Introducing The Elevator Pitch: Where entrepreneurs get 43 seconds to reach the top

Judges Andy Sack, Rebecca Lovell and John Cook listen as PetHub CEO Tom Arnold makes his pitch

In the fast-moving world of startups, entrepreneurs need to be able to sell themselves in seconds. A good elevator pitch can mean all of the difference, helping entrepreneurs score cash, recruit top engineers or land that ever-elusive big customer.

A bad pitch? Well, let’s just say that’s a one-way ticket to nowheresville.

That’s why we’re kicking off a fun new Web video series and competition today, dubbed The Elevator Pitch. And what better place to conduct these pitches than … an actual elevator while riding to the top of one of the world’s most iconic landmarks: Seattle’s Space Needle.

In the first pilot episode, PetHub CEO Tom Arnold describes his online pet tracking startup in the 43 seconds that it takes to get to the top of the Space Needle. I am joined on the show by judges Rebecca Lovell of GeekWire and Andy Sack of Founder’s Co-op who critique the pitch, and help decide whether Arnold is sticking around for the later rounds, or taking a trip back down to the ground to work on his pitch.

Take a ride with us, and let us know if you think we made the right choice.


So, what do you think? Did we make the right choice? Cast your ballot here:

We shot three pilot episodes of The Elevator Pitch a few weeks ago. This is the first in what we hope will become a regular feature on GeekWire and a fun competition that showcases one component of the hard-charging world of startup life. We welcome your feedback as we bake out the concept, and if you think you have what it takes to pitch your business in 43 seconds while speeding to the top of the Space Needle, email me at: john@geekwire.com.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our next Elevator Pitch. In the meantime, a big thanks to Lift Digital and the Space Needle for helping to make this possible.

[Editor's note: We shot this episode prior to Andy Sack's chemotherapy treatments. We're pulling for Andy as he fights his battle with testicular cancer, and we're looking forward to him stirring things up as a judge on upcoming shows].

  • http://twitter.com/RedRussak ‘Red’ Russak

    haha…this is awesome! Giving SharkTank a run for their money ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/tunewithinus Daniel Pasos

    This is a great idea, congrats John! I hope to see more episodes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1399320087 Casey Sullivan

    love it. great job!

  • Mgtfunkner

    Elevator Pitch scores by using a professional (Pet Hub’s Tom Arnold) who gave a great presentation even under the stress of the circumstances.

  • http://www.facebook.com/efrizor Buntu Redempter

    So, do you have to come to Space Needle to do the pitch?

  • Guest

    Once upon a time, movies and television shows were pitched by describing story, acts and character arcs.  It might take a whole 10 minutes to paint a picture of the show’s vision.

    Then, the business was taken over by Lawyers and MBAs and it was reduced to pitching a 15 words or less Log Line or quickly comparing the Log Line to “similar” properties that were successful.  Writers and Producers not only learned to do 1-minute Pitches, they learned to develop projects that were so paper-thin, there was no substance beyond the Pitch…because the Pitch was everything…it was all that mattered.

    The result:  A lot of dumb, often remakes, littering the filmed entertainment landscape.

    Seeing tech reduced to Elevator Pitches is a sure sign of the attention-deficit of investors and lawyers in this space.  It is a sign that we’ll devolve into a sea of fluff (we’re kind of already drowning in it)…no life changing, world changing (for the better) solutions will come out the dumbing-down of presentations.  

    When I sit on the Investor side of the table, I don’t want the quick, slick, rehearsed pitch. I want to get to know the person…and, to get a sense of how well thought out their venture is.  I’m willing to forgive the first few minutes as being nervous banter and stumbling over words…I’m willing to listen for five or ten minutes without interupting.

    The really great Investors are those who don’t close the door on someone after a minute or even a full hour, but who encourage them to knock on the door again, even if there’s an initial “pass.”  That kind of thoughtfulness is rare….but, it just might result in uncovering well thought out, perhaps even complex ventures that require a bit of attention to grasp.

    I’ve also had Investor’s say, “OK, you’ve got a minute, tell me what you’re doing, go.”

    You know what?

    I have no interest in those people.  Let them get off on their own self-importance some other way…time is a two-way street…I’ll share mine if you share yours.

    • Lee Pridemore

      “Once upon a time…” 
      Only a gas bag would post an anonymous comment that begins with that cliche.  Your comment does not establish any expertise or even primitive knowledge of the entertainment or technology industries. 

      Prove me wrong, Gas Bag… er,… Guest

  • Marco Montemagno

    Great idea congrats!

    Maybe you’ll find interesting “The Elevator Pitch Guide: 45 presentation tips for startups” with a lot of videos to study to improve pitching: http://www.presenterimpossible.com/presentation/startup-pitch-how-toGood luck :)

  • http://twitter.com/bikehugger byron@bikehugger

    Byron here and I got this wrong initially. If you got here from my link, it’s a contest to teach the pitch. No money is involved and cool.

  • scot

    what a great, fun idea!

  • Anne Baker

    Elevator pitch in one of the coolest elevator rides around. Stroke of genius, Geekwire. I love it!

  • guest

    Tom was doing fine until he “number dropped” the $54B industry BS, sorry, just lost all your credibility right there. This is one of the dumbest mistakes start up guys make, so desperate to impress, they blow off some stupid gigantic number that really isn’t addressable to them. Please don’t do that. We are not stupid.

    • Maya Starbuck

      Actually he is pretty close here is the link to the APPA Industry Statistics http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

      They are saying $52.87B is the estimated and last years actual was $50.96B.  I know how much I spend on my dogs and I don’t doubt that one bit.  I have pet medical insurance, freshly made food (monthly), tools (leashes, harnesses, collars are all made by a local company and made to the measurements of our girls), toys and yes I have 4 PetHub Tags for both the girls.

      Instead of doubting someone and presume the are not creditable, do your research first.

      • guest

        This is exactly what we are talking about, lumping stuff like pet food other pet services that has nothing to do with what they are selling as one giant industry and use that number to impress people. Are they selling pet food? Vet care? NO. The stuff he is selling is closer to pet insurance, a market that is less than $300M a year. If he simply use that figure, sure, that is still substantial enough to go after. But try and use $50B is just ridiculous. 

  • John Raffetto

    Brilliant – the Elevator Pitch ‘show’ concept, that is… really fun to watch, multimedia, hyper local, relevant – this has a promising future… nice job guys!

  • http://brianlockhart.com Brian Lockhart

    PetHub’s a great idea, but I LOVE the “Elevator Pitch” show idea itself even more – Shark Tank for an ADD audience.  :)  Great way to encourage folks to always be able to quickly and clearly describe their product / service.

  • Dotarnold

    Great job. Wish I had a pet, I would certainly have a “pethub tag”.

  • johnhcook

    Thanks for the kind words about the Elevator Pitch. We certainly had fun putting the show together. Make sure to tune in for the next one!!

    • http://brianlockhart.com Brian Lockhart

      You need to make a promo video for Elevator Pitch that shows you guys riding up together in an elevator discussing an idea for a new show for entrepreneurs…  :)

  • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

    I thought Tom rocked it! Awesome job under pressure.

    WRT the $54B comment, Tom said the market was $54B not that PetHub can get all of it, or anything even close. The point is that pet owners spend a *lot* of money on pets so the potential is there to open up a new significant revenue source.

    And, to the GeekWire team, cool, fun, innovative idea. Looking forward to more!

  • http://www.liftport.com/ Michael Laine

    I’m in Seattle.

    I’ve been working on the Space Elevator (3.5M Google links) since 2001.

    I have often joked about giving the “Elevator pitch on the Space Elevator”…

    Any chance you guys would let me be a contestant?

    Beyond the ‘out of this world’ idea, we have a ‘down to earth’ business plan. 

  • http://www.kinesisinc.com/author/wendy/ Wendy Maynard

    I think Tom rocked it, but that was a loooong elevator ride!