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EXPERT PANEL

The art of the elevator pitch

With CBC set to launch a new reality series geared at entrepreneurs, we put together our own panel of experts to help you impress investors

Globe and Mail Update

You may have heard about the CBC's latest reality project, "Dragon's Den," set to run in October, 2006. The show gives Canadian entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their big idea to a panel of real investors.

With the show set to tape in early August, we decided to put together our own panel of experts to give readers a little last-minute advice on what makes a great pitch.

Meet our panel:

Morey Chaplick is the founder of Vespa Canada. Over the years, he's run several companies, including video-game retailer Hip Interactive.

Ron Dizy is a partner at Celtic House Venture Partners, which specializes in early-stage investments in high-tech companies. He's a former portfolio manager in the VC group at Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and co-founder of Altera Systems.

Bill Tatham is chairman and CEO of NexJ Systems. He also founded Janna Systems in his basement in 1990 and sold it 10 years later to Siebel Systems for $1.76 billion.

Sean Wise is the founder of Wise Mentor Capital, which helps companies find venture capital. He's also the investment advisor and online host of "Dragon's Den."


Sean Wise: I'm happy to start us off (if no one minds, that is)...

In my February Wise Words column for The Globe and Mail, we talked about the four things a good elevator pitch must be:

1. succinct — under two minutes

2. easy to understand — no acronyms or tech talk

3. greed-inducing — you have to instantly be able to say "Oh yeah, that's going to make money"

4. irrefutable — if your audience can argue why you are wrong, right away, you're off to a bad start.

Morey Chaplick: Good luck getting any great business idea out of your mouth in two minutes. Getting to the point is paramount, but the idea of two minutes is misleading to young entrepreneurs.

Sean Wise: I humblely disagree.

You should be able to lay out the pain points you are addressing, and the value proprosition of your venture, in under two minutes.

Once you've done that, you will have an investor's attention and can have all the time you need to eloborate… If you can't do that, I'd wonder just how clear your messaging was and just how focused you were.

Morey Chaplick: Everybody is different. I remember my first pitch when I was 19 (30 years ago) to a bank manager at TD (he turned me down). I was REAL nervous. You obviously are that one-in-a-million type that has ice water running through his body....

Sean Wise: Well, Morey, thanks for the compliment... but I'm not sure its true. In the last seven years I've been part of a team that has helped train more than 2,000 entrepreneurs seeking cash (at our bootcamps). Collectively they have gone on to win 11 of 14 Best in Show awards at venture forums across Canada and have collectively raised more than $891 million dollars.

So yes, it is hard to get a good pitch out in under two minutes, but no harder than founding a business.

Ron Dizy: From my perspective...

It depends on what you mean by "pitch"... When I hear that term, I am actually thinking about the presentation that an entrepreneur is giving me, and that, obviously, is more like 45 to 60 minutes.

If you mean the "elevator pitch," then I tend to agree with Sean... That needs to be short and to the point. To me, the focus needs to be on "what problem are you solving" and perhaps "why are we uniquely positioned to solve it." I don't think, for most technology businesses anyway, that you are likely to be able to explain "how you solve the problem" in two minutes — but that's OK.

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