Startup pitch competitions are getting more popular each year. Almost any college or university with an entrepreneurship program hosts at least one pitch competition annually. More importantly, the prize money keeps growing with some competitions yielding $100,000 split amongst the first, second, and third place winners.
To help prepare young entrepreneurs for their pitch competitions, I opened my scribbled notes, questions, and comments from many years of witnessing, judging, and administering pitch competitions. The result is that I have extracted what I think to be the best questions for which you should prepare.
But before you rely too heavily on this list, be aware each panel of judges consists of different personalities and backgrounds for which you cannot totally prepare. These professionals, who you've never seen before, boldly sit there ready to build you up or tear you down. True story - in 2018, a team I coached spent hours brainstorming every question we could think of and strategically preparing the best answers. We felt assured we covered the gamut of possibilities. It turns out, the judges focused on something very minuscule from their presentation regarding some research they referenced. For us, it was not a pertinent part of the overall picture, but a particular judge utilized much time in exploring this minor topic. In other words, you just never know where the line of questioning will go. Regardless, knowing the most popular questions and being prepared to answer them is a no-brainer! So, here you go:
1. What are your top two or three priorities after this competition?
2. What is your startup going to be known for after year one?
3. How does your product/service work and how big is the market?
4. Who is your customer and do you know what your customer acquisition cost will be?
5. What proof is there that this is a real problem?
6. What is it about your team that makes them perfect to bring your product/service to market?
7. If you win this competition, what will you use the money for?
8. Why is your product/service better than what’s already on the market?
9. Who are your competitors and what will be the biggest challenge in unseating the top competitors in your market?
10. Do you plan to protect your product/service? If so, has a provisional been filed?
11. What proof is there that this is the right solution?
12. Why can't another company do what you are doing? Why can you do it better, faster, and/or more effectively?
13. What’s your barrier to capacity?
14. How much traction do you need to obtain to clearly define your solution is working?
15. Why is right now the right time to solve the problem this way?
16. Everyone says they can monetize the data they collect. What’s your plan?
17. Can you explain your revenue model and how you came up with it?
18. What’s your average margin?
19. Are you charging too little?
20. Are you charging too much?
21. How often does your product/service show up in your average user’s day or week? Are those numbers sustainable or projected to grow?
22. What is the most probable way you will scale this business?
23. What regulatory approvals are needed to get your product or service to market and how have you progressed so far?
24. What is the top business metric(s) you will be monitoring right out of the gate with your business and why?
25. I know it is very early, but what do you see as the most logical exit down the road?
Share with us your favorite question from a pitch competition in the comments below. Best of luck to all of the young entrepreneurs getting ready for the next pitch competition. Give your presentation to as many audiences as you can, because each can provide a valuable perspective. Practice, practice, practice...and then practice some more. The more you make your two, five, or eight minute pitch, the better.
MP, LLC credits blog post with the original author and links (if available).
Scott E McGlon is the President of McGlon Properties, LLC and the author of many blog posts on MP Blog. He has been a serial entrepreneur, entrepreneur-in-residence, investor, and president/CEO of many successful start-ups since 1998.
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