Lessons Learned: Just Pitch

Rohit Mittal is a junior undergraduate in the Stern School of Business. Rohit is CEO and co-founder of Mitley, which is an online platform for musicians to rent their equipment to other musicians. He is also a Residential Assistant in Founders Residence Hall and is a Sales Operations and Strategy Intern at a startup called PublicStuff Inc

Unfortunately, companies typically don’t get off the ground with their original idea intact. Instead, the idea ends up changing based on what other people say. In order to actually get your company out there, pitching is key.

Pitching is often stereotyped as a really challenging task. People think that they have to share their research, idea and value proposition within a set time limit – often five or ten minutes- so their audience can grasp the company's goal. In my experience, the audience members will almost always share their opinion and/or feedback.

Luckily, I had the chance to pitch my own company, Mitley, at the Leslie eLab Investor Feedback Forum event and the Harvard Innovation Competition Pitch Contest. Both pitch opportunities were really different, but their overall concept was the same.

The first time I professionally pitched Mitley was at the Investor Feedback Forum. This event included 3 companies who were pitching in front of 3 VCs; the whole intent behind the pitch was to share our idea and then get feedback. This overall concept was the same at the Harvard Innovation Competition. You had some time to share the overall idea, what you have done and what you plan to do in the future in front of 3 VC judges. Although it was an intimidating experience, it was interesting and really fun!

Here are my three takaways to make it all easier for you:

  1. Practice. I know this goes without saying but it’s really embarrassing to see a company go up to present and forget what they’re saying or go over the time. At the Harvard Innovation Competition, there was a team who went over time to the point where the host had to cut them off; unfortunately, they hadn’t even gotten to the financials or the future of the company. So, as you can probably tell, they got last place. If they had practiced beforehand, they would’ve been able to cover all relevant information in a timely manner.
  2. Be open to change. The whole point behind pitching is to ensure that your idea is suitable for the market. No company is fully ready for the market until somebody tells you that you’re missing something. After the Investor Feedback Forum, an audience member suggested for me to include a page where people can request what kind of equipment they would like to rent. This would allow users to either rent out their gear or ask for gear to rent. This change has really benefitted us and has increased our user exposure. If you’re open to change, you are open to the unimaginable and able to really succeed in the future.
  3. Be passionate. Since you are sharing your whole idea, your voice should show how much you really care about the idea. If you don’t sound like you actually like your own idea, chances are that nobody else is going to like it either. Don't sound monotone. Use hand motions. If you don’t sound interested in your own idea, people won’t care about your idea and will just move on.

These are three really important takeaways that many people don’t talk about when they mention pitching. No original idea is perfect, but is rather a mixture of many smaller ideas to make a bigger one. Master these tips so people take you more seriously and so you become more open to changing with the market.