By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker

Have you ever watched the TV show “Shark Tank”? Last week, we had the opportunity to attend an event called “Ultra Light Startups Investor Feedback Forum.” It was like a cross between “Shark Tank” and “American Idol.” Eight entrepreneurs had the chance to give a two-minute pitch to a panel of four seasoned investors. The investors then asked questions and gave advice to the presenters. Unlike “Shark Tank,’ no offers were made on the spot. But like “American Idol,” the audience of over 200 entrepreneurs, investors and service providers voted for the top pitches.

The forum, which was held at Microsoft’s New York offices, was lively, engaging and highly educational. Thinking over both the pitches and the panelists’ comments, we have come up with five nuggets of advice we’d like to pass onto you when you are planning your business and developing your pitch.

  1. Be prepared. Each presenter was professional, self-possessed, and in charge of their pitches. The big winner came on like gang-busters, speaking confidently to the panelists. She was even ready with a humorous come-back to a comment.
  2. Be explicit in answering the question: What problem are you solving? As panelist Jeffrey Finkle of ARC Angel Fund said, “Connect with the problem space.”
  3. Cynthia Shames, the evening’s winning presenter, made a strong case for how her company, AbbeyPost, fills the needs of a woefully under-served market – women who wear size 18+ clothes – by using  interactive technology to create custom-made clothing.
  4. When branding, “tell a pure story,” as panelist Adam Rothenburg of Box Group advised. Make sure you have a clear and consistent message.
  5. If you are starting by offering a free product, figure out how to get users past the “Paywall.” Customers who pay for your product or service will provide much-needed revenue. Have your system figured out.

Want to learn more about the audience choice winners? They were:

  1. Cynthia Schames – AbbeyPost
  2. Raphael Crawford-Marks –
  3. Benjamin Bergsma – SeatAdvance

Other presenters were:

  1. Jim Medalia – (Full disclosure – Wyn has been informally advising them.)
  2. Adam Stein-Sapir – LiveAce
  3. Graham Clarke – Insight Replay
  4. Pam Cooper – Boosterville
  5. Kaiyi Chu – Votopin

All the presenters were pre-qualified because they had to pass an evaluation before being chosen to pitch. If you are really committed to the startup game, you should consider attending an Ultra Light event.

Copyright © 2013 by Ed McLaughlin