I remember the first time I read the quote attributed to President Woodrow Wilson:
A member of the Cabinet congratulated Wilson on introducing the vogue of short speeches and asked him about the time it took him to prepare his speeches. He said:“It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”
At the time I haven't had the opportunity of presenting an idea or concept in a very short amount of time. Since then I've done it multiple times, each time harder than the last. The two most important: YCombinator's interview and a Pitch presentation in from of the local industry for Arjé Coffee.
YCombinator's interview consists of 10 minutes to answer the many questions YC partners have for you. They might ask you up to 25 questions, so you have 10 to 15 seconds to give a very good answer. You must be effective. My co-founders and I prepared for almost two weeks and at the end we didn't perform as well as we should have. They asked us things we haven't prepared, and although they were easy, the nerves and the consequences led us to give less than perfect answers. At the end we weren't accepted, but encouraged to apply again.
The second one I lived it two weeks ago: I had to present Arjé Coffee in 3 minutes to representatives of the industry who might become allies or customers in the future. One of the most important thing here is to convey in a very clear way what Arjé Coffee is and what we are doing: We are making delicious coffee at home easy for anyone. That means we deliver delicious coffee to your home and teach you how to prepare it in a way you will love it. Our coffee is bought at a fair price from small coffee farmers, we roast it ourselves and deliver it to your home fresh. Then we make sure you learn how to prepare the best coffee for you with whatever tools and methods you have at home.
Do you see how long the description is? We are still working on it. We want to explain it with less words and even more effectively than above. That is specially important in case we decide to talk to investors again. A very long description is also a symptom of that you are doing too many things. I sometimes worry that is the case for us.
After experiencing both moments, you mind wonders: How could you have done better? This mental exercise is useful and you should do it alone and with your team. Don't be hard on yourself though: your "performance" at that moment does not reflect your best self, but if you work hard, someday it might.
Regarding the first one, you must have a different approach. The key to having an amazing interview with YC or any other investment fund or accelerator is reaching a point where answering questions about your business effectively becomes second nature. For that you need to be always be talking and writing about our business. Give presentations, talk to your family, to your co-founders, to friends.
For the second one, iterate on your value proposition. Let it rest, go back to it a couple of days later. Present it to fellow entrepreneurs, to friends, to your current investors. Listen to their feedback. Measure how long it takes you to finish, remove the least important things and make sure to emphasize the things that make you look great. Eventually you'll end up with a version of your pitch that does its job and does it splendidly.
We will continue working on our pitch and in our answers, but we would love to hear yours. If you want to share your ideas with me or with the Arjé Coffee team, send your pitches, ideas, answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to respond to everyone who writes. Have an awesome day, whatever that day might be!
PS: We launched a new version of the site recently, check it out at arjecoffee.co and give yourself some coffee love. You will not regret it ;)