships so your Demo Day pitch should cover most of the subjects. But if you have a face-to-face meeting with an investor, you should obviously go more into the team, the achievement of the team and the business model in the market. For every different meeting, you would have a different set-up and proposition. The proposition is always the same, but how you present that should be a little bit different.
What are your three tips that startups should always keep in mind when designing their pitch?
Tip Nr. 1 – Different meetings requires different stories
The first one and the most important one is to really get into the state of mind that different meetings require different pitches. As I just explained, a Demo Day pitch should cover, more or less, all the aspects that you can tell about yourself and your startups. Then again, if you are facing an investor, it should really be about the business model, the team and the market. But if you are having a sales or partnership meeting, it should really be about how implemented the product is to take away the anxiety of “will you guys deliver on time”? “What did you achieve so far”? “Where are the other customers so far”? It’s all about building trust, that would be the first tip; that for different meetings, you have different stories to tell.
Tip Nr. 2 – First story, then slides, then delivery
The second tip is; whenever you prepare for a Demo Day or for a large pitching event, as a startup you should always start by focusing on the storyline. You should do it with your team to get all the good points of the team, the business model, the market, etc. Get everything out. Get it in a really nice structure and order it in a logical way. Only then should you open Keynote or Powerpoint. Only then should you start designing your slides. If everybody is comfortable with the slides and only then you should start practicing and working on delivering the pitch with passion. So that would be the second tip: First story, then slides, then delivery.
Tip Nr. 3 – Keep it short, simple, and snappy
The last tip I would give is: Whatever you do, keep it short, simple, and snappy. Investors are super busy people. They don’t have a lot of time. They can always reach out to Twitter on their phones or to their laptop which is on the other hand. So keep it short and snappy. Never get into details too much and, if it is a sales conversation, never get too much into the product. Just keep it short and simple. This is the third tip I would say.
What is the most common challenge that startups are facing when defining their propositions?
Not only in Qatar but what I also saw in Dubai or in London and other programs in Amsterdam, is that all the startups want to say it all. I mean, they came through a nice global selection so they have a lot of positive and great stuff to mention, but they should really try to keep it short and snappy. Being on stage on a Demo on a Demo Day is a different story, but if you are in touch with an investor just keep it a short story. That is something that I think most startups face challenges with.
What excites you about this specific QST cohort?
They are so passionate about sports and about their solutions. A lot of them have really nice and touching personal stories. On average, I think this whole cohort is very professional and some of them I would almost consider as scaleups already. So these guys deliver a very good impression as a team and QST have done a good job of selecting them.
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