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Hackernoon logoWhat I Learned from 3 Months of Bombing our Elevator Pitch by@SLaber

What I Learned from 3 Months of Bombing our Elevator Pitch

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@SLaberSam Laber

A few months ago, I quit my job to help found a health and wellness company. At the moment, we’re in the Pre-Everything stage — no product, no customers, no revenue. Everybody works from home, nobody’s getting a paycheck.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for when I took the leap was how often I’d have to give our elevator pitch and to how many different types of people. It always seems to come out of nowhere — I’ll be playing a game of Catan with old co-workers or out to dinner with my girlfriend’s parents when the question arises:

So, what are you working on these days?

It seems like an innocent question at first, but right away my neurons start firing out of control. How can I present our company, Incremental, in the most epic, yet casual way? How can I avoid the long list of buzzwords made infamous by my lovely yet myopic tech-founder counterparts? And ultimately, will I succeed in convincing my family, friends, and the occasional random stranger that, YES — quitting my job to found a startup was the right move?

Crafting the pitch

Now I’ve been in marketing for a while now, so I’ve worked on my fair share of elevator pitches. I wish I could say it gets easier, but the more I write, the more I realize it just doesn’t.

I typically begin by Googling phrases like “how to craft an elevator pitch” or “components of a successful elevator pitch”. I already know what I’m going to find, but I do it anyway. It gets me in the right frame of mind I guess.

I’ll read a few articles, take a few notes, and then start dropping our company lingo into some template lauded by a Forbes contributor. You know, one of these:

That elevator pitch framework everyone uses.

I read it out loud. It sounds like something a Gartner analyst would write. Long, windy sentences spritzed with industry jargon and fancy connectors like “stemming from” and “predicated by”. But hey — it’s a start…

Nailing a startup elevator pitch is like hitting a three-inch target strapped to the back of a dog chasing its tail. You focus too much on the solution and realize you’re underselling the problem. You add a few sentences on the problem, and now it takes too long to get to the meat. You fiddle with it for another hour, and it gets so densely packed with information that all meaning is lost. A few hours later, you finally get something you like, and the company decides to change direction…

The final product (for now at least)

After weeks of struggling through high-level concepts, deliberating on naming conventions and searching for the precise tone we’d like to convey, I’m proud to present what I’ll call a “working copy” of our elevator pitch.

You’ll also find this written on our AngelList profile. It’s meant to appeal to investors, so it may be a bit more buttoned up:

Incremental is focused on the intersection of technology and preventative health. Only four cents of every health care dollar goes toward disease prevention, forcing most people to either pay out of pocket for coaches and trainers or piece together their own health plans via blogs and apps.
Incremental wants to change all this by providing 1:1 health coaching at a fraction of the cost. The key ingredient is Hugo, an AI-powered chatbot that lets people track daily activities, participate in team challenges, and ultimately receive personalized instruction right within messaging apps like Slack and Facebook Messenger.
Using technology, we believe it’s possible to help millions of adults prevent chronic disease and live longer, healthier lives. As we grow, we’re looking for partners to help make our mission a reality.

So, what am I working on these days?

I’m holed up in San Francisco elevators, pitching our vision to anyone who will listen. I’m doing my best to absorb the initial wave of criticism in hopes of extracting that crucial nugget of feedback. Though cheesy posters may insist that “growing up is not caring what others think”, I’ve found that growing a company means caring very much.

So go ahead, challenge our thinking. Put our pitch through the ringer. Be skeptical. I’d love to hear your thoughts :).


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