Yesterday was Investor Day for the first group of 12 start-ups at Le Camping, the Paris-based accelerator of which I am increasingly proud to be a mentor and pitch coach. And it went extremely well.
Now I’m rather biased since I coached all the speakers, so here are some comments from less biased people:
The @lecamping pitches were collectively the best I’ve seen out of an accelerator program in EU. Very slick and well prepared.
– Michael A. Jackson, experienced VC and number 3 in the Telegraph’s list of 100 most influential tech investors in Europe
We were half-expecting a poor crop of too-French startups: long-winded pitches, too much emphasis on making money and too little on product and vision, stunted ambitions, products for the French market only…
Instead what we had was the opposite: a crop of amazing startups that wouldn’t look out of place one bit in Y Combinator’s best crop or in any top VC’s portfolio.
– Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writing in Business Insider
Very positive feedback from @lecamping Investor Day from my team. Congrats to the Campers!
– ISAI, one of France’s most important early-stage investors backed by PriceMinister founder Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet
Super Travail @lecamping by #siliconsentier ! Des tres bons Management & Pitchs ! #congrats de @jainacapital
(Translation: Great work @lecamping by #siliconsentier! Great management and pitches! #congrats from @jainacapital)
– Jaina Capital, another of France’s leading investment funds, backed by Meetic founder Marc Simoncini
Overall pitch quality is excellent #lecamping and these are not native speakers – very impressed!
– David Bizer of HackFwd Talent, a leading pre-seed investment fund
All the pitches went very well, some better than in rehearsals and some perhaps not quite as well but still good enough to rock. I was particularly pleased that everyone took on board my last few pieces of advice to take their pitches from good to great – here are a few examples:
1. Adapt your content to meet your audience’s objectives.
They all nailed this. The key investor questions were all answered in each of the 8-minute pitches:
– What do you do?
– What’s the problem you solve?
– Why do you solve it better than competitors?
– What’s your vision?
– Why are you the best people to make this work?
– What are your financial forecasts?
– How much money do you need?
– What are you going to do with it?
They all finally understood the importance of talking about their team members and explaining why they were worth investing in, and they all did it very well.
They also understood the importance of thinking big and showing ambition, since investors usually look for big wins not small wins. Perhaps the best example of this was Grégory from PurchEase whose ambition attracted positive tweets – here’s what Business Insider had to say about his vision:
After giving projections 2 years out, the founders said: “I could give you bulls—t 5 year financial forecasts, but I’d rather give you my vision: in 10 years, there’s gonna be a billion dollar company handling millions of customers and their purchases—we want to be that company”
That’s what we’re talking about.
Now this was an area where they all made significant improvements. When Cyril Dorsaz from Beansight said he was excited about working with a great team, he sounded like he really meant it. Every single presenter had improved within their own style to a point where they were credible as leaders and as entrepreneurs.
Even though there was a world of difference in styles between the fairly restrained but professional style of Sébastien Lefebvre from Mesagraph and Philippe Langlois from P1 Security on one hand, the smooth salesmanship of Bora Kizil from Zifiz on the other, or even the cool relaxed style of Benjamin Hardy from Kawet, each of them was perfectly suited to their company and their approach, authentic, and communicated clearly and powerfully.
As a coach, I certainly don’t try to make everyone pitch in the same way, with the same style or storyboard. I just try to make them pitch as best they can in their own style, and choose a storyboard which suits their key messages. It would have been very boring if we’d seen 12 almost-identical pitches.
4. A great conclusion.
Again, they all worked hard on the conclusion, and this was one of the real strong points – the call-to-action was hardly there at all a few weeks ago, but this time it was crystal-clear. As a fine example, Bora brought the 12 pitches to a close with a very strong conclusion aimed right at the investors:
So that’s Zifiz: we’ve got a huge market opportunity, a fantastic product and a great team. The only thing missing [short dramatic pause] is you. Thankyou.
Beyond these four points, there were other great improvements though. Fabienne Rousseau from Itipic blew me away with the clarity of her speech, which improved remarkably over the last month. Clément Cazalot from docTrackr integrated a striking but fun introduction which immediately showed the problem they solve. And Benjamin from Kawet showed the greatest improvement of the lot, integrated a brilliant video to advertise what their product does, and because he had worked very hard at his pitch, he was even able to improvise a few funny remarks which the audience loved. Proof that the more you prepare, the better you are able to improvise.
And lastly, the visuals were excellent: simple, with large font sizes, a minimum of text, striking images, good example videos, and plenty of black slides. I even have to praise PrepMyFuture, who produced the best slides I have ever seen which include a comic font – yes, I advised against using it, and still would prefer a different font, but it worked well enough and they used few enough words that it didn’t really matter. Great use of images.
I haven’t mentioned everyone but they all did so well and I am honoured to be a part of Le Camping. Alice, Aaron, Omar, Shawn and the whole team did a fine job making it all run so smoothly, finishing right on time (astounding for any event in Paris, let alone one like this), and giving an extremely professional impression.
Pierre Morsa and I received many compliments afterwards from entrepreneurs and investors alike about the value Ideas on Stage had added, and while of course that’s very welcome, the real praise should go to the entrepreneurs who put in the hard work and the people at Le Camping who made it all possible. They showed the power of a great pitch, and gave themselves a real chance to get funding. And if they raised the bar for all future pitch events, that can only be good news for us.