What is an elevator pitch?

It's a short description of an idea, product, or company. It's meant to be shorter than an elevator ride, meaning, 30 seconds or less. The concept also applies to pitching yourself, as an individual, to introduce yourself and or land a job- but we'll be focusing on the company/startup version of this. So- an elevator pitch should be enough to explain your startup idea and leave the investor curious for more. 

I love the concept of an 'Elevator Pitch.' It's a fantastic mental exercise for you as a founder and one that is very commonly overlooked.

Now, this is not to be confused with the concept of a pitch deck.

The Elevator Pitch

In this article, we are going to look into some tactics to approach writing your elevator pitch, lessons learned. Then I'll take a stab at writing some elevator pitch examples from companies you are probably familiar with.  

Let me give you my Slidebean Elevator Pitch first, and then we'll break it down:

-Do you ever need to make slide presentations?
(I'll assume you said yes).

-How long does it usually take you?
(Insert any answer here, it's probably going to be hours).

-We discovered that the reason why it takes so long is that all presentation platforms give you a white canvas: you need to figure out the content of the deck while figuring out how it's going to look. It's just very inefficient- and if you're not a designer, slides might not look too good.

So we created Slidebean, a tool where all you need to do is add the content, and the design of the slides gets generated automatically. Over 10 million slides have been created with our platform.

So here's a quick teardown,

Starting with a question

We have the advantage of tacking a problem that most people in an office have experienced. We can 'bet' on what the answers to those questions might be. The question also allows you to turn this into a [controlled] conversation rather than just a pitch. The focus here is to be relatable- to speak to a problem that the potential customer or potential investor will probably have experienced. Not all companies can get away with this- but try to find something that applies to your business.

Challenges

Slidebean is visual. It's a lot easier for me just to show you how it works, but I can't do that in the elevator.

Amount of Details

Notice how I mostly focused on this problem/solution combination. This is what an elevator pitch is mainly made up of- it's a teaser of the company, enough to get people interested.

No Jargon

Also notice how I didn't use any fancy terms like Artificial Intelligence, online collaboration, viewer tracking. Too many tech terms put together sound like jargon.

A hint of traction

You might or might not want to share details about customers and revenue, but showcasing A metric that gives a sense of the scale of the business is pretty useful.

Elevator Pitch Examples

Moving into elevator pitch examples, if you run a Google search for this term, you'll hopefully come across this article and our video. But beyond that, there are a bunch of articles from different sources, showing some examples. None of them stood up- so I figured we could imagine how the Elevator Pitches of some popular startups would have looked.

Airbnb Elevator Pitch

Most tourists booking online care about price- and hotels are one of the highest costs for when traveling.

On the other hand, platforms like Couchsurfing have proven that over half a million people are willing to lend their couches or spare bedrooms.

We have created a platform that connects travelers with locals, letting them rent our rooms, or even entire places. Travelers save money, and locals can monetize their empty rooms- we just take a 10% commission.

How does that sound?

Again, assuming that this is being pitched in 2009- with the information available on their original pitch deck.

A few pointers here:

- Notice how I started mentioning tourists, not just any traveler. Airbnb doesn't necessarily target business.
- It's easy to agree that people looking to travel care about price, so there's no market research or validation needed to come up with that statement,
- On the other hand, it might be arguable that people will be willing to rent out their homes to strangers. I used the Couchsurfing validation to avoid that statement being questioned.

WeWork Elevator Pitch

There are 40MM independent workers in the US: consultants, freelancers, and small business owners. Solving office space is tough and expensive, especially in cities like New York. We created the concept of space as a service. We have 20 locations in the city- where people can rent a desk or an office without any of the complications of a traditional lease, effectively saving at least 25% of the cost. They get access to a shared front desk, mailroom, and a community of like-minded people.

Once again, this is based on the company stage they had by the time they made this pitch deck.

Slack Elevator Pitch

There is no publicly available pitch deck for Slack, but let's assume the company is just starting up:

The average office worker receives 304 emails per week. They also attend an average of 62 monthly meetings, half of which they consider 'wasted time'. Slack was made to make work more efficient. It organizes conversations by channels and drastically reduces the need for emails or meetings. It's integrated with 100s of productivity tools like Google Docs, Calendars, Email, Dropbox, Zoom... so you can receive automatic notifications and take action without leaving the interface.

Have a better suggestion? Write me and let me know.

Pitch Deck vs Elevator Pitch

As we mentioned above, an elevator pitch is a succinct 20-30 second speech geared to convince someone about a product or company. Having a good elevator pitch ready can help entrepreneurs make the best of brief encounters with potential investors at parties, business events, or elevators. An elevator pitch is a prime chance to make a good first impression and generate interest in the company.

Capturing someone’s attention in a short span of time is quite a challenge.

On the other hand, a pitch deck is 10-15 slide presentation to introduce a business proposal- mostly associated these days with an investor pitch deck. If you are looking for that, we have a couple of videos and articles focusing on pitch decks, as well as a neat pitch deck template.

1. Information to Include in the Elevator Pitch Deck:

The key to crafting a good pitch deck is to keep it short and crisp while covering all the pertinent information. All the relevant information from the pitch deck should be condensed into a concise 30-second speech. It should explain the genuine need for the product in the market, its unique selling point, what differentiates the product from its competitors and the business model—all of this in under 30 seconds.

elevator pitch examples, example slide

Take a look at the following pitch to understand this:

We are a boutique recruitment agency that helps tech companies hire the best programmers. We run our own hackathons to identify talent and match them with our clients. This helps companies hire top talent without too much effort on theirs. We have some clients on retainer, but we also work with some companies for specific openings. You could stop by at our next hackathon in Palo Alto to get a better sense of how we scout talent.

2. Capture Attention:

Fantastic elevator pitch examples are all conversation-starter; the ultimate aim is to progress to a meeting where the business model can be discussed at length. So, the priority for the pitch should be to capture the listener's attention and make them want to know more. Look at the following pitches:

  • “I work on nanotechnology to deliver medical therapies to targeted cells”

This pitch is too technical and difficult to grasp.  Besides, it does not clearly present what the product does and how it adds value to the field of medicine.

  • “We are using the manufacturing techniques of the computer industry to make better vaccines”

The second pitch is crisp and explains what the company does in a way that piques the listener's interest. This was the elevator pitch that got Joe DeSimone's company, Liquidia, funding from Bill Gates's Foundation.  

Also, it's essential to use the right presentation software in order to capture the audience's attention. An elevator pitch should have visuals elements along with eye-catching slides.

Example:

elevator pitch example slide Capture attention with description
3. Avoid Jargon:

The purpose of an elevator pitch is to get your message across clearly. Using complicated business jargon and buzzwords that don’t really add any value to your message can undermine your message. Consider this pitch:

  • “Our company's core competency is building synergy between top consumer brands and their customers. We help these companies to upsell and cross-sell their products while delighting their customers with new products.”

Here, the message is lost in the jargon.

  • “Our proprietary customer relationship management software helps companies to track data about their consumers more efficiently. Companies that have switched to our software have reported a 20% surge in return customers.”

This pitch captures all the essentials in simple, everyday language and is far more effective in getting your message across.

4. Start with a Question:

Ronald Regan famously said, “Ask yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?” This succinctly summed up the core essence of his campaign.

Known for his par-excellence presentation skills, Steve Jobs is famous for making one of the best elevator pitches. While trying to convince John Sculley to leave Pepsi Co., for Apple Inc., Steve Jobs asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Example:

Elevator pitch example, Slidebean pitch deck slide describing the problem
slidebean pitch deck example slides
DOWNLOAD THIS TEMPLATE
5. Focus on your Listener:

In the previous example, Steve Jobs's focus is not on what Apple does, but on what Sculley wants to do. Draw listeners in by addressing their needs. If it sounds like a marketing spiel, people tend to switch off. Flip the process of writing a pitch: it should not be a list of features of the product, but it should focus on telling listeners how it can help solve their problems.

This introduction for JustPark, a parking app which won the Pitch to Rich contest with Richard Branson exemplifies this:

“Let's face it. Parking can be a real nightmare. It can be infuriating to find, extremely pricey and by the time you find that spot you would have lost time, petrol, and caused a lot of unnecessary traffic and pollution. Well, there's an answer, parkatmyhouse.com. We are an awesome little company, backed by an awesome big company called BMW. Now, listen in: You can reserve parking in a private property and save up to 70%. Need to park at a sports match or local station? Sorted. ... Just go to parkatmyhouse.com and simply type in where you want to park and what dates. It is that simple.”

This pitch also slips in a reference to BMW, which adds to their credibility. This brings us to our next point about elevator pitches.

Example:

Buffer pitch deck traction slide
buffer pitch deck example slides
DOWNLOAD THIS TEMPLATE
6. Provide Proof of Results:

Incorporate information about your company's big achievements, or major associations in your pitch. Risk perception is a big barrier for investors.  Put them at ease by telling that you have a product or service with proven results. In the example above, knowing that JustPark is backed by BMW makes them seem more reliable, and customers are more likely to trust their cars with them.

7. Add an Emotional Benefit Statement:

Leadership expert Simon Sinek believes that it is important to show enthusiasm and help people see why you do what you do. As much as people would like to believe that decision-making is a purely rational activity, research has shown that it actually stems from our emotions. So, it is good to include an emotional benefit statement at the end.

Example:

Elevator pitch examples, Facebook pitch deck slide
facebook pitch deck example slides
DOWNLOAD THIS TEMPLATE
8. Clear Call to Action:

The pitch is not an end in itself, it is just the beginning. So, in the presentation design, there should be a call to action that provides clear next steps on how people can get in touch with you to take the discussion forward. You could end your pitch with a simple line, like the one suggested by Cayenne Consulting:

“If you’re interested in learning more, I’d love to stop by at your office in the next week or two to give you a live demo. Would that work for you?”
9. Keep it Natural:

Not just the content of the pitch, but the overall presentation and personality of the presenter impact how people respond to pitches. This is a personal interaction, and it should feel natural. It should not sound too rehearsed. The pitch should be conversational and leave scope for people to raise questions and share their opinions.

Example:

Airbnb pitch deck example
airbnb pitch deck example slides
DOWNLOAD THIS TEMPLATE

10. Bonus Example:

Here's a brilliant pitch for Tesla by Elon Musk, which is a good reference for how an elevator pitch should be drafted. This is slightly longer than the usual pitch, but still a great example:

Tesla pitch deck, image contains Elon musk
11. Bonus Content:

Be sure to check our Pitch Deck Examples blog for more inspiration. The article includes a list of the best pitch deck examples like:

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Elevator Pitch Examples from Successful Startups

Oct 3, 2019
Caya
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