How to Win a $10,000 Pitch Competition Where I’m the Judge

Olin Hyde
February 20, 2017

I’ll be one of the judges at the IGNITE Quick Pitch Competition on February 24, 2017 at UCSD. We want the best possible pitches. One team will win $10,000. Here’s how to win the money:

  1. Write a script. Memorize it. Rehearse it. Polish it until it is second nature to you. Record yourself on your phone then be your own harsh critic. Time goes quick. Plan every second.
  2. Start with the elevator pitch as the basis for your script. Cover each of the following:
    • For (target customers)
    • Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternative)
    • Our product is a (new product category)
    • That provides (key problem-solving capability).
    • Unlike (the product alternative),
    • Our product (describe the key product features).
  3. Use your body and voice to convey confidence. The best predictor for startup success is tenacity. Every part of your pitch needs to convey the confidence that you DO NOT QUIT. We want to know you so passionate about your idea that there is nothing that will stop you from building the business. Startups are fantastically difficult.
  4. Solve a big problem. Do something that matters to millions (even better if its billions) of people. Show that it has economic value that can easily be measured in dollars. If market does not exist, tell us how you create the market.
  5. Create a category. Reframe the market in a way that you do not have direct competition. Provide a different angle that is hard to copy where the real value is in the business model. (Bad news engineers: Technology is easy to replace or improve through re-engineering. For example, Google created an $60 billion/year advertising platform using search engine results. Alta Vista had the technology to do this but did not understand the market in a way that allowed them to compete with Google. Same for Yahoo! Facebook created a global social network by enabling college friends with an easy way to show off to each other. MySpace didn’t. Amazon replaces physical stores with an open marketplace. Sears could have done this but didn’t. Uber aggregates the excess capacity of private car ownership into a “sharing economy.” Remember that NONE of the winners in their respective markets started with the business models that eventually created and conquers a category. Almost every great company pivots their way to success. [Shameless plug: Come see my talk on pivots in Breaksout Session II (“Easier Said Than Done: Telling Your Story”) at 11am on February 22, 2017 on at UCSD Ignite.
  6. Build as much trust as you can. You are asking people for money. You need to convey that you are responsible and capable. The equation I use to evaluate trust is:
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Score each item on a scale of 0 to 10. The perfect score is 1,000. Given the short timeframe, you can only convey “capability” and “reliability.”

Bonus: Make me laugh or cry. Crying is better. Here’s a video of my 2nd place finish at the EvoNexus pitch in March 2016. I went for laughter. The winner went for tears. Both approaches work so long as the pitch is authentic. Note: My pitch totally changed in 1 year. See my winning pitch below at the GigaOM AI Conference — where the competition was far tougher and the judges far more sophisticated.

Remember, giving a great pitch is no indicator that you have a great business idea. The worst pitch I have ever seen was by Stephan Aarstol pitching Tower Paddle Boards on Shark Tank. Despite the pitch, Mark Cuban funded his business and Tower Paddle Boards went on to become Cuban’s top performing portfolio company less than a year after that fateful video. I met Stephan a few years ago when we had dinner with Dan Martel. Fifteen minutes into our meal, I was convinced he was one of the most disciplined, focused entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. Who cares if Stephan sucks at pitching. What matters is he’s great at growing a business. Pitch contests are mostly entertainment. Their value is to prepare you for longer, more in-depth pitches to recruit your team, get customers and attract investors.

It’s only fair that I share my four minute pitch for LeadCrunch to win the GigaOM AI Starup Pitch Contest on Wednesday February 15, 2017. In less than 3 days, our company received offers for $100,000 of new investment from the audience members.


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Hi. My name is Olin Hyde. I’m the founder and CEO of Our intelligent demand generation platform makes sales teams more efficient by enabling them to focus entirely on closing deals rather than wasting time prospecting.


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We’ve done this before. My cofounder Sanjit Singh and I lead a team of 10 full-time AI and sales experts. Sanjit grew a sales team from zero to $30 million in less than two years. My chief scientist was an early investor who joined our team. If you have a credit card, you can thank Steve for protecting you from fraud. He is the co-inventor of the system that protects two-and-a-half billion customers. We are all serial entrepreneurs with four exits.


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We got our start beating the two biggest names in AI, IBM Watson and Palantir, to win a contract for the US Navy with Lockheed Martin. We decided to repurpose our military targeting technology into a solution to find business targets. We know how build commercial AI applications from our experience working on the FICO credit score and global solutions for fraud detection and cyber security.


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Business-to-business demand generation is a $160 billion problem. Sales people complain that marketing gives them bad leads. Marketing complains that salespeople can’t sell. The problem is the standard approach is wrong: It uses filters such as industry codes to describe companies. Industry codes are like stereotypes. Just like race and religion are terrible ways to get to know a new friend, industry codes are a terrible way to understand your customers. Stereotypes lack precision and hide uniqueness. Worse, customer data is spread across many different systems. So you can’t search or optimize the whole process. The result is inefficacies. We estimate that at least half of all spending is wasted.


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The solution is to use AI to empower people to have super human understanding. Rather than filters, we generate custom models that explain and predict the behavior of every person and company. We model every stage of the customer acquisition process. Unlike our competitors, we deliver qualified leads to your inbox. Our leads are better because AI powers the entire system. All you need to do is close them.


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The result is that our leads convert into sales at 300% better rates than our competitors. We have empirical case studies that prove our full-context marketing approach optimizes the entire process. We enable you to target the right person at the right company with the right message at the right time.


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LeadCrunch is simple. First you upload a short list of your best customers. We only need the names of 25 or more companies. Nothing else. Next we data mine these companies to find their DNA. LeadCrunch creates a custom model for each company and client. We use this model to find targets among more than 27 million possibilities. Our models give is insights on how to engage each target to qualify a target into a lead. Finally, we combine our insights with a marketplace of professional qualifiers to fill orders. So at the end, we deliver qualified leads to you, ready to go to your sales team to close.


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We launched our product in August 2016. In our first six months we’ve grown to about $1 million in annualized bookings. In the fourth quarter we grew revenues by 78% per month to exceed $66,000 in December. 58% of our customers re-book within 2 months as they increase their purchase order by 24%. We expect to exceed $300,000 in bookings this quarter.


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We measure our success by the success of our clients. We’ve had 69 customers so far. Here’s a few that you might know. Try us. You’ll find your market is bigger than you think.

Further Reading

Olin Hyde
April 6, 2018
Olin Hyde
March 23, 2016