Why we got rid of the pitching process

Why we got rid of the pitching process

Dr Ian McDonald CTO in Residence at Microsoft for Startups Sep 10, 2019 8 min

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I’m Ian McDonald, CTO of residents at Microsoft for startups in Western Europe. Today I want to talk about how we can help women, & how we can help introverts to really flourish in the startup ecosystem. I want to talk about why we are doing away with pitching and what are practical steps to make you better. One thing that we’ve found here at Microsoft is that pitch deck don’t really work.

A pitch deck is a short presentation outlining the business plan for a start up. In the startup world this has often being used as a convenient way for VCs to judge who they should accept and incubators or accelerators to judge who they should help. These pitches are delivered by the founders and they can be given as little as three minutes to talk about their company which means that you often been judged on your skill as a new rater.

What pitch decks do is tell you who’s good at selling, and we don’t want to know who’s good at selling, we want to know who’s good at building so wherever possible we’re actually doing away with the concept of pitch decks when we invite people to join our program we send them out a questionnaire so they can fill it out from there on time in their own way, and then when people come into the office what we do is we have a series of meetings with them and we just sat there and awesome to tell about the product tell us about the background we don’t let them use slides we just get them to actually talk to us, and what we find is that we find people who are passionate about their products, who understand how to build their products, and help I understand their markets, so what do you want to do?

Do you want to find somebody who is a big sales person or do you want somebody who has a big startups?

So when we’ve tried this approach what we’ve discovered is that we’ve seen quite a different range of people coming into our programs of the people that we’re able to help. We’re able to help those said the introverts. Women are more likely to apply because they are not having to sell themselves in a masculine way. With finding that older people are applying and the statistics simply show that we knew you include women, when you have older people, when you have introverts, you actually have some higher success rates with startups. All the statistics show that the diverse founders massively increases the profitability of startups and we’ve certainly found that ourselves.

Recently and now I only for good intake that we ran we had a company called ThermaFY that the woman leading it was a woman in her fifties she is quite shy and she wasn’t sure about even applying and then we actually sat down and had a check to her and she was very open, was able to express her product extremely well. Well and then she got to the end of it and she said: “Okay when do i do my pitch?” and I said: “you don’t have to do pitch, we talked about, you’ve actually explained your product very well and we actually want to take you on board”

And she was totally amazed at this difference because it had empowered her to come into our cohort and to build her company. And she would never have been accepted under a traditional approach and now she’s doing amazing things.

Initially we did this because we didn’t have time to listen to all the pictures and we introduced a form for people to fill in and then when we introduce the form we accidentally discovered that actually increased the range of people that we wanted to talk to because what was coming through in the form was actually quite different when people just came in and gave a three minute pitch on a PowerPoint.

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