How to be a winner at Demo Day of an accelerator program

By | December 2, 2015
demo day

There are more than hundred of startup accelerators worldwide and more are cropping up every year. Every program culminates into Demo Day, where number of prospective investors are pooled in to watch the participating companies presenting their startup for 5 to 8 minutes, ultimately. Demo Day is very crucial for the participating startups as that is the day that determines the funding and how the company would be positioned in the market. The startup entrepreneurs slog for days for the Demo Day presentation which displays their company and who they are. The demo day presentation plays the vital role for it is what gives the first impression about the startup. To maximize the impact on the demo day with the presentation, it is important to consider the below pointers.


*Clarity of Plan:
It is very important for the entrepreneurs to know what they are going to do on that day. They should have clear set goals and plan. It is foolish to go to the demo day unprepared expecting miracles for it would not work. It is important to be clear of what one intends to get from the demo day and have a straight focus on it. The entrepreneurs should know much ahead of the details of the participating investors, who are the potential investors and how could they benefit the company. A pre-study has to be done to know all the details so it would be easier to decide the pitch plan to attract them. Planning the goals much ahead would help you to ensure achieving it.

*Pitch in perfectly:
Pitching in is the key ingredient of a demo day so it is in the hands of the entrepreneurs to make it awesome, make it memorable, make it impressive. There are other participants who are competing against you for the investors attention. So grabbing the attention of the press and the investors is a must to make the perfect pitch.

You may know all about your business but the audience may not. So ensure what you pitch is clear and understandable. Do not use jargons that they may not understand. When you talk something that does not make sense to them, they may lose attention. Ensure the pitch goes slower and use fewer words. Keep the sentences shorter and simpler for the audience would remember only a handful of information of the presentation and not everything. It is important to keep away the words that does not matter. Less content means you can pace your presentation using pauses and slowed speech for intentional effect. However, ensure what you say has a clear content and not just hints.

For instance, many startups spent too much time on the team slides, taking the audience through a list of past accomplishments and previous jobs of the team members. Remember, you do not have whole day to present but only few minutes. So segregating what should be said and what  should not be is wise.

*Use limited words in the slide:
When you put something on the slide always think that audience should be focused on what you are talking rather than what it is on the slides. Bulletin points are absolute no-no throughout the presentation. The slides should set the tone for what you are currently talking about to keep everyone on track. It is good to avoid overly flashy slides for the investors are not interested in the colors you have used. The slides should set the tone for what you are currently talking about to keep everyone on track.

*Make a splash:
If you have a big announcement to make or big new customer or big promotion or a great new angel investor or something really interesting or remarkable, then you can use the demo day to announce it. Demo day is a right place and time for big news and big announcements. With many investors and press around the reach would be great.

*Always get to the point:
Being cute and creative would not help you score points with the investors or the other audience. When an investor is looking to invest his money, he wants clear answers to the key questions. Nothing else matters. There are some key questions like – what problem are you solving? What is the missed opportunity? what value are you providing? What does your product do? How do you solve this problem? Who are you targeting at? How will this be a big business? What traction do you have? Answering these questions directly is the most important aspect of your pitch.

*Team work:
When you have a team, a demo day is a great place to put the entire team to work. It is not wise to rely completely on your CEO to do everything. CEOs may be very occupied with the pitch, investors and media. Plan in advance and have the team help the CEO. Every founder and early team member should be able to do the elevator pitch, look for investors, meet the press, help sift through people and schedule meetings. When you work as a team, the output would be much better than working solo. There can be variety of suggestions, that can improve the overall quality of the pitch.

*Practice, practice and practice:
Practicing is one of the important element to have a perfect pitch. Only while practicing one would understand how it would be to talk and where changes are necessary. Make sure you practice until no end. As always said, practice makes one perfect and it also makes one comfortable and confident. Practicing in an empty room or staring at the wall may not help you prepare well for a live demo day audience. The actual audience may look bored or disinterested or be busy with other tasks which may distract you. You may have to consider these possibilities seriously. You should make sure that you can handle the ambient noise and keep your confidence even if things go wrong or your audience seems disengaged. Also, ensure you make eye contact with as many as possible.

It is advised to practice with friends or teammates in a staged environment so you can get used to standing in front of an audience. Try to practice in a live presentation environment. One definite no-no while practicing or pitching is to memorize the script. When you memorize the script it would be very obvious to the audience so always understand and know you story line for you would not get stuck in between.

*Meet investors:
Almost 90% of the companies graduating from top accelerators are looking at raising funds. Demo day is a  great place and time to get acquainted with investors, particularly angel investors. During the pitch itself, make it clear how investors can contact or connect with you. If you have any particular investors in mind, then decide on a particular strategy for meeting them on the demo day. Also, be ready to ask what you want for instance the fund-raising commitment. The problem with most people is that they do not open their mouths and ask. Remember only if the investor knows what you want and is impressed and he remembers you, you can raise funds from him.

Meet investors

*Manage Time:
One of the biggest challenge as a participant at the demo day is the time constraint. With the given time of 5 to 10 minutes, the participant have to convey the whole picture to the audience who are not aware of your industry, your team or your vision. It is key to cut down to the basics of what the market needs. Framing the sentences right and talking everything to the point will help the participant manage time efficiently.

*Ensure to convey the long-term vision:
The audience present will be more focused on present since that is what you would be explaining about and showing on the screen. Spend some couple of minutes talking about the big vision in terms of product and in terms of business model. Product may be different from the business model. For instance Google’s product is search engine but it really generates money through advertising. Not all startups have big vision, but if it has to be made known.

*Create some noise and buzz:
There would be many press reporters and press media out there who would be equally interested to cover news of the startups just like how you would be interested to be interviewed by them. So identify the key reporters and reach out to them ahead of time. It is important to have the business model clearly explained to them and it is them who takes your business stuff to other people in the other parts of the world. So it is a must they understand everything clearly and concisely.

Emphasize progress and articulate the road map. Create tweets and Facebook posts and ask your team, family, friends, customers to amplify the message you want to convey on the demo day. The buzz created will get people talking about it and help popularize the brand and business.

*Keep plans ready for after the demo day:
Demo day is not the end to all, but a start to all. Make the best use of the demo day by planning for weeks ahead. Schedule investor meetings and press interviews to keep the talks going. Announce more things in weeks after the demo day. Make a plan to execute your fundraising and maintain the buzz created around the company.