By Jill Ozovek
What do a platform connecting Brazilian jui jitsu fighters, genital icepacks, a roommate matchmaking service and an interior design firm have in common?
A lot, actually. Their drive, passion and willingness to help their fellow entrepreneur aside, the owners of these businesses, and over X (100) more business owners, side hustlers and dreamers convened at the Dreamers//Doers “Making it Happen Soiree with Kelly Hoey” last week at General Assembly.
And what a soiree it was.
We got an intimate peek into Kelly’s views on everything from saying “no” to pitching investors and the media. I typed, court stenographer style, while taking it all in and thinking of real life applications for my and my friends’ and DDers’ businesses. I looked down at one point and had four pages of single spaced notes of juicy goodness to share with ya’ll- and we were only halfway into the talk. So, fellow Dreamers and Doers, without further ado, the key takeaways:
Self-Awareness: Kelly talked about how self-awareness is a key component of success as a startup. She said- and this is pretty verbatim, because I really could have a third career as the aforementioned court stenographer,- “Understand yourself and when you work at your best. Where do you perform at your highest and best and remember those moments…[It’s about] knowing what you’re good at and want to do, and then putting yourself in the position to go get it.”
Aptly put, I’d say, wouldn’t you? A lot of times we slog through something that isn’t our true calling because we feel like we ‘have to’ or we’ve already started it and put a lot of time into it, so stopping now would be failure. It’s actually the opposite, according to Kelly and the guys and gals at 37 Signals behind the book Rework. Get out there, and scream from the rooftops what you can do and how you can help and get in there. Kelly’s version of this was quitting her job as a corporate lawyer to help launch the global women’s professional network started by the woman of Goldman Sachs (85 Broads) and now helmed by Sally Krawcheck, Ellevate Network.
Personal Brand is Queen: Your LinkedIn profile is your pitch. Your Facebook page is your pitch. Your headshot is your pitch. Your handshake is your pitch. Basically, if you don’t have a presence online (and offline), it’s being defined for you – and probably by your competitors. There can be no disconnect between all of those things- and they have to be moving in the same direction to make sense to the big, bad world out there.
Dreamers // Doers Founder Gesche Haas then pulled out her interviewing hat and asked a series of important and impactful questions on pitching the media and investors. I’m including a redacted version here so you can find what you need easily:
Q: What Makes A Really Good Pitch?
A: A pitch deck is a really good idea because it allows you to distill your thoughts down and get specific in terms of what you’re doing and what your value proposition is. It’s also a good exercise in terms of ‘why you want it’ and the ever-important, “What’s the problem and how do you solve it?” question-duo.
But the best pitches- and Kelly has seen tons of pitches- are for the startups that have researched the audiences they are in front of. There’s a difference between pitches for, say, Y-combinator and actually sitting across from Gene Sullivan or Kathy Utecht. It’s knowing that audience and prepping for that context. In addition to solving the great problems of the world, why do you want to solve it with them?
Q: How can you actually prep for a specific meeting?
A: Answer the question, “Who is this individual that will be sitting in front of me?” Check out the websites or LinkedIn profiles of the people you want to pitch. Joanne Wilson, for example, is transparent on how to reach her and what to give her in advance of the pitch. Kelly said this was essentially a low-hanging fruit kind of approach- you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t pay attention to that or research it in the first place to know this vital information.
Q: What are some common pitch mistakes?
A: Rehearsing your pitch so much that you feel you HAVE to stick to it is a mistake. You need to be able to pitch through tech snafus and distractions like babies crying or phones ringing. If you are the founder of your startup, you need to know EVERYTHING. Kelly said that female founders get “universally crucified” for not knowing their numbers and projections. Even if you have someone doing this on the daily for you, you gotta know it too. Anyone who is a non-technical founder needs to speak the language. Your company’s technology is the underlying business. Kelly likened it to being the CEO of Ford and not knowing how cars are made.
Q: What are the differences between VC and Angel Investors?
A: It’s simple- angel investors are using their own money, so you need to treat it as if you’re spending your own money. VCs are raising money through limited partners (e.g pension plans, endowments), but it’s not their own money, which is also why they take huge risks because they have huge funds through which to spread the risk. They have a specific lifetime on the fund and have to return results to investors in that time period. So, you need to understand the differing underlying motivations and ask yourself, “Does this align with what I need?”
Q: What’s a good way to pitch your story to the media?
A: Well, according to Kelly, a bad way is to confuse the fact you exist with being a story.
This is the formula she laid out: 1) Is this news? 2) Tell me why this is a story/ what’s the angle/why are you the expert? 3) Why is this new news? It could be that you have a credible second day story, and that story is NOT “We do X too, cover us!” It has to be a new take on another story. Why are you the credible expert that I would use to be the source for a story? Oh, and remember that personal brand stuff from earlier? The media will look at your LinkedIn, so it all comes full circle- everything has to be rolling in the right direction on the personal brand front.
Q: How do you contact the media?
A: It depends on the journalist but consider the 24/7 news cycle- the “I want the news now” mentality. Journalists’ jobs are really hard now, so make it easier on them. Don’t make them ask you questions- tell THEM why this is news. Find the journalist’s twitter handle and follow them and engage them and retweet them. See what interests them and what they’re writing about so you can tailor your pitch appropriately. Keep track of this!
And of course, my favorite part? Right before we moved into introductions to the group, Kelly pointed out that one of the best places to pitch yourself and raise awareness is in just these types of situations like the soiree. Stand up, say who you are, what you do and what you need help with. With a captive audience and a clear, concise spiel, it’s way more than likely that someone will come find you during open networking with help, a resource, an introduction or an idea.
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