Our guest today is Chris Heivly, who just might be the world’s first actual map geek. I say that because he co-founded one of the first online navigation tools, MapQuest.
Some of you listeners may be too young to remember MapQuest and the wonderful experience of searching your route on your home computer so you could print your directions and take them with you.. But back in the day, MapQuest was like pure magic.
This company was Heivly’s first and it blazed the trail for other navigation-powered apps like Google Maps, Waze, and Uber. MapQuest went public in 1999 and was acquired by AOL for $1.1 Billion dollars in the year 2000. That’s billion with a capital B.
That’s a lot of money by any measure, but it was especially enormous when they sold back in the year 2000.
Since his successful exit, Chris Heivly has personally directed over $75 million in investment capital on behalf of large companies including Rand McNally, Accenture, and others.
He recently closed down the Startup Factory, which was the largest seed investment firm in the Southeast. And this conversation with Chris is just before they made their last investment at The Startup Factory (or TSF as we sometimes refer to it in this interview). But they had already made over 30 investments in high-growth startups and we caught Heivly just after a demo day for a group of their portfolio companies, so it was the perfect time to get his insight.
I want to make sure I give a shout out to his book based on his famous TEDx talk, Build The Fort, which you can find on Amazon, Kindle, or Audible. He’s super active on his personal website Heivly.com and on twitter @ChrisHeivly. So give him a shout and tell him I sent you!
In this episode with Chris Heivly you’ll learn:
- How to perfect your pitch. (7:30)
- What makes a good elevator pitch. (16:40)
- How to attract the right people. (30:50)
These show notes were originally posted on Powderkeg
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I’m from Virgin Indianapolis. I’m Matt Hunckler With Powderkeg. And today we talk team building, pitching and storytelling with a serial tech entrepreneur, investor and author who has earned his title as the startup whisperer.
A lot of entrepreneurs, especially first time people pitching want to tell the entire story at a decent depth, and hopes that one of those things will resonate with the person across the table for them. That’s completely the wrong way to do it. The right way to do it is to kind of make sure you go over at a surface level across the whole arc. And let them ask you those things. Not only will it focus you on the things that are important to them, but you’ve now pulled them into the conversation. They’re now part of it as opposed to a bullhorn. You’re not having a conversation.
That’s Chris Hively, startup investor and co founder of MapQuest, which he sold to AOL in 2000 for $1.1 billion. His latest book build the fort chronicles the lessons learned from his own ventures, as well as more than 35 companies he personally invested in through his accelerator program, the startup factory, I drove down to Hailes offices at American underground in Durham, North Carolina. And I’m so glad I did, because I got his best advice on how to nail your startup pitch. So you can raise capital, land early customers, and become a magnet for the smartest people to join your team that’s on powderkeg. Here’s a great way to listen to powderkeg on your commute, at the gym, or anytime you need a quick hit of inspiration. I’ve got just three words for you. Subscribe on iTunes. Yes, we are in the iTunes Store. And you can find us by searching for powder keg that’s powder keg all one word. Or you can go to powderkeg.co/itunes, which will take you directly to all of our episodes. You can download or stream any of the conversations with people like Krishna Anderson, who’s a Partner at high alpha. Now high alpha is a venture studio that launched eight funded startups in his first year of operation. So Christian brings a ton of experience to that episode. And that’s actually episode number one. You’ll also get interviews with guys like Cole Hatter, who is a master connector. That’s episode number three. He’s an author, investor, speaker and founder who pursued entrepreneurship out of desperation. And he pursued it out of desperation because he wanted to build something that was mission driven. And he did that through business and his lifestyle. And he’s impacted literally millions of people with that. A ton of people have already found us in iTunes and subscribed. We even have some people who have confessed to binge listening to all of the episodes available on powderkeg. By the way, that’s totally cool. And we 100% condone binge listening to this podcast. But there are a few podcast listeners who have been so kind as to leave a review. So I want to take a quick moment to say thank you to one of them from the very bottom of my heart. And our featured iTunes review today is Sarah Graham. Or maybe it’s Sarah Graham. No, Sarah Graham. Sarah Graham sounds like a millennial focused app or something. I think it’s Sarah Graham, because it’s spelled G R H. A M. So this is a quote from Sarah. This is so relevant. What a great find. The interviewers are relevant to me as a business owner, entrepreneur, and overall improvement junkie. I would recommend this podcast to anyone who wants to learn from the experts and quote Sarah, you rock. Thanks so much for that review. And thanks to everyone else who has subscribed and left a review on iTunes. Super helpful for us, especially in these first couple of weeks on the iTunes Store, because it helps boost our visibility amongst other podcasts as well as makes sure our stories are reaching more people. So go ahead and go to powderkeg Dotco slash iTunes. And that’s going to take you directly to where you can subscribe and leave a review. If you use another podcast platform, you can find us pretty much everywhere else. Whether you stitcher overcast Google Play SoundCloud, we pretty much got you covered. You can find all those links and more including show notes and a full transcript for every firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more details on our site about the people and organizations who make powderkeg possible. Now on that note, I want to make sure I take a minute to thank our founding partner, developer town for sponsoring this episode. Now you’re gonna want to stick around after this conversation with Chris Hively. Because we have a special bonus interview with one of developer towns clients will talk with Scott Humphries who’s an intrapreneur. Innovating within a large multinational conglomerate. It gives you a taste of the value the developer town brings to the table as they help big companies move a little bit more like startups. Now developer town or DTS I often abbreviate it works with clients ranging from first time entrepreneurs to Fortune five 100 companies. Now this is for organizations that want to build and launch an app or a digital product. They’ve been really helpful for us here at powderkeg with our podcast launch strategy, and they’ve even helped with some of our expansion into various cities, where we host our live events under the verge brand. So do yourself a favor and get in touch with dt at developer town.com/powderkeg. Our guest today is Chris Hively, who just might be the world’s first actual map geek. Now I say that because he co founded one of the first online navigation tools. Mapquest. Some of you listeners might be a little too young to remember and some of us older folks might need a refresher on Mapquest. So let me remind you what a wonderful experience it was to search your route on your home computer. That’s your home desktop computer, so you could print out your directions and take them with you before you hopped in the car. Back in the day. Mapquest was like pure magic. But this company was Hailes first and it blazed the trail for other navigation powered apps like Google Maps, Waze and Uber. Mapquest went public back in 1999, it was acquired by AOL shortly thereafter, for $1.1 billion. That’s billion with a capital B people. That’s a lot of money by any measure, but it was especially enormous when they sold back in the year 2000. Since his successful exit Hively has personally directed over $75 million in investment capital on behalf of large companies, including Rand McNally, Accenture and a handful of others. He recently closed down the startup factory, which was the largest seed investment firm in the southeast. And his conversation with Chris is just before they made their last investment at the startup factory, or TSF, as we sometimes referred to it in this interview, but they had already made over 30 investments in high growth startups when we caught up with Hively, just after demo day for a group of their portfolio companies. So it was the perfect time to get his insight on this subject. So before we get started, I want to make sure I give a shout out to his book, build the Fort Awesome Book, which you can find on Amazon and Kindle or in the show notes, we’ll obviously have that linked up for you. He’s super active on his personal website, hively.com. That’s H eivly.com. And on his Twitter at Chris Hively. So give him a shout and tell him I sent you. And now my interview with one of the country’s foremost experts on how to turn startups into multi million dollar companies, the startup whisperer himself, Mr. Chris Hively. I want to make sure we dig into some very important pieces of the startup pitch and how that plays a role everywhere from initial idea to funding to growth, and recruiting the team. And it’s really cool, because you have a lot of companies involved in those spaces. But I want to take it back first to the early days. How involved were you in the early days of Mapquest sort of forming its pitch and working through that process?
So it’s it’s funny, I’ve, I kind of grew up as a kind of technical person, I actually learned how to code even though I was a geographer, and I was a terrible geographer, I was an OK geographer and a coder, which back in the day made me very unique. Yeah, sometimes I say I’m the first math geek, right. But one of the things that I was able to develop early on, and I didn’t know I had it until people started telling me about it is the ability to kind of translate kind of technology and difficult difficult technology in a way that was consumable by whoever was sitting on the other side of the chair. Such an important skill. Yeah. And it’s at its at its gross level, you know, not gross, disgusting, but kind of at its large level. Pitching is all about kind of trying to share your thoughts with the audience to the way they want to consume it. And whether you’re talking to an investor, which is maybe one kind of a pitch or a potential employee, whether you’re sitting at a table between you and I, or whether you’re sitting in front of an audience of 1000 people, how best can I kind of get them to consume my message. And that’s really what a pitch is about. And somehow I learned how to do that early on. And I was always the pitch dude. Right? Because I could translate it. Second part is, obviously I’m a little passionate, you’ll see me get all kind of Tommy Boy here. Yeah, I think when you you can tell even the most boring things. If you tell it with passion. People give me a lot of room.
Well, let’s go back to that first point of being able to deconstruct the technology or what you’re building into what the audience wants to consume. Is there a common thread that regardless of audience, they’re going to want to hear this one piece about the technology or they’re going to want to get this this one sort of concept of what it is.
Well, I guess it all depends what the audience wants. And you know, if you’re sitting in an audience, 1000 people there’s probably We not one thing, right? If you’re sitting at a table, there’s probably one thing. I always tell people start with who the audience is and what they want and what you want to communicate. And then Fick kind of fill in the pitch from there, I always go to the end and look to the front is kind of my analogy there. And so I think, so. And then, of course, depending on who the audience is, you can also kind of set the level of maybe technology or the letter and the letter level of acronyms or, you know, you got to talk to the audience. So
would you always research your audience before going and presenting?
If by research, do you mean x the person that asked me to come who the audience will be, and two minutes later have an answer? Sure. That’s probably as deep as I want. I probably, I certainly would do that. I think more importantly, I sit. And I think, and I said, right, if I’m sitting in this audience, and I get bored really easily, so almost everything I every speech or pitch that I do, I’m thinking about, alright, how can I get them to enjoy what I’m saying? And get it in a consumable way and not bore them? That’s the like, the worst thing? My worst fear is boring people.
What were some of the things that you did to make sure the audience stayed engaged specifically at Mapquest?
Yeah, so one of the things so they say there’s two schools of thought and pitching one is that you want to remain kind of in your moment, right? You want to kind of keep your gestures down small. You want to be in this space. Yeah. That’s not me. I’m bigger than that. And so like, one of the things we teach our TSF companies is, you know, first and foremost, you have to be you, which is being authentic, and that will kind of shine through. So for instance, when I do and I remember doing a talk at like CES, which is the big consumer, like it was either ces or Comdex there was are the two big shows Vegas 100,000 people, I remember sitting first time, I’m probably in front of 5000 people, and I’m stuck behind a podium. And I just remember that experience has been a terrible experience, because my personality couldn’t come out. And that was the last day or the last time I said, I will, I’m going to be, I’ll do what they want me to do. Now. Now you’re gonna do what I want to do. I want a lavalier. And I want to be able to move. And so even today, I’ll go out into the audience. I want to engage people. I want to look him in the eye. I want to smile. Yeah, I want to get them fired. specifically asked for a lavalier microphone all the time. That’s great. Yeah. Yeah, certainly no podium, handheld, if I have to lavalier much preferred.
Oh, that’s great. And so you actually go into the audience? And is that mainly just to go out and be able to present from a different vantage point? Or are you actually engaging with the audience? And asking them questions in real time?
It certainly depends on the nature of what it is that you’re doing. But if at all possible, I will go into the audience, and I will try to engage people, I’ll ask them questions, I’ll open the door for them to ask me questions. I may only get three questions, but it’ll, it’ll kind of set the tone. And I think when you tell the audience that I want you to be part of this journey with you, you can be much more effective. And so even a couple of questions kind of says, Hey, you’re with me on this thing? Plus, I’m looking you in the eye from five feet away, not from 300 feet away with a big, you know, video screen behind me.
Yeah, well, I would imagine, you know, with the technology background that you’d had and the cartography background that you had, you could have gone very, very deep down the rabbit hole of those two subjects in any of your pitches. I’m guessing you chose not to do that. So how do you decide how did you decide which points to hit? In sort of describing or pitching your technology along the way? And in answering that, is it better to go broad? And get people to ask you to go deeper? Or is it better to go a little bit deep? Show that you have the depth? And then and then kind of leave it open?
That’s a great question. And I I’m not sure you ever know whether you’ve hit it right? I will tell you that what do you shoot for? What do I shoot for I typically shoot for probably somewhere in between those two things. I want to start a little bit on a broad level. And I want to give you the context from which I want to kind of share so that it’s consumable to everyone in the audience. Yeah, especially the larger the audience, the more you know, they say, sometimes you got to talk to the lowest common denominator, I don’t know if I want to go all the way to the lowest common denominator, sure, but kind of I hit more towards that than not smaller audience where I know who the people are, I can kind of go a little bit deeper. But generally, I want to make sure that my the arc of my whole story is told, and then I can leave room for people to kind of pull you into the places that they’re interested in, especially at a like a tabletop pitch, right. You know, I think the a lot of entrepreneurs, especially first time people pitching one and tell the entire story at a decent depth and hopes that one of those things will resonate with the person across the table for them. That’s completely the wrong way to do it. The right way to do it is to kind of make sure you go over at a surface level across the whole arc, and let them ask you those things. By the way, not only will it kind of focus you on the things that are important to them, but you now pull them into the conversation. And now that they’re now part of it, as opposed to a bullhorn, you’re not having a conversation. So especially kind of like a table presentation, I want to engage that person as quickly as possible.
So what do you say that a good pitch is really a good conversation?
Again, I, you know, if two people to table versus 1000 People in audience, I’d say, I want to find, broadly defined the conversation in a large audience, which is maybe when I go into the room and go in, you know, rock the tables, and at least walk the stage a lot. Because I kind of want to engage them and look each group in the eye and try to say, if that’s a conversation, and in the broadest sense, yes, sure.
Well, I think that it’s interesting, because you’re at a point right now, where you really don’t have to pitch like we did, and you’ve created this amazing magnet here in Durham, North Carolina. But I think that your entrepreneurial roots, and just being around entrepreneurs, as long as you have, you still have that pitch down for whether it’s for TSF, the startup factory, or for big top the thing that you’re doing with career placement, for high growth, high tech companies, you see the opportunity when it’s presented to kind of give your pitch and you still do it in a conversational way. And it’s natural, I don’t feel like I’m being pitched right. But by the time I leave on boarded, right, and I think that that’s an important theme that, you know, you hear a lot of entrepreneurs, especially on the technical side, say, you know, I don’t want to have to pitch my product, the product will sell itself. What’s kind of your take on that, from the technical side?
Good luck with that. I mean, maybe you’re the one person that your product will, you know, be that instant viral thing, and you won’t have to do anything to kind of get it, you know, get it out there. Fortunately, for the rest of us mere mortals, you know, the question is, you know, I’ve dealt with tech, software tech companies all my life. And I come from a, you know, somewhat tech point of view, that’s kind of still the bones of maybe who I am. But I’ve also been, I’ve kind of evolved into a founder, a CEO, kind of an executive manager, whatever you want to call that. And if that’s going to be the route that you need, if you’re going to be a founder of a company, you have to know how to pitch and whether you’re convincing investors or new employees or customers. And, you know, maybe you don’t have to label it as a pitch. Maybe it’s just being able to tell your story and tell it, you know, from a really good, authentic, your personality, passionate point of view. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to do that, maybe you don’t have to get hung up and calling it a pitch, maybe it’s just telling your story in the most effective way possible. But you’re gonna bet you better be able to convince people, or at least share with people what you’re doing. And then you know, it’s up to them. So for instance, my, my big top reverse job fair 12 to 1415 companies come. And instead of the typical boring suits, ties, resumes, quiet, you know, kind of existence, it’s a circus with jugglers and acrobats. And the companies get three minutes on stage to, quote, pitch the audience, unquote, about why they should come work for their company. Now, this makes sense in the tech world today, because the leverage is not with the companies anymore. You’re a software developer, you get to pick which company you go to, right, not the other way around. So it levels it’s a reverse pitch. I call it a reverse job fair, right. But the whole idea here is that you better be able to convince people and get them fired up for what you’re doing. And I don’t call that a pitch. Maybe it’s pitch. I don’t know. But that was at least my concept. And seems I’ve worked really well. The bad companies get up and just, you know, to put your PowerPoint, you know, send up the recruiting manager, listen, they’re important. We need the recruiting managers to go find people. But at the end of the day, the people that buy it, they buy into the passion, the pie into the mission. Right. That’s, that’s, you got to sell that right. Yeah,
absolutely. Well, I mean, we’re talking a little bit about the pitch for established companies and the companies on the scale side of the entrepreneurial growth cycle. Talk to me a little bit about the founders that you see here at TSF. Because I imagine you’ve seen 1000s of pitches by now. How many classes have you had now through the
we’ve had seven cohorts about 35 investments in three and a half years?
That’s amazing. And those companies I know some have already been acquired, some are still raising subsequent funding of those companies that you selected and put through the process. First off, how did you choose them based on their application? And what was it about their pitch that made those 35
I’m sure so it’s funny because we’re talking about pitch here part of our application. And probably the most important part of our application is a one to two minute video that we asked them to get, just give us a link to put it up on Vimeo or YouTube or wherever. And a little secret is, I hardly read the application, but I watch every video, that’s good feedback. And the first thing I’m trying to do is connect with you in some way. I will tell you, there’s a story of two young guys, you know, sitting in front of their MacBook, you know, it probably practices a bunch of times, they like, ready, ready, like I didn’t see this, of course, and they like they press play, and they look each other and burst out laughing. Okay, and then like, all right, and then they just kind of started their pitch, that little human moment, probably got them into the next round. Because they didn’t edit it out. They said, this is kind of who we are. And, you know, I needed to connect with people at some not just about the idea, but you as a person, yes, because I can tell you the best way for you to use an accelerator. Any accelerator, but especially TSF, is we want someone who has that kind of that personality that just has a kind of a humble nature, has a curious nature, loves to get this kind of, you know, tidal wave of disparate advice, and then wants to process all that. And I can see that sometimes in the personality and the video.
So what characteristics in the personality stand out to you in that video? You know, how they talk? Is it how they carry themselves? Or it’s probably I’m guessing at some comedy? Yeah, I mean, if it was, if I could actually pinpoint it and measure it, right? I would, I would probably, I that would be my new startup. Right? So I don’t know what it is. I tell us people sometimes it’s like pornography, the definition pornography, I don’t know how to define it. But I know what when I see it. And so now I also have a partner in crime here, Dave Neil. And, and we’ve now been through seven probably been through just under 1000 applications. And you know, through that whole funnel of getting these 35 investments, we have ways and like anything else, the more you do it, the more you kind of see, yeah, this works, this doesn’t work. And then you have a combination of at least two or three heads in the game kind of pulling and pushing. Interesting. Our selection process is very simple as we go through each round. So the first round, we cut down to 35 people, and we put them on all the you know, put the whole applications in a spreadsheet, and then we vote yes, maybe no. Okay, that’s it really simple rubric. And so the Yes, yeses are easy. The no nose are easy. Maybe even the maybe maybes are okay. It’s the yes nose or the no yeses that we really need to talk about. What did I see that you said no to? Or vice versa? And so then we spend a lot of time kind of on that group, and what is it that we saw or didn’t see? And that’s when, you know, sometimes it’s personality? Sometimes it’s the way they have maybe it was the team dynamics, which is always one clue, by the way? Absolutely. Is there two people three people in the video but only one person does all the talking? Well, certainly that’s a signal.
Absolutely. So you’re looking for team oriented businesses. And so if if there’s a team involved, and there’s only one person on the video, that’s communicating something, it’s communicating something either overtly or, or not, right. So, yeah,
it’s important for everyone on the team to be able to pitch at some level.
We, yeah, everyone should be pitching. Everyone should be able to pitch. I mean, our first couple of weeks, we work on the elevator pitch, and I’ll make the introverted software dev lead, do the pitch some days, just to say, hey, you know, hey, someday you might be sitting on an elevator and, or on an airplane or sitting in front of, you know, interesting, you know, commentators saying asking questions, you got to be able to tell that 32nd version of your story. Well, so
what makes a good elevator pitch? If I’m pitching, let’s say on pitching verge. What makes a good elevator pitch if if I run into you here in the underground, let’s say we didn’t get introduced by a mutual friend. And we’re just riding the elevator together. And I’ve got
20 seconds. 20 seconds. Yeah, game on, right game on Game on.
How would you want to be pitched?
How would I want to be pitched? We have an interesting idea. We’re trying to operate in this space. If you give me a little bit of context, here’s what we’ve accomplished to date. And here’s what our next steps are. And if you leave me a little bit of mystery that makes me want to say, stop that elevator. I need to talk to you some more. That would be great. So, but give me a little context, give me a little bit of data, and then tell me what the next steps are.
That’s great. So it’s almost like, here’s, here’s the opportunity. Here’s the traction and then you hooking your attention? Yep. To get you to the next
right, you’re not going to close them, right? What do you just, you just want to be able to get more of my time, right?
Like, here’s where we’re going. We’re already getting there. But we think you might be able to help. Here’s, here’s how.
So remember I said earlier, go to the end and look to the beginning. So, you know, an elevator pitch, what you’re saying yourself, right? My goal, the end goal is I want to get more time from this person. And when this person is say, Here’s my email, or here’s my phone number, give me a call, or do you got 10 minutes? Now, that’s your target, your target is to say, I want I want to get this the next meeting, right? Whether it’s a minute from now or a week from now. So if that’s your target, what do I have to say, to be able to get that? So if you’re sitting in front of 1000 people, and you want 500 new Twitter followers, you might want to mention your Twitter handle, but you might want to say something interesting about here’s what you can find, when you follow me, right? If that’s what your goal is, if your goal is I want to get that next meeting, or the goal is I want to get an investment. Tell me what are the things that I need to hear that make someone go I need to know more?
Well, let’s let’s let’s take it to the next step. Let’s say you’ve got your companies that are about to go on stage for their demo day, which you host here in Durham, North Carolina. How do you prepare for a demo day? And I’m guessing you give what, five? Eight minutes? Alright, somewhere in between eight minutes. That’s great. So what do you what do you coach those entrepreneurs to do in that eight minutes that they didn’t do in the 22nd? Elevator Pitch?
Got it? So if we do nothing else? Well, we do good pitch. Yeah. So we’ve heard that great feedback from investors who’ve been to Y Combinator, TechStars, all the pitches, say you guys do good pitch. And I’ll tell you our formula. And it comes down to just a few basic things. If we have a 12 week program, the last three weeks, we’re working on pitch, wow, three weeks of pitch prep, every single day, what if 5% of your accelerators the pitch, every single day, you will pitch to Dave and I, we don’t bring in too many people, because actually more cooks, more chefs spoil that soup. Okay.
So as you’re getting feedback, whether you’re in an accelerator, or you’ve created your own accelerator of mentors, it’s better to get the advice of maybe two to five
and the same to all the way along, because if you keep asking opinions, you’re gonna get more opinions. It’s a subjective, not an objective thing. So and what happens is everyone has an opinion about what they like and what they don’t like. And there’s no real right answer, at the end of the day, what we tell the entrepreneurs, listen, this has got to be you, I just try to bring out in those three weeks, their natural personality, and then make it a little bit bigger. So explain to me why you spend an entire three weeks on the pitch, and what does that look like?
So one of the things that I mean, the most obvious piece of advice is, the more you pitch, the better you get, okay, so we want to get at least a minimum of 25 reps just with us, you’re doing an another one to two times a day, either by yourself, maybe with your co founder, maybe with your mirror and your phone, right? So we expect you to kind of take, you know, 50 to 60 versions of this over the three week period. But what ends up happening is the first week, it’s more about these big building blocks, kind of the basic structure of the story you want to tell. And we care less about the specific words or even about your mannerisms, right. We’re just trying to like, Does this seem to make sense this? Does this arc kind of feel? Right. And that’s different for each company? Right? Yeah. And depends on what they have to say and, you know, part vision, part mechanics, part product part, you know, traction, right, all those things, you actually map that out with them. I mean, there’s we follow kind of a basic, kind of, you know, the five basic steps of you know, what the problem is, what the solution is where the team is like, someone follows those kinds of things. Yeah. And by the way, like, follow that, like, there’s a reason that that’s kind of like the standard, right? I always get kind of chuckle at people who kind of break that and I’m like, why are you? Why do you think you’re different, right? Just people expect that keep that
those basic building blocks all the pattern installed. It’s like, it’s like web design, right, but the search box on the upper right, but the home button on the upper left,
just, it’s just the way we do it, right. The second week, we start to get into kind of, we’re best, we’re past the building blocks. And we’re now starting to kind of optimize kind of the wording. And sometimes we end up kind of well, too long on this piece. Or you know what, I need a little bit more here in this block, because I think there’s an opportunity to say more. And by the end of that week, we’re starting to get into kind of maybe good phrases and you know, and what ends up happening is word start actually being eliminated. Right? And we ended up being able to kind of say more with less right by then the second week. And then the third week, we’re really starting to find like some really good phrases. And then we’re then we kind of were we’re bringing it home And then the kind of stylistic things, build in some pauses here, repeat that phrase, we may be working on kind of your personal style, are you a kind of a standard one place, kind of like a TED thing? Where you’re kind of you’re in the circle? Or are you a person that, you know, likes to go big with the hands? And so let’s make sure you want to use the whole stage.
Is there anything in the the phrasing and the words that have sort of tried and true way of finding what those key phrases are? What those key words are? Or is it more of a just kind of know, when you hear I think,
you know, when you hear him, and and Dave and I both, you know, we will, we’ll pop ideas at people. Sometimes I’ll just stand up and go ahead and try this on for size. And I’ll try kind of a version. And it’s almost like music where you’re kind of riffing. And so we’ll try to riff, especially in those first two weeks, there’s a lot of riffing going on about well, I don’t know, that doesn’t resonate with me, I’m not feeling that part. What can we do here? And what are you thinking here? And so we just, sometimes you stumble upon them? You know, every day, they show up? Sometimes they’ve just, they’re just doing the same thing yesterday, again, and sometimes they come back, it’s like, I gotta complete kind of rewrite. I’m rethinking this whole thing. Let me try this out. Yeah. So through it all, all the machinations, we end up at a really good product.
So don’t be afraid to kind of play around with it, just to see if something pops out of that, that maybe the new approach 90% of it isn’t used. I will tell
you, though, I’m going to anticipate your next question, which is, you know, who are the companies that either fail at this? Or the companies that don’t do well? Yeah, why did they not do else? Absolutely, I can boil it down to one thing, and one thing only, okay, they do not work the process. They, they, they, I’ll have them come in at the end of week one, and they haven’t worked on it, they haven’t spent the time on it, I tell the usually the founders, usually the, or the CEO, or whatever, the person who’s got that lead role. You know, they usually going to be the one that pitches and when I’ll tell them is, you better be spending two to three hours a day, including the 20 minutes, 30 minutes with us. You better you spend a couple of hours a day on this, doing the pitch yourself, doing it from the mirror, maybe writing down an outline, or some people actually kind of will script the whole thing out, and then we throw the script away. I don’t care how you get there. But you’re going to be working this every day. And invariably, it’s the people go, like especially, you know, some people who, you know, they’re the more charming maybe they’re more comfortable on stage. They’re like, I can just wing this. But you know what, what I tell them is you’ll wing it, and you’ll do an okay job. But you’ll be sitting there with, you know, we’ll have six companies pitch and the five that practiced it, who ironed it down, we’ll be over here. And you’ll be over here. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Yeah. So you may be good inside your own little viewpoint of your world, because that’s what you do. But compared to everyone else, you’ll look sloppy, and you didn’t work for us. You didn’t work the process, it works. And I want to get it to muscle memory time, not practice time, yes. Where you just up there, and you’re having a conversation. And now your personality starts to kind of come out because the words are almost secondary, because you’ve honed those over the 4050 reps you’ve done. And that’s how we do good pitch.
So I have to ask, Do you have any favorites? You know, I’m sure you love all the ones that come out of the startup factory. But do you have any favorites? Whether they’re in TSF? Or outside? That just blew you away?
Yeah, you know, there’s a couple of favorites and the ones that are usually my favorite. So a couple things. One is, again, invariably, their best pitch is the one on pitch day, like, almost, maybe I can think of one or two out of the 35 that didn’t bring their best pitch on the day off, which is really cool to see.
That’s amazing. But it’s a lot of pressure to be able to perform under that.
Well, I think, again, if you practice it, it becomes more muscle memory. And as long as we create an environment that’s kind of relaxed and that they’re comfortable with, then they just, it just happened you just run the race, right. But I think some of my favorites are the ones who maybe brought it the farthest, maybe struggled at the beginning or kind of even maybe a few days before we’re kind of like I’m not feeling it. And then they come in and they just kind of they run that sub 10 Second 100, right. And you’re like, oh my god, that was amazing, right? And there’s a couple that I just thought, like one guy, I thought just he sometimes would race a little bit too far. And kind of get his words would go fast. And he just found his Zen moment. And like his pauses were just like, well, right? They just, you know, they the pauses just just made it work. Right. And I love some of those moments.
I definitely believe that being able to relax in the moment is something that when you’re on stage, you feel like a one second pause is like a minute, right? Because you have so much to say so little time, but that’s really great feedback on being able to pause for emphasis, right? pauses
are huge. First of all, I mean, if you think about this, like, kind of eating food, like you need palate cleansers, you need time to move from the appetizer to the entree, and you need time to digest that. And our minds need that as well. So a couple well placed pauses, allow people to kind of go Got it, process it, and then you say, then then with your voice or your mannerisms, you say, now we’re going to take it to the next chapter. And they’re like, Okay, I’m with you. And if you kind of race through that people can’t catch up, right? And then just, and you can’t digest it and you miss stuff, right? It’s a great metaphor. Yeah. So back, one of the things you just mentioned, that I think is interesting, I always tell them, Listen, the day of do it one more time in the morning, because we usually do our pitch days a night and then don’t do it. Like, there’s nothing you can do to change this at this point. So just now it’s just time to let it rock right. So don’t practice that 16 more times the day off. So
that’s a really good gametime coaching. Yeah. What were some of the other things about the pitches that you really loved? You know, you mentioned that this guy was able to kind of relax and find his own groove, it hit the pause is just right. Was there another one that you can think of that? You just like, wow, that was that was.
One of our little things we’ve mentioned in the third week, we’re trying to work out some personal mannerisms and kind of let your personality Come, come come free, right. One of the things we try to encourage people to do is smile. It’s amazing what a smile will do that just relax people and kind of bring them in. When you pause and smile. It’s like, by the way, if you’re on your phone, what are you going to do? You’re gonna look up, you’re gonna look up absolutely right. And then you see someone smile, and you’re like, Oh, my God, what’s coming next. Right? So, again, when you see maybe someone who’s a little bit more introverted, right, and they’re kind of, you know, that’s not maybe kind of who they are. But to see him kind of find their kind of, you know, inner pitch God, right, and kind of just like, bring that you’re just like, I’m standing there going like, right, they’ve nailed it, right? And then yeah, and then I’ll, you know, I’ll usually maybe being off stage, and I’ve watched the I’m watching the audience more than I’m watching them. And you see people kind of look up and you see them kind of smile back. You’re like, Oh, they got him, they got a man thread, right.
Chris Hively is doing amazing things for the startup ecosystem. They’re in the Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill area, it was so cool to see his face down there in Durham, North Carolina. And we’ve been lucky enough to have him here speaking at events in Indianapolis, he has an amazing book out that obviously, you should check out with tons and tons of advice on how to pitch how to get support around your ideas to bring those ideas into reality, which of course, he talked about a ton here on the podcast. But I’m actually here with Nick Wrangler, our partner here on the powderkeg podcast through his role as a partner at developer town. And he’s going to introduce a really cool entrepreneurial story with Scott Humphries.
Yeah. So we developed on we help big companies move like a startup with with web and mobile products. And so obviously, part of that startup life is pitching. And that’s no different inside of a big company. And so part of what Scott talks about here is how do you do that, instead of the big company? How do you pitch to, you know, the different areas and so it’s just as true inside of a large company as it is at a startup. And so this is good stuff.
Let’s hear from Scott. I really like that developer town focuses on validation prior to building product. And as we all know, validation, a big piece of that is pitching ideas, testing out different approaches to messaging, testing out different features to include in that pitch. Scott, could you talk to me a little bit about the importance of understanding how to pitch and pitch Well, when you’re working at a large organization, but as an intrapreneur? launching a new project?
Yeah, that’s, that’s an interesting question. So I’ve, you know, heard a fair number of pitches now myself from various people. And there’s a lot of different approaches. And one of the things that, you know, when you’re doing this in a big organization, you know, yes, you want to generate a lot of excitement. Yes, you want to say, I have some massive total addressable problem, you know, that we’re going after, but these are people who are very grounded as well and saying, Hey, I have shareholders, I have revenue numbers I need to meet. So you’re really trying to hit that balance. Here. You know what, I can change your business, I could, you know, if we can build out a service model and generate 100 million revenue, I’m going to add a billion, you know, to your valuation, and they care about that they’re interested in that and, and so getting that interest around those pieces and how you can benefit If they’re shareholders and keeping it grounded enough that they believe you, it’s a, you know, it’s kind of an interesting mix. So you know, and again, it comes back that I’ve seen those presentations that feel like, hey, that is an amazing problem. But there’s no way you’re going to achieve that here in the next five years. And you can’t do that that’s not what a corporation is going to look at. They’re still saying we need to return sooner on the investment and whether that’s a big picture or not, there needs to be, you know, the roadmap to what’s the incremental way to even get there.
That was part four of our interview series with Scott Humphries, who is the entrepreneurial leader at Johnson Controls a client at developer town. To learn more about developer town and the awesome work that they’re doing. go to developer town.com/powderkeg to not only get a direct line into the developer townies in the brilliant minds there, but you’ll also get some free resources on building and launching tech info products. You can find show notes for this email@example.com And be sure to hop on our email list there. We’re releasing tons of bonus footage, some how to guides and even some bonus interviews, but this is only for email list subscribers, so be sure to check it out. We’re coming out with new episodes every Tuesday. So make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or at our handy link that is powderkeg.co/itunes. Thanks again to everyone who shared an episode of powderkeg subscribe to us on iTunes or left us a review is the only way we’re going to spread this message and reach new people. And we couldn’t do it without you. So until next time, we’ll see you in the next episode of powderkeg