10 Tips to Win Disrupt Battlefield

TechCrunch Disrupt battlefield

Want to score major investment and massive PR? Just win TechCrunch Disrupt next month in New York. The winner walks away with the $50,000 grand prize and often millions more from investors. But how do you win the top spot?

As author of The Startup Pitch, I identified a pitch formula that over 90% of funded startups use to win investment in the boardroom.

Could a similar analysis of past Disrupt winners also yield the perfect Battlefield Pitch?

I ran the data analysis on TechCrunch conference winners dating back from 2007 by using a set of quantifiable variables. The analysis included companies such as Mint.com, GetAround, and UberConference. The results: there are powerful guidelines you can use to make your pitch great.

Here are the top 10:

1. Follow the 30/90 Problem Rule. Intro your problem in 30 seconds if it’s simple, 90 seconds if it’s obscure. In 2011, GetAround succinctly described the problem of idle cars in only a couple sentences; later in 2013, Enigma outlined the esoteric issues of public data access in 90 seconds. 10 of 11 winners followed this rule.

2. Give a relatable demo. Show your demo in a way that the audience can personally experience. Some winners walked through the demo as-if they were a customer, including RedBeacon in 2009 and YourMechanic in 2012. Others like Lock8 in 2013 simply created scenarios that showed (not told) the functions. As an aside, winners on average demoed two scenarios. 11 of 11 winners made their demo relatable.

3. Deliver at least 3 benefits. Translate features of your product into value for the customer. When Layer presented their open communications platform, the team said they provide the UI as an open source component (feature) so “you can get started really quickly with messaging and calls” (benefit). 10 of 11 winners delivered multiple benefits.

4. Establish credibility. Show you’re the right team to run your startup either because you’ve experienced the problem (as Mint.com showed in 2007), you have a great technology background (as Qwiki showed in 2010), or you have awesome partnerships (as GetAround showed in 2011). It’s not a team slide, it’s spoken. 8 of 11 winners did this.

5. Don’t discuss competition. Only 1 of 11 winners discussed competition, and that was for half a sentence. ‘nough said.

6. Traction is irrelevant. This is supposed to be your launch day! Only two companies, GetAround and Shaker, discussed traction briefly. 9 of 11 winners did not mention traction.

7. Highlight market size using 1 data point or not at all. The best way to show market size is to give data on the size of the problem as UberConference did in 2012 and Layer repeated in 2013. That’s not to say you won’t be asked about size during Q&A, but minimize market discussion in your presentation. 6 winners delivered one short data point on the market, the other 5 ignored market size altogether during their pitch.

8. Make it memorable! Why not make the audience remember you with a stellar demo? That’s what RedBeacon did when they used their product to deliver cupcakes to the entire audience; that’s what GetAround did when they unlocked a Tesla roadster in the conference room with their app; that’s what YourMechanic did by bringing a live mechanic onstage. 6 of 11 winners had memorable moments, and it’s worth mentioning that all 6 took place before 2013. Will you restart the trend?

9. Invite the audience to try it out. You’re onstage, you’re there to win customers and funding, why not take advantage of free PR and wrap up your pitch by inviting the audience to use your product. Go a step further and provide the audience an incentive to use your product as YourMechanic did with a signup bonus. 8 of 11 winners invited the audience to try out their product.

10. Share your vision. Imagine a better world where your product is successful and everyone is happy. That’s what Soluto and Shaker presented during their pitch. Some winners chose to introduce the vision at the beginning, but the majority wrapped up their pitch with a vision near the end. It only took 1-2 sentences. Follow suit. 8 of 11 winners presented a vision.