SAN FRANCISCO — As the head of Pacific Coast Highway’s Highway1 accelerator for hardware startups, Brady Forrest knows a thing or two about how to pull off a successful pitch.
GeekWire caught up with him after his judging stint at TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield earlier this week to get get his tips for founders hoping to take home the gold on the competition stage. Continue reading for edited excerpts from the conversation.
What was the experience of judging like for you?
It was fun. I didn’t know what any of the companies were when they got on stage. I glanced at their names, so I knew there were five. But then it was a race to come up with questions that would be both interesting for the audience, and would help me determine how I would rate them on a certain scale, and then also not do a repeat question.
It was like a tech improv game.
What’s the biggest mistake that startups make?
One place where the teams really messed up was not talking about their backgrounds. You’re up there trying to wow people with the product, but no investor will invest without knowing why you’re the team to do it. And the teams up there today, except for one team, did a bad job of selling themselves.
What can startups do to succeed?
They should explain the problem clearly, they should explain how they’re meeting the solution, and then they should explain how big is the problem, how elegant and how wonderful and how scalable and delightful and how monetizable their solution is, and then why they’re the people who came up with this solution, and how they’re going to carry it across the finish line.
The other thing is, always answer the question, even if it is a dumb question.
How does this compare to a traditional pitch session?
You have to nail all those things during (a traditional pitch), it’s just that you have more time to delve into it. A pitch is designed to get you the next meeting, where you just have a conversation.
Should startups participate in these competitions?
I feel like teams should take part in them. I know it is very useful to prepare for, and it can help you build a lot of buzz. However, that buzz is wasted if what you have up there is empty. So, you need to really have developed that product.
Because it’s about getting to the second meeting. So if you don’t have any there there, then it doesn’t matter. And some companies really fail at that. And that’s what incubators and accelerators help people with.