Pitch and catch. About 99% of startup life can be summed up by that simple, three-word phrase. In startup-land, effectively selling your business, service or product can make or break you. And a big part of winning business without the comfort of a referral is contingent upon a truly stunning pitch!

Representing  @GrayStreetDC

Representing @GrayStreetDC

Imagine walking into a Fortune 500 company with your four-man startup that nobody’s ever heard of and telling that company that YOU, finally, have the solution they’ve been searching for all this time. Then imagine that company walking into your office – err, cardboard box you call an “office” – and pitching you! Could you swim through the piles of pizza boxes and half-empty takeout Chinese containers fast enough?

Enter: SwitchPitch – an organization that turns the pitch model on its head, allowing large, established companies to pitch “funded innovation projects” to likely startups, hoping to find that special startup company/business to partner.

SwitchPitch made its way back to Washington, hitting up the Arena Stage at the Mead Center in southwest DC (a sweet little theatre venue, turns out) and is the second time the event has graced the nation’s capital.  Premier companies in and around the area pitching at the event included:

  • NPR
  • Washington Redskins
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment
  • The Washington Post
  • PBS
  • Population Council
  • comScore
  • Georgetown University

There won’t be any freebie spoilers here, you cheapskates! Better luck next time. However, the panel discussion on “Making Startup / Large Company Partnerships Work” had some fantastic advice offerings that is worth highlighting.

Here goes:

On three things large companies look for in startup proposals:

“Money. People. Time.” – Mark Walsh, CEO and Founder of GeniusRocket

This statement is just great, not only because it’s catchy (and it is), it also sums up precisely what startups should be considering when trying to win new business. Is the proposal hitting the right price point; are the people right for the job; and is it the right timing? Check those three boxes and you’re one step closer to getting the John Hancock on the dotted line.

On what makes startups special / valuable:

“Startups are unencumbered by bureaucracy.” – Mike Brown, CTO of comScore

What makes startups so great? Forward-thinking, fresh, nimble, unique, hungry and whatever other adjective you want to insert? At the end of the day, this statement is so undervalued. Startups are uncompromised by outdated processes and unnecessary politics. And this is, realized or not, an opportunity to be leveraged.

And, finally, what are quite possibly the finest pieces of advice for startups ever uttered.

“Like dogs smell fear; Companies smell desperation. Be direct, not desperate.” – Mark Walsh, CEO and Founder of GeniusRocket

Desperation is a disease. It’s infectious. And, if spotted, should be extradited effective immediately. In all seriousness, though, no one likes the desperate vendor. You (the Vendor) have something they (the Client) want, and the product and/or service should speak for – and sell – itself. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider changing professions.

“Make sure there’s a train to rob before you count the loot.” – Devin Schain, CEO and Founder of Campus Direct

This analogy is so amazing it can’t be put into words. But for introspective purposes, let’s flirt with this one, shall we. It’s a twist on the old adage: “Don’t count you’re chickens before they’ve hatched.” But even further, it speaks to the truth that startups are a business. And businesses need capital. All other factors aside, there is an explicit need to generate revenue. It’s priority numero uno!

The takeaway is this: Understand if and when there is business to be had and made. Don’t become disillusioned and self-convinced that there’s something there that simply isn’t. Be realistic. If it’s the right fit, you’ll know. Set goals. Meet said goals. Win (proper) business. Under-promise. Over-deliver. Get paid. Repeat.