Jumpstart Your Idea: From Idea to Pitch Deck in 60 Minutes
My power-PM pal (almost an alliteration?) Jen Lee and I proposed a workshop at the 2020 Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in CS.
Only ~11% of VC funding went to companies with at least one female founder. Have an idea for a startup or side project? Let’s join them. In this workshop, we’ll help you generate and jumpstart your idea into a pitch. You’ll walk out with an elevator pitch and a 10 slide pitch deck or landing page to use to apply to accelerator programs, compete in startup competitions, and pitch to VC firms.
- Talking through and writing this proposal with Jen was a great exercise and I learned a ton from hearing Jen’s perspective on pitching a startup too
- Lots of people have asked me for “startup advice.” Writing this forced me to be actionable in my advice.
- Writing this piece motivated me to reflect on co-founding WellPower and think about the messaging I crafted in our pitches.
This workshop is intended for anyone who has an idea that they’re looking to more fully develop. This would include participants who are looking to start a startup, side project, and everything in between as an entrepreneur or even intrapreneur. This workshop is especially helpful for those looking to build a toolkit to apply to accelerator/incubator programs, startup competitions, and pitch to venture capital firms.
As a career-related workshop, the target audience includes participants from every stage of their life, such as students, early career professionals, mid-career professionals, and senior professionals. Entrepreneurship can occur at any stage of one’s professional career.
What do all startups have in common? Regardless of whatever twist and turns a startup takes, it all starts out with an idea to solve a problem, big or small. However, the challenge lies in turning that idea into a pitch, that pitch into an executable strategy, and that strategy can turn into a profitable, healthy company.
Sometimes, the first step is the hardest. Turning an idea into a both a concise and comprehensive pitch is critical to share the idea to not only customers, but also others who have the funds and network that will help provide the fuel to move faster and grow the idea, enabling someone with an idea to become an entrepreneur. While there is no right place to start, there are several ways to get a jumpstart on securing resources, mentorship, advisors and more:
- Incubators/accelerators (such as Y Combinator, TechStars) which help provide mentorship and a network to better guide entrepreneurs
- Startup competitions which usually provide opportunities to pitch to investors, capital/grants, free services and/or credits to operate a company to finalists/winners
- Venture capital firms/angel investors which provide financial capital and access to their network in exchange for equity
While the competition for those above resources is tough, the numbers are even more dismal for female founders, which is unfortunately a well known fact. Only ~11% of venture capital funding in the US in 2019 went to companies with at least one female founder (VC Female, 2019). The number is 3% for companies who have solely female founders (Clark, 2019). Only 25% of the latest batch of startups in Y Combinator, one of the most impactful, but competitive accelerator programs in the industry, had a female founder (Clark, 2019). Additionally, around the world, women are reported to have lower confidence than men in every single region (Elam, 2019). On an optimistic note, advocates in the industry have been shining light on these discrepancies, which are slowly improving. Some of these advocates have even started their own female-oriented incubators, startup competitions, and venture capital firms. These include Forerunner Ventures, the Female Founders Competition spearheaded by Melinda Gates, Female Founders Alliance, All Raise, and many more (Gates, 2019).
For each of those submissions/intros for those aforementioned jumpstart opportunities, the requirement usually entails submitting content that describes the startup and its potential in the form of an application, video pitch, pitch deck to a VC, etc (Altman, 2016). However, to put one’s best foot forward, it’s important to be strategic when putting those materials together, which makes creating that content difficult. If you do a quick search online for startup pitch formats, elevator pitch advice, you’ll get plenty of information, but it’s difficult to wade through all of that passive advice, leading to information overload.
In this workshop, we aim to guide our participants through specific steps that will help them go from having just an idea to a more fully formed business model. We aim to motivate and give this toolkit to future female founders. Our special sauce is our plug-and-play exercises that we’ll walk the participants through, which will enable them to not only have a 60 second elevator pitch, but also a pitch deck or a landing page. We hope that this workshop will be the catalyst for our participants to, as a new female founder, submit that application to Y Combinator, to send that email with a pitch deck to an investor, and submit that video submission to a startup competition, all with materials that they can create during this workshop.
We are scheduled to give a virtual version of this talk at Princeton with a max capacity of 300 people. This talk scales by offering additional resources to continue supporting entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs after the workshop.
BREAKDOWN OF TIME
First, we’ll begin with a short introduction about ourselves as the speakers and the motivation behind the workshop, which is to encourage and give new female founders the tools to get started. Then, we’ll get started with the workshop, which is split into 4 phases.
Phase I: Idea Generation + Selection (15 minutes)
Some participants may come to the workshop already with an idea of their own or have a general area or industry that they’re interested in. Others may just want to dip their toes into startups or want to work on someone else’s idea. In order to accommodate for all of these scenarios, we’ll start with an idea generation and selection exercise.
First, we’ll begin with our presentation of “5 Tips for Idea Generation,” which will include tips on naming different types of users or stakeholders that you have a unique perspective on, thinking through a problem that the stakeholder can identify with, and even a short exercise in coming up with one-line descriptions of products and companies that we use.
Following that participants are left on their own to work through a plug-and-play style worksheet, where the outcome is a one-liner description of their idea. Participants who can come up with an one-liner description of their idea themselves are free to skip to the bottom of the worksheet and write that in.
For those participants who need a bit more inspiration for a new idea and guidance, participants can pick one of several plug-and-play outlines. Below are some examples
- [Existing startup/company] for [a specific industry that you’ve identified]
- [Your favorite app on your phone] for [a specific user group that you’ve identified]
- [Your favorite technology trend] for [the problem you identified]
- [Your favorite productivity tool] for [a specific occupation that you’ve identified]
If participants still can’t come up with an idea, we also have a prepared list of generated ideas that participants can choose from.
If they’re open to sharing their idea, once participants are done putting together their one-liners, they will submit them via an online form along with their name, seating area, and whether they’d be open to collaborators, which will be projected on the screen in the room. This is to get participants excited about all the cool new ideas that have been generated in the room in just 15 minutes. Additionally, if participants see another idea that they like that is open for collaboration, they can join together with other participants.
Phase I Deliverable: one sentence description of an idea
Phase II: Elevator Pitch (20 minutes)
Now that everyone has their one sentence description, we will walk participants through developing a script for an elevator pitch.
First, we’ll begin with our presentation of “7 Questions to Answer in an Elevator Pitch,” inspired by the video pitch component of the application to YCombinator, a top seed accelerator (“The Application Video”). We walk participants through 7 Questions we’ve identified as imperative to answer in an elevator pitch, using examples from our startup, WellPower, as inspiration.
7 Core questions to answer
- What’s the Problem?
- Access to clean water in East Africa.
- Distribution accounts for 90% of the cost of clean water
2. What’s the Product?
- Hardware: Solar-powered water filtration system
- Software: smartphone and SMS integrated app to provide on-demand water delivery
3. Who is the User?
- Peri-urban, educated households who are willing and able to pay for clean water and convenience
- Has unsatisfied water needs and purchases bottled water or from vendors
- Uses smartphones and familiarity of on-demand apps
- Female head of household typically makes decisions around water consumption + bears the burden of consumer pain points
4. What is the Market?
- $66B TAM, $580M SAM, $92M SAM
- Charge per L of water
- Subscription model option
5. Who is your Competition?
- Bottled water
- At home purification (e.g. boiling)
6. Who comprises your Team?
- 5 Princeton engineers (CS, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical + Biological Engineering)
7. What’s your Process?
Funding will enable us to catalyze growth and extend our runway (cover payroll, cover up-front capital costs for hardware, expand marketing)
Following this brief presentation, participants will fill out a mad-libs style elevator pitch worksheet that will serve as an outline for their deliverable in Phase III. The worksheet offers participants a chance to apply their recent learnings to their own business, by answer the following questions.
Mad-libs style elevator pitch worksheet
- What’s the Problem?
What is the user experience like today? Where is there a gap?
2. What’s the Product?
What are your core features? What’s your value proposition?
3. Who is the User?
Who is your target customer persona? Are people willing to pay for this?
4. What is the Market?
How big is the market? What’s your business model? Will you sustainably make money?
5. Who is your Competition?
How does your solution compare to existing competitors?
6. Who comprises your Team?
What’s your secret sauce? Why are you the best person to solve this problem?
7. What’s your Process?
What’s your timeline? Why now?
If participants have extra time, we will encourage them to video drafts of their elevator pitches on their personal phones. Since most video pitch submissions are informal, as accelerators want to get to know the authentic founder, participants can even choose to upload this pitch to YouTube.
Phase II Deliverable: Written elevator pitch
Phase III: Tell Your Story
Using the guiding questions and written elevator pitch from Phase II, participants will create a 10 slide pitch deck or a new landing page. Both are required when applying to accelerators and raising from VCs.
Option 1: Pitch Deck
Our background in co-founding startups in college and the startup evangelist Guy Kawasaki provide inspiration for our template pitch deck, designed on our Beautiful.ai’s software, which includes the following pages: Title, Problem/Opportunity, Executive Summary, How it Works/Demo, Core Features, Business Model, Market Opportunity, Competitive Landscape, Timeline and an appendix with Financial Projections, Unit Economics, Competitive Moat, and How We Compare (Kawasaki).
First, we will present an overview of what to include in a pitch deck. Then, we will walk participants through designing each specific page, pausing for a few minutes for participants to fill in the template with specifics to their business.
Template Pitch Deck
For participants who have extra time, we suggest filling out the following slides for your appendix
If available, include financial projections and unit economics.
Option 2: Landing Page
Inspired by WellPower’s landing page, we will walk participants through designing and deploying a landing page on Squarespace or Webflow(or web app builder of their choice). First, we will walk participants through a follow-along session of making a logo on Canva. Second, we will set participants up with a Bubble account and share the template we have created for a startup landing page. This template includes presenting Core Features, an About Us section, and a Contact Us form. Bubble comes with additional resources, tutorials, and videos for any participants looking to extend their website past a static landing page.
Phase III Deliverable: Pitch Deck or Landing Page
Phase IV: Bring Learnings Back to Your Community
By Phase IV, our participants have a one-sentence description of an idea, written or recorded elevator pitch, and pitch deck or landing page. Our final phase will begin with a final sendoff presentation which will include steps to continue getting support on refining any materials created at this workshop, our contact information, and bringing back learnings to participants’ community. To position our participants for continued success, all resources from the workshop + more how-to guides will be posted on our workshop webpage. Resources include: Pitch Deck Template, Elevator Pitch Script, Landing Page How-To Guide, Lean Canvas, One Pager, FAQ, Press Release, SWOT, Matrix of top requirements, deadlines, and contact information for accelerators and startup competitions.
By the end of the workshop, the participants will:
- Have developed an idea for a new startup, side project, or just any product big or small
- Determined the stakeholder and customer need as well as strategic vision for their new idea
- Refined an elevator pitch for their new idea
- Finished either a 10 slide pitch deck or new landing page website that serves as content that they can share to evangelize their idea
Going from idea to pitch can be tough without the right guidance and steps. By using a combination of plug-and play outlines and specially prepared pitch deck or landing page templates, participants will actually be able to walk away with valuable pitch materials in just 60 minutes. Let’s join the rest of the female founder community!
Altman, Sam. “Getting Into Y Combinator.” Y Combinator, 29 Oct. 2016, tinyurl.com/ttvjtc9.
“The Application Video.” Y Combinator, 1 Aug. 2019, tinyurl.com/vnlzsbq.
Clark, Kate. “Ready, Set, Raise — the Y Combinator for Female Founders — Announces Second Cohort.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 27 Aug. 2019, tinyurl.com/w8srxzd.
Elam, Amanda. (2019). GEM 2018 / 2019 Women’s Report.
Gates, Melinda. “Closing the Gender Gap in Venture Capital Deserves Our Immediate and Sustained Attention.” Vox, Vox, 12 Sept. 2017, tinyurl.com/sevqg38.
Kawasaki, Guy. “The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch.” Guy Kawasaki, 4 Dec. 2019, tinyurl.com/nsgzpsc.
“The VC Female Founders Dashboard.” PitchBook, PitchBook, 28 Feb. 2019, tinyurl.com/vdskhhw.
- We didn’t get accepted by GHC :(
- We are looking for other conferences or virtual places to lead this workshop? Know of any group who would be interested in this workshop? Let us know!
This proposal was written by Ayushi Sinha and Jennifer Lee
Ayushi Sinha, Product Manager, Nines
Ayushi Sinha is a senior in the Princeton University Department of Computer Science (personal webpage) and incoming member of the Product team at Nines. Backed by Accel and 8VC, Nines is a series A startup that employs ML to empower radiologists and has partnerships with several of the top US health systems. Previously, she has worked at the intersection of ML and geospatial as a Software Engineer & PM at Microsoft and as a Quality Assurance Engineering at Kik in Tel Aviv, where she first developed an interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain. She’s done independent work at the intersection of accessibility and VR and created an immersive music education experience. Currently, she’s studying facial recognition for her senior thesis. Having co-founded her own startup, WellPower, a vertically integrated Uber for water filtration and distribution in East Africa, she cares deeply about social entrepreneurship. You can watch her winning pitch for WellPower here. Her personal mission is to bring entrepreneurship to Princeton and beyond. As the co-president of E-Club, Princeton’s largest student organization, she increased the diversity of Princeton entrepreneurship community by expanding support of creative arts, biotech, design, and social impact projects and represented the voice of the Princeton’s entrepreneurs to University administration. As the director of TigerLaunch, the largest student-run entrepreneurial competition, she led sponsorship, design, logistics, and marketing and expanded the competition internationally to increase our impact. She is a student fellow at .406 Ventures, sourcing startups and performed first-round due diligence on ventures.
Jennifer Lee, Lead Product Manager, Microsoft
Jennifer Lee is currently a lead product manager at Microsoft, working on cloud computing geared toward developers in the Azure organization. She leads a team dedicated to building out products and features for self serve diagnostic capabilities across 20+ services in the Azure Application Platform portfolio, including Azure App Service, Azure Functions, Azure Kubernetes Service, and more. Before Microsoft, she co-founded Cartful, a new fashion discovery engine that allows consumers to discover and shop from 400+ new and upcoming brands. She jumpstarted Cartful through the Keller Center eLab Accelerator program, launched the product onto the homepage of ProductHunt, and received funding from the 1517 Fund. On the other side of the table, Jennifer has also worked on the investment team of Anthos Capital, a growth stage venture capital firm, focusing on direct-to-consumer, enterprise SaaS, healthcare startups, and more. She is also a proud alumna of Princeton University, where she graduated with a molecular biology major and computer science, entrepreneurship, and bioengineering certificates. Outside of her studies, she also was the Co-President of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, leading 14 different teams to promote entrepreneurship programs on and off campus, including a speaker series, a student NYC trip to visit leaders in the entrepreneurship scene, and more.