[Executive Edge] Making your pitches come alive

Filipinos are a very creative bunch, and we have excellent stories to tell the world. We have a very unique blend of Western perspectives and Eastern cultures. Sometimes, the best way to tell these stories is through animation. We want to mobilize the entire animation industry and market all our works to the entire world so we can make our mark as a nation with our creativity and ingenuity. We want to build the Pixar of the Philippines, and we want to start a new wave of Original Filipino Animation through Stream Engine TV.

EF: When you make that pitch, how do you gauge how people respond to it? How can other entrepreneurs get better at reading people in this way?

GC: People have been very receptive about the things we do at Stream Engine Studios. Some are surprised that these videos were actually made here in the Philippines! I usually show a Stream Engine Studios animated clip using my mobile phone every time I talk to people, and while they’re watching, I look at them and I see a certain sparkle in their eyes. There’s a sense of wonder and awe that’s very similar to a child watching a cartoon. After all, a lot of us grew up watching cartoons (including me!), and watching animated clips always brings back the kid in all of us. Once they’re hooked, it’s easier to communicate to them.

In my experience, it’s very important to have a solid proof of concept ready once you’re pitching. Having a sample of your product in hand helps solidify the concept with your clients. In my case, my product is in the form of a video. Even if you don’t have a product yet, having even a video proof of your product will greatly help with clients and investors. Hey, it worked for Dropbox!

EF: How do you respond if the person is clearly just not interested in what you’re pitching?

GC: There’s one word I’ve learned in the startup circles: flearn. It’s a portmanteau of fail and learn. You won’t always be successful in your pitches, so take them as learning opportunities and gather the proper data so you can improve. If something doesn’t work, take a step back and see where you can improve things.

Don’t expect everybody to fall head over heels in love with your dream. Not everyone will believe in you. In fact, a lot of people would probably think you’re outright crazy, and that’s okay, because you are crazy. Just stay on course and find the right people. Keep pitching.

You’re not alone in your journey. You will find other people who share the same goals and values, be it a mentor, co-founder, or employee. I’ve been fortunate enough to find like-minded people who are willing to duke it out for a better world, and that has made all the difference.

Once you do find those crazy people, congratulations! Remember that you are working with them to achieve a common goal. This is especially true for your employees. Don’t ever think that they work for you! This is a team game. Always keep the goal in mind and tackle it together as one.

EF: What events would you recommend going to in order to pitch to like-minded people?

GC: I consider myself to be very active in the local startup scene, and I always do my best to attend events such as Juan Great Leap’s Open Coffee events or Startup Weekend. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and learn from great mentors. Some events will also let you practice your pitching skills – be ready to do a 2 minute fire pitch in front of other entrepreneurs! I’ve met a lot of great people in these startup events. Just be ready with your elevator pitch, some business cards and your A game.

I highly suggest attending informal startup gatherings like Kickstart’s #raidthefridge and Founders Drinks. These are not formal events, and there won’t be a stage where you can come up and talk to the crowd. Instead, they’re more intimate events where you can talk to other founders one-on-one. Great way to get to know other founders and the startups they’ve put up.

Through these you can build your network. The adage “It’s not what you know that matters, it’s who you know” still rings true to this day. Get to know everyone. They too have ideas to pitch, and it’s always great to hear what they have to say. You never know, you might learn something new!

EF: How often should a person try to pitch at events like these?

GC: You should always try your hand out at pitching. Even if you don’t get a chance to talk to an entire crowd, you can still go one-on-one with other participants. The feedback and questions you’ll get from other entrepreneur-minded people are extremely valuable. You don’t attend those events just to sit back and devour the free food (some events may offer free drinks -- just remember you’re not there to get smashed!). You’re there to network, learn and hone your pitch. Use your time wisely.

Remember: Pitching should be part of the entrepreneur’s DNA. Life’s a pitch!

Rappler business columnist Ezra Ferraz graduated from UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for 3 years. He now consults full-time for educational companies in the United States. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Follow him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz