6 key takeaways from the #DF17 Dreampitch competition

Molly Hoffmeister
Nov 9, 2017 · 5 min read

It’s official: the ballots are in, the judges have spoken, and our latest Dreampitch winner and Salesforce Ventures investment has been announced. Last night, Sara Rodell wowed the judges with her five-minute pitch of Loop & Tie and successfully secured $250,000 in funding for the corporate gifting solution.

No small feat when facing off against two other talented finalists in front of a room of thousands of Dreamforce attendees and a panel of expert celebrity judges, including Chris Sacca, will.i.am, Shahrzad Rafati, and Guy Oseary. But Sara used every second of her five minutes to paint a compelling vision and tell the judges exactly what they needed to know to pick their winner. Here are six things that other startups in the ecosystem can learn from the pitch that won Loop & Tie $250,000 in funding.

Clearly (and simply) define the problem.

“We started Loop & Tie because corporate gifting is dated.” This is how Sara kicked off her pitch, before she went on to describe how businesses are getting smarter and smarter about personalization with with the glaring exception of gift giving. Starting off with a clear statement of the problem you’re trying to solve gives context, and helps your pitch feel focused and compelling. Don’t launch into what you’re building before first explaining the why; the last thing you want is to leave your listener wondering ‘but why should I care?’

Personalize, personalize, personalize.

Sara had the benefit of being able to name a few well-known brands that were already customers, and the most specific example she outlined was a use case for the San Francisco 49ers (a real-life Loop & Tie customer). Not a bad move in a room of thousands of people in downtown, San Francisco — there were bound to be at least a few 49ers fans in the room. Using what you know about your audience to personalize your pitch helps draw in your audience and keep them engaged.

State differentiators upfront.

The first question (and a favorite question of Shahrzad Rafati’s) for all three of the contestants was ‘how are you going to do this better than your competitors?’ Sara got a jump on that question by working competitive differentiation into her initial pitch, and clearly stating it as such:

“Loop & Tie is differentiated by our focus on process; most other gifting concepts are focused on a product catalog.”

Share personal stories and examples.

Sara talked about how she came up with the idea while working for a large investment bank and seeing how dated the corporate gifting process was (learn more about Sara’s story here). She also managed to work a personal example into the question and answer session with the judges, describing how a customer selecting a yoga mat as a gift drew attention to a shared interest in yoga for the rep, and using that example to show how the data that Loop & Tie collects can be used to personalize the sales cycle. Examples like this help bring the product story to life for your listener, and truly paint the vision of what you’re trying to do.

Prepare for the tough questions.

All three question and answer sessions with the judges highlighted one thing: When you’re giving a pitch, know your competitive landscape like the back of your hand—and be ready to get specific. Don’t shy away from talking about competitors, and even naming them outright; doing so shows that you’ve done your research and aren’t afraid of your competition. In contrast, avoiding talking about competitors can give the impression that you either a) don’t know who you’re up against, or b) are afraid to let your listener measure you against the competition.

A few other questions asked by the judges:

  • Who’s the decision maker in this deal?
  • What is your cost of customer acquisition?
  • How are you going to take this idea even further?
  • How much more capital do you think you need?
  • How many customers will you need to break even?
  • Who loves you? Who hates you?
  • How much money have you raised so far?
  • What is the average size of a deal/project?
  • What lessons have you learned through building this?

Bring it back to the big picture.

Particularly if you end up diving deeper into specifics, it’s a good idea to bring it back to the big-picture level at the end of your pitch and remind your listener of the crux of the problem. Sara did a great job of this by ending on a note that reminded the judges that her solution was larger than gifts:

“It’s not just about the gift, it’s about what the gift can do for smart businesses.”

One final thought…

During the question and answer portion, Chris Sacca had some inspirational words for Sara regarding facing Amazon as a potential competitor — and a good reminder to the ecosystem at large:

“Never, ever make the mistake of underestimating a driven startup in the face of a large looming competitor that doesn’t have your focus and your zeal.” — Chris Sacca

If you have a problem you’re passionate about solving, figure out the technology that can help you make it happen, and don’t give up. In an age where it gets easier every day for anyone to leverage technology, building solutions to solve problems on a global sale is anyone’s game.

Congratulations Loop & Tie!

Check out Sara’s Trailblazer Moment below! And be sure to scan down for the full recording of the Dreampitch competition.

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Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem

Brought to you by Salesforce AppExchange, learn customer and business success insights - straight from leaders in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Molly Hoffmeister

Written by

Content Manager at @Salesforce @AppExchange

Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem

Brought to you by Salesforce AppExchange, learn customer and business success insights - straight from leaders in the Salesforce ecosystem.

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