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Thoughts Of A VP Writer Who Experienced Her First-Ever Startup Pitch—On Clubhouse

Last Friday, I sat in on my first ever pitch event as a Vulcan Post writer, but on Clubhouse. Yes, that app that everyone (including us) have been talking about recently.

In the past, my colleagues have attended both physical and virtual pitches, but even for virtual ones, they at least still had a screenshared presentation as well as see the presenters and judges.

Since Clubhouse is an audio-only platform, I thought it’d be interesting to see how the pitches would work without pitch decks or the presenters’ faces. 

The panel of judges who were present were:

Audio-Only Pitch

For those who aren’t familiar with Clubhouse, it’s an invite-only audio chat app that blew up partly thanks to Elon Musk. Users can drop into rooms to listen to the speakers or participate in the talk.

There’s a saying that a good pitch usually doesn’t need to have visuals to back them up, but as someone who has never attended a pitch event before, I wasn’t sure how true that statement is. 

And the reason why I’ve never gotten the chance to attend physical pitches before is that I joined Vulcan Post during the pandemic. 

There were 6 presenters pitching that day, and some notable ones were a social enterprise selling pre-loved branded goods and donating the funds to charity, a facial-recognition service for customer loyalty programmes, and an online kitchenware e-commerce platform. 

The style of this event is almost like MaGIC’s Grill or Chill, where the presenters pitch and get feedback from the investors on the panel, and no funding is promised for the event. 

Most of the presenters are first-timers, so it was expected that some of them would have hiccups here and there, like not using up the 3 minutes given to them optimally, have another presenter come in their place, and so on. 

There were about 60 participants in the event… Can you find me in the sea of icons?

“Fall In Love With The Problem, Not The Solution”

For the facial-recognition service for customer loyalty programmes, their idea is meant to help customers whose telco doesn’t have coverage in the area, as they aren’t able to claim their rewards or make payments. 

For the most part, the judges couldn’t grasp the importance of this idea. They shared that it sounded vague and a bit scattered, as there wasn’t really a focal point on what this business is trying to solve. 

“I was hearing things like loyalty, redemption, e-payments, health care scanning, it just went around in a big circle,” shared Paul.

“What you’re missing is telling us the big picture: why should we care about facial recognition and loyalty systems? How does this help the SME behind the counter? And how does this help the person at the counter trying to purchase something?” Bikesh added.

According to them, it’s important to be as niche as possible in the beginning stages instead of trying to accomplish every possibility at once with the technology. 

On my part, I had my doubts about the problem statement because there were no stats provided on how many people face these customer loyalty programme problems, which in return, left me unsure about the potential market demand for this solution.

Avoid Making An Ask Before Even Pitching

The other interesting pitch was by an already-established startup called My Cooking Story, an online kitchenware e-commerce site. They started their pitch with an ask right before they got into the meat of their presentation. 

“The number is RM100 million. I’m offering an opportunity to gain RM5 million in 3 years with a 5% equity in the company at RM1.5 million now, today, if possible,” the presenter began.

After listening to them, I felt that was the most solid pitch because they understood their market well, but it could be because they’re already an established startup. However, that introduction did throw some judges off quite a bit.

“I typically would love to hear about the problem statement and the product and business first before you lay out the terms of the investment,” Tiang Lim explained.

“If you started by saying who you guys were, wholesalers with Tesco, selling 8 million knives, the credibility would’ve been there already. But when you had that sense of arrogance to start with, we all kind of shy away because we don’t even know what the problem is to begin with,” Bikesh added. 

After observing all 6 presenters, I noticed the one thing in common they always received feedback on was their problem statement. They were either too vague, not actually a problem, or even over-explained. 

Hence, to kick off a good pitch that connects with the judge, one would need a problem statement backed with sufficient statistics and market research.

Clubhouse’s Potential As A Pitching Platform

Surprisingly, it wasn’t too hard to follow what was happening in the pitch event despite the fact that it was audio-only. However, this is still dependent on how good of a speaker the presenter is.

Having no visuals also forces listeners to catch more spoken details rather than relying on slides to keep up with the information presented.

Because this took place over what was essentially a group phone call on an app and not in a hall full of eyes, the mood of the event felt quite casual. I imagine it would’ve also been less nerve-wracking for the presenters since they didn’t have to show their faces or their pitch decks.

I actually don’t think visuals were necessary for this event, as it was mainly a pitch practice too and most of the presenters were still at the ideation stage.

However, for pitches that involve asking for funding to scale, visuals would be better as having charts and graphs can help the audience and judges understand the numbers and stats better.

Would Clubhouse become the platform of choice for many pitches in the future then? From my experience, I’d say not quite. It will fit more laidback feedback based pitch events like this one, but ones that involve actual grants and funds will most likely stick to physical or virtual screenshared pitches.

It seems easier to build trust and credibility that way, and one’s body language conveys a lot more than just a voice alone can.

  • You can read about more pitch events we’ve covered here.

Categories: Entrepreneur, Malaysian

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(UEN 201431998C.)

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