The Pitch Bootcamp: Close, But Not Quite There Yet

By Claire Adamson |

In a city with a tech scene as thriving as Berlin, it is not surprising that every night brings a new event or meetup. But when does it become too much? Just how many pitching contests does one city need?

Last night’s Founder Institute Pitch Bootcamp started out really well with talks from consultant Christoph Sollich and theatre director/entrepreneur Michael Ronen, but lost its way slightly toward the end with its pitching contest. After the relaxed atmosphere of Pitch Slam the night before, it didn’t feel necessary to even have pitches at this event given the quality of the evening’s speakers.

The workshop began very promisingly with an extremely entertaining and engaging talk from Christoph Sollich, a startup consultant and pitch wizard who gave the audience his best pitching pointers using examples from movies. Being John Malkovich and Fight Club would help pitchers remember to be themselves, Run Lola Run and Rocky suggested pace and practice, and the Bourne Identity would act as a reminder to look at their product through the audience’s eyes.

He finished up by suggesting that every good pitch should have babies and animals in them, for reasons of cuteness, and reminded everyone that if a pitch doesn’t go well, there is always the next one.

ActorPreneur coach Michael Ronen was up next, riding high from his victory with TimeCapsule at Pitch Slam the night before. As a theatre director, he had resigned himself to a life on the stage, and then realized that his skills would translate well to the business world. Drawing on the actor’s tools of voice, body language and emotion, he told the audience how these could be manipulated when pitching in competitions or to investors.

With that, the workshop part of the evening was over, and after a short break there was a series of pitches from startups in the audience, with feedback from a jury which included Michael and Christoph, as well as YouTube founder and VC Jawed Karim, Holger Dieterich from Startup Digest and Paul Nelligan of Audiofu and Berlin Skills Exchange.

But in truth, while the idea was good in theory, this section of the event didn’t work so well in practice. There was no predetermined order of the pitches, no real time constraints, and while the judges themselves were great and offered good feedback about both pitch technique and ideas, the way the winner was chosen felt both disorganised and a little biased and resulted in a tie – an outcome that the organizers were not prepared for. After taking it to the audience, it was Pitch Slam runner up TurnYourTime that won, just beating out a nameless iOS DJ app.

While overall the evening was entertaining and ultimately worthwhile, it would be great to see a more organized contest next time, perhaps in a slightly more engaging format.

The Founder Institute is an international early stage incubator, and offers a part time program to founders and entrepreneurs, helping them to avoid the early stage mistakes that kill companies.