The PittMoss™ Team attended an Elevator Pitch competition at the urging of our friends at the Idea Foundry of Pittsburgh. They told us about the competition and we submitted a hastily prepared application before the scheduled deadline that very afternoon. To compete, participants offer a sixty to ninety second presentation highlighting the best elements of their business plan to a room full of prospective investors and the other presenting teams. In our case, the other twenty-five or so, teams were composed of young, brilliant, hipsters, Carnegie Mellon programmers, Pitt engineers and biomedical brainiacs. They all seemed to be quite comfortable with the contest but I honestly felt a bit like Honey Boo-Boo at a MENSA meeting.
The idea behind the elevator pitch is as formulaic and day dreamy as a Hollywood Romantic Comedy. You know the Rom-Com formula, right? The fantasy that boy meets girl, or boy meets boy, or girl meets girl, as they exchange glances over the ripe tomatoes or the leafy greens in the market. After a few misunderstandings, trademark zingers, and a wasted hour and a half of my life, they realize they are perfect for each other. Elevator pitch advocates have been selling a similar fantasy to entrepreneurs since Doris Day and Rock Hudson were Hollywood “sweethearts”. The perfect investor is out there at the gas pump or the coffee counter and you better be ready with your well-rehearsed, sixty-second pick-up line.
Business development experts advise to be ready for any chance opportunity when you meet a Mark Cuban type on, well, an elevator. If the high-powered prospective investor isn’t jabbering on their phone, then launch right into your appeal for capital. You better get all the fine points across before that lift door opens and your target escapes your speed dating for dollars moment. If he or she likes your idea, and the moxy for sharing it, we’re encouraged to believe, the entrepreneur with the winning elevator pitch will be invited into their boardroom to hash out contracts.
I’ll admit, I don’t harbor any fantasy about winning the lotto or being discovered on America’s Got Talent (anymore) and frankly didn’t expect much to come of this either. The night of the competition I shakily presented my sixty-second pitch in ninety tormenting seconds, until I was cut off. To my supreme surprise, the audience voted PittMoss™ in to the top three elevator pitches of the night. Before the event concluded we were making plans to meet investors in their boardrooms. Maybe I should go buy a lotto ticket or stock up on some produce. How about both?