To those of you preparing for Slush 2017 100 pitching competition, we dearly hope this will help you get an idea of what to expect, what to look for and how to make the most out of it. Slush 100 pitching competition is quite a tough job just by the numbers. Out of 2,000+ startups you get screened down to the first 100, then you submit a detailed document circulated to judges (mostly investors) and you begin pitching. The flow of the competition is as follows: First round -> Maria 0-1 (mental hospital turned incubator) announcement -> next day Semifinals -> Finals
First round deck conditions were 3 pages, 3 minutes and 1 minute Q&A. We felt first round was the most difficult of the competition because your judges look at too many players in a short span and worse, you pitch with similar industry participants which can make things quite repetitive for the audience. Our suggestion is to totally memorize your script and to design your slides. You might be tempted to design the longer version because semifinals and finals do not have page limits (and you may reuse them here and there), but do so if you have the time to design both. Prioritize the three-pager.
We built our three-pager to cover product (market), features (competitive strength) and traction. In short, we described what SendBird is servicing (chat api, in-app chat sdk and etc), our technical moat and our traction in live video chat, clan chat, and others.
The night of the first round, you get called over to Maria 0-1 for the semifinalist announcements. I recommend you attend because they do not e-mail out the semifinalists until very late in the night. Once you are notified, you have a few hours to submit your deck and other materials for the pitch. For semifinals, you get unlimited pages, 5 minutes to pitch and 3 minutes to answer questions. I recall some participants submitting videos for semifinals, keep in mind if your product works well with videos. We did not have enough time to design the longer version, instead, we focused on delivery (self-justification). However, I do recommend short clips and designing it out if you can. You will be glad to have prepared well should you make it through.
Our ten-pager covered: product, features, three snapshots, customers, business model and traction.
SendBird's semifinals deck:
Slush 100 pitching competition finals:
This was really something, you hop on the main stage and you will meet the largest crowd you have ever met (most likely) during your startup career. Pitching competition success has no relation to success as a company, but the crowd surely wants to witness a potential next market winner from Slush. In addition, it is the very last event of Slush so everyone naturally crowds in to watch. The hosts do a very good job of making a show out of it, so all you need is to be prepared. Slush even provides effects like fire blasting around the stage to make it entertaining.
Let's go Mark!
During the finals, you are given 5 minutes to pitch and 7 minutes to answer questions. You can clearly sense the Q&A starting to get interesting because the judges study you and prepare the questions ahead. Another interesting treat from participating in the finals are a flood of Twitter mentions. For SendBird, some of our larger customers came in inbound through Twitter so a good flow of Twitter mentions was deeply appreciated. Above all, finals helped us boost team morale by a lot (at least for the week). We were thankful to have been supported and liked by a thick crowd of European and Asian customers and investors and that was very heartwarming for our product and sales team.