By: Lexie Newhouse
Kevin Sandlin (MBA), founder of Atlanta Tech Blogs and Pitch Practice at Atlanta Tech Village, returned to his alma mater this past week to conduct a Georgia State edition of Pitch Practice. Having heard over 2,800 pitches though his Pitch Practice efforts, Sandlin offered his critiques and advices that lead to proven results when pitching to investors.
“I’m here to give an entrepreneur a better chance of succeeding,” said Sandlin.
He first highlighted the importance of “talking about your customer” versus “talking about what you do.” By approaching the pitch with the customer at the forefront of the conversation, the greater opportunity for connecting with the audience, saying to “fall in love with your customer, not your product or service.” “Your customer is your boss,” continued Sandlin, “It’s your job to make them happy by solving their problems.”
The Lean Startup was another concept covered by Sandlin, where he encouraged students to focus on the idea versus the planning by going out into the market, finding a problem, and creating a solution. He also noted the generational difference with this approach. Whereas older generations utilized Harvard’s Business School’s business plan as a stable structure, for example, the modernized business model canvas flips it on its head with its lesser emphasis on the planning stages.
To illustrate this, Sandlin utilized Uber as an example. Its business model derived from a problem: terrible taxi experiences. The solution, Uber, addressed customers’ desire for clean vehicles, polite drivers, ride accessibility, and worry-free payment – ultimately disrupting the transportation industry.
Diving deeper into the pitch approach, Sandlin broke down the 30-second elevator pitch into six key components: Name, company, problem, solution, customer, and ask. Two key differentiations Sandlin highlighted was the problem and the solution. When addressing the problem, focus on the specific issue at stake versus what you do in response to that issue. As for the solution, emphasize what the solution is versus how the solution works, to avoid becoming too consumed with the details of your product or service.
The final component, the ask, proves to be another challenging point of the pitch. “What do you need today that will get you one step further?” asked Sandlin. He suggested that students focus on the company’s immediate needs with the ask. “If you don’t ask, you won’t get,” noting how people are so hesitant to ask for help, especially when they are unaware of what they need.
“You all have a story in you. You just have to realize what it is,” said Sandlin as he opened the floor for students to practice their pitches. Nine students pitched their startups for critique, representing a diverse range of industries from sewing to healthcare, media, and financial companies. Students enjoyed practicing in the relaxed atmosphere while gaining valuable feedback to improve their pitches.
Kevin Sandlin has played a strategic role in eight startups, including an IPO and two acquisitions. Interested in learning more about Sandlin and other visiting entrepreneurs? Visit eni.gsu.edu for founder features and other upcoming events!