Week 10 & 11: Pitch towards Demo Day with Shawn O’Keefe

Fun fact: Want to know how the word blacksmith came about? Read below to find out more!

Pitch towards Demo Day

It’s two weeks to Demo Day, and teams have turned their attention towards pitching. It’s an art – making sure that you’re able to convey everything you need in a simple story. A story that shows why your solution is viable, why you have great product to market fit, and (in the context of R9) the significant impact that it causes in the space.

The problem is starting to write that story, then realizing that you’re missing gaps. Key partners, perhaps, that would be great if you have their endorsement. Traction and engagement in customers to show demand that that it has been validated correctly. Nobody wants to end up like that guy who won the prize of the worst invention ever to be brought to the Dragon’s Den.

And so the first two weeks of May included time spent with me and Laura Reitel (from Lightning Lab XX) in a “How to Pitch” session. Teams also watched lots of videos to understand what makes a good pitch, taking note of things to do and what not to do. Practice makes perfect, so we’ve started pitching sessions every Tuesday and Friday afternoon where teams pitch with slide decks to the entire cohort. This gives teams the opportunity to practice, share feedback, get constructive criticism and understand the strengths and weaknesses to their approach.

And not a moment too soon! Thursday’s Meet and Experience session proved to be our largest crowd so far, and teams had the opportunity to pitch to folk working in government agencies, sharing where they were in the process and how their solutions had been developed and validated.

Meanwhile, Ben Keepes and Dave Moskovitz continue to meet the teams and shake them up. Being private sector investors and mentors, they provide a counterbalance to the government thinking that can permeate this space, while challenging teams and pushing them outside their comfort zone.

Last Thursday was a full on day that opened with Minister Wagner visiting R9. This is the start of a series of Minister visits that offer members of the parliament the opportunity to briefly live the startup world, interacting with teams while understanding the methodologies used in the space. This was followed by a presentation from Jared Licht from NZBN, and gave tips and tricks on how teams could leverage and use the NZBN number when building their solutions.

At this point the teams were very stressed with Demo Day just a short 3 weeks away. So it was quite an amazing thing to bring the Creative HQ community together – Startups in our high growth incubation programme, R9 Accelerator and Lightning Lab XX – to compete in the Clash of the Accelerators. We put on our silly hats, played geeky pop quiz games and danced our worries out of our systems. Perfect stress reliever!

We talk about D-Day as though it’s Dooms Day, and for some of the teams, perhaps it is. I prefer to think of the entire process as one where the teams are being forged in fire. Some teams really do struggle. Teammates have left the team, knowing that they won’t be the ones who will be working on the solution post demo day. Some teams struggle to validate the proposed solution, and that is actually what this programme is supposed to do. It’s about finding product to market fit – You either get a team that can execute on that.. or you don’t. Which is a great learning in itself, and is a much more cost effective way of validating proposed solutions. Not every team that goes through this process makes it out on the other end. Only the strong survive.

 

So why blacksmith?

Craftsmen used to call metal that turns black from oxide when heating (i.e. iron) “black metal”. “Smith” comes from the word smite, which means to hit. So the word blacksmith originates from people who smite black metal!
(Makes you wonder about the naming of the movie Mr and Mrs Smith, don’t you think?)

 

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