The art of pitching to investors – what worked and what didn’t at the DEMO Innovation Tour event in Toronto

DEMO logoThe DEMO Innovation Tour, sponsored by Rogers Ventures, stopped by Toronto yesterday in search of the best product innovation to showcase at the DEMO Spring 2011 conference in Palm Desert, CA. In the evening, 10 start-ups were given the chance to present to a crowd of a few hundred people at an after party at the Century Room after spending the day in 30-minute private meetings with leading venture capitalists and the DEMO team.

Writing a great 60-second product pitch is difficult.  It also takes guts to get up in front of a crowd people to present your pitch.  So, if you’re going to muster up the courage to present in front of a room full of technology professionals, investors and media to tell your story, yesterday evening’s round of pitches was a great training opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t. 

One of the attendees at the evening event, Steven Kraft from, told me that “you can create the best product in the world but if you can’t communicate it properly then you have a big problem.”

There were only a few pitches that really stood out at the event.  One the best pitches of the evening was from Colin Pape, the founder of, who told me that he has had many years of practice to perfect his pitch.

Here are some tips on what made the best pitches of the night successful:

Make sure to mention your company name two or three times
The best presenters mentioned their company names at least at the beginning and end of the presentation in case the folks who missed it the first time had a chance to catch it again at the end.  Also, try to come up with a memorable hook that sticks in your audience’s mind after they leave the event.

Speak loudly and clearly so that the people in the back of the room can hear you
This is especially important when the event is being held at a bar and folks are chatting away with their friends and colleagues in the back.  Also, get up there and show your passion for what you do.  If you don’t come across as excited about your product then why should the audience be excited?

Stick to the key points
When crafting your story, focus on why people in the room should care about your product and zero-in on how your product is beneficial to your target market.  However, keep it simple and try to avoid too much technical jargon. Also, it’s important to identify how your business will actually make money and whether you have you sold anything yet?

Identify how you will stay ahead of your competitors
Many of the start-ups that presented last night had similarities to other companies in the marketplace.  That’s because there are few completely original ideas anymore.  The key is to identify how your company is different and why you have an advantage over your competition.

Because the pitches went by so quickly, the DEMO team gave other people from the crowd the opportunity to volunteer to come up and pitch their product if they had the guts to do it.  A few of the entrepreneurs that I was speaking with earlier in the night were too nervous to give it a shot.  So, my final piece of advice from the night would be that if someone gives you the chance to pitch your product in front of a room full of potential investors – take it!  Just make sure to have your pitch nailed down for the next time you get such a rare opportunity.

Here is a list of the businesses who presented yesterday:

  • Animated Media Inc. – they create cross-platform Adobe Flash-compatible software products  
  • – a communications platform for mobile personal security
  • Market Signage Technologies – a corporate network screensaver that displays internal communications while your employees’ computer screens are idle
  • Nuvyyo – a cloud-based service that enables you to access your entertainment media from anywhere, on any device
  • ShopCity – a platform that enables local businesses to promote, publish and sell their products online
  • TrendSpottr – a web service that filters, aggregates and publishes social media trending info based on keywords or topic of interest
  • ShinyAds –  a self-service advertising platform that helps web publishers to reduce the costs of acquiring small and local advertisers
  • Viafoura – a user engagement platform to enhance your website’s content
  • LeanIn – an in-video search and in-stream recommendation platform
  • GroupStore – an online service which facilities event ticket sales via Facebook groups