If you’ve got a great idea but need some cash to get it going, you’d better start working on your Elevator Pitch. Even if you don’t need the cash or you have figured out how to use bootstrap capital, you still need to be able to sell your idea to: clients and customers, potential suppliers and employees, and even your spouse!

What is an Elevator Pitch?

It is the term used for a two-minute presentation; the amount of time it takes to go from the lobby to the investor’s office on the top floor and to capture the investor’s interest (your audience could, of course, be someone other than an investor). Get it right and they’ll invite you into the boardroom for a more in depth discussion. It is also about the same time you need to convince other stakeholders that they should get involved with your enterprise.

Who is your audience?

The scenario goes something like this:

  • You find yourself, opportunistically, in an elevator all alone with potential launch clients, possible future employees, VCs, Angel Investors, Bankers, Business Mentor or Coach.
  • You remember to introduce yourself.
  • You don’t forget to smile from time to time.
  • You tell them what you are working on. Example: “Hi, I’m Mat Lafrance, President and CEO of a new service called GradeATechs.com. We do fast, on-site computer and network repair for homeowners and businesses.”
  • You give it a short title. (“The title can’t be as long as the story,” Professor Max Neutze, Australian National University.)

What Makes a Good Elevator Pitch?

A good Elevator Pitch is made up of two key elements:

  1. Lay out the pain statement. What problem is it that you are trying to solve?
  2. Show the value proposition. How does your venture solve that problem for an individual client or customer?

Be specific—how exactly does your product or service benefit a single client or customer? Can you show, on a spreadsheet, in a compelling way, how by buying your product or service, a client will make money from it or lower their costs or do both? Did you introduce anything innovative into your business model and what is the ‘pixie dust’ or differentiated value in your model that will help you create a sustainable enterprise with a long term competitive advantage that results in some type of ‘franchise’ or ‘concession’ that you can exploit?

Example: “You know people can either disassemble their PC, put it in their car, take it to a local repair shop, be told it’ll take two weeks and will cost $150 only to find out that it will really take three weeks and cost 250 bucks and that their hard drive got accidentally wiped. Alternatively, they can log on to or call GradeATechs.com, make an appointment and have a highly trained, certified Grade A Tech come to their home or business and fix the problem in a couple of hours for $120, guaranteed.”

Give them some idea of how big the opportunity is and who the competition might be. Will this be an enterprise that will provide you with more opportunity than if you just took a JOB? Never say that if you could just get (say) 1% of this (really huge) market, you would be set for life. That sort of ‘stat’ is meaningless and undermines your credibility…Will the enterprise outlive the founder? Can it eventually continue without you?

Example: “The computer repair industry is huge and growing fast and the repair industry is full of ‘mom and pop’ shops—it’s an industry that the established players aren’t particularly interested in—in essence, we are tackling the ‘last mile of service’. Plus, at any one time, about 30% of the PCs and laptops in the US and Canada aren’t working up to their potential—that’s around 180,000,000 computers that need our help!”

Every great Elevator Pitch must meet four key tests:

  1. Must be succinct. You’ve only got one or two minutes.
  2. Easy to understand. Both your grandma and your grand kids have to get it. Your product or service should appeal to more than one generation or, at a minimum, at least you are able to explain it to multi generations.
  3. Greed inducing. Investors want to make money. Clients want to know that buying your product or service is a negative cost—the benefits generated are greater than its cost.
  4. Irrefutable. If your Elevator Pitch leaves the investor or customer with more questions than answers, you’d better go back to the drawing board.

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