This afternoon I am judging a pitch competition here in Chicago at mHub.  It’s the 10th China Shenzhen Nanshan Entrepreneurs Star Pitch Competition.  Here is the agenda.

  • 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM Registration
  • 9:30 AM – 9:45 AM Opening Ceremony (Welcome Remarks and Short Video)
  • 9:45 AM – 10:05 AM Keynote: US & China Startup Ecosystem & Investment Flow
  • 10:10 AM – 10:30 AM Keynote: Chicagoland Innovation and Opportunity
  • 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM Panel: Startups Making a Difference
  • 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM Lunch Break
  • 1:30 PM – 3: 00 PM Pitch Competition: Enterprise Category
  • 3:15 PM – 4:30 PM Pitch Competition: Early Stage Category
  • 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM Keynote and Award Ceremony

My partner Kenny and I don’t mind judging pitch competitions, but we prefer to do it during the week.  We also like a little bit of advance notice so we can schedule it.  I was contacted by the organizers of this months in advance.  Pitch competitions can help build community, so they are important.  I am always touched to be asked.

Obviously, there is a huge variation in pitches.  Sometimes the best ideas or companies don’t win because the pitch isn’t done well.  One thing TechStars does really well is getting entrepreneurs ready to pitch.  The perfect pitch for me talks about the problem and gets to the “why” in the first 30 seconds to a minute.  I always encourage everyone to listen to Simon Sinek’s “Selling the Why” before they think about how to organize their pitch.

Pitches are never about the minute things in a business.  They are broad brushstrokes designed to get you to a meeting.  Rarely if ever do investors write a check after a single pitch.  I have seen some awful pitches in my day, and some pretty good ones too.  Jimmy Odom’s pitch at Startup Weekend was memorable and Colin Wallace had a great pitch at the initial Excelerate Labs in Chicago.

As a judge, it all depends on the criteria they give you.  Great pitch competitions have very clear criteria for their judges so at least all the judges are thinking about the same things.

I plan on getting to this one about noon, and exit by 4:30.  Cubs game starts then! A different kind of pitching.  Let’s hope Lester is on it!




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