VC Lingo: What is an Elevator Pitch?

Oct 30, 2019 · 3 min read

Explained by Sean O’Sullivan, Managing Partner at SOSV

An elevator pitch is a concise pitch talking about what your business does that you can deliver quickly. It refers to the time it takes to ride an elevator up. It’s maybe 30 seconds up to 90 seconds at the most. The more concise, the better.

An elevator pitch isn’t meant to answer every question. It’s just meant to provoke curiosity and provoke an exchange of information or contacts between the person who’s pitching and the person who’s listening.

The idea is, if you have a relatively well-rehearsed concept about why your business is valuable or interesting to others, you should be able to deliver it concisely enough not to bore people at cocktail parties or as you shake their hands in a quick meeting. You just want to quickly convey the essentials of the business and make the receiver of the information curious enough to ask the questions to take the conversation further.

An Example of an Elevator Pitch…

In my first company, MapInfo, we allowed people to see street maps. So you could type an address and you could see that location on a screen. Now everybody uses this to get around from one place to another to find out where a place is. So in MapInfo, the elevator pitch effectively was: “Give me an address, and I’ll show you a map of that address right here on my laptop.”

The first time that people ever experienced that—which was the first million people ever to do this—were all using MapInfo, effectively. That was a wow moment.

Then, the elevator pitch would naturally evolve into questions: “Well, if I’m from a bank, can I show where all my customers are on that map? Can I show where all my ATM are located? Can I see where all my sales are?”, et cetera. In your elevator pitch, you actually do want to bring the person you’re speaking to, to ask the next question. Your elevator pitch will sometimes be customized on the fly, but there should be some basic core of it—so if you’re at a cocktail party and you have no idea what the other person does, you can cover the basics of what your company does.

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VC Lingo is a video series from SOSV in which we define the terms and concepts you need to know to be fluent in the language of venture capital.

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The Accelerator VC—running HAX (Hardware), IndieBio (Life Sciences), Chinaccelerator & MOX (Cross Border Internet), Food-X (Food) & dlab (Blockchain)

SOSV: Inspiration from Acceleration

Insights from The Accelerator VC—including our programs (HAX, IndieBio, Chinaccelerator, MOX, Food-X, dlab) & our startups.

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