In every sales training I have attended, this question is always posed to me: “You meet the CIO in the corridor, how do you get a meeting with him?” To be honest, there is not a huge difference in how you answer this question whether you are a start-up seeking an investor or the attention of a mentor.

Being a business mentor for both Cisco’s British Innovation Gateway and RAPTOR research and development project, I have attended a lot of start-up events and met a lot of business owners. When I meet people for the first time, I always ask them to tell me about their start-up or business. This is exactly the type of question the start-ups pitching for the IDEALondon competition will have to be prepared for.

Cisco opened the IDEALondon competition for start-ups attending the Wired Money event earlier this month. This event, a partnership between Wired UK and Cisco, introduced the innovators transforming finance in the digital age, brought together entrepreneurs reinventing the financial industry, and highlighted the trends and risks that will shape innovation and define the future.

Networking was a key component of the Cisco-Wired Money event

A chance to win space at IDEALondon

IDEALondon (Innovation Digital Enterprise Alliance London) is a cornerstone of the Cisco British Innovation Gateway program. It is a collaborative partnership between University College London, DC Thompson, and Cisco.

IDEALondon has offered start-ups who attended the Wired Money event in London the amazing opportunity to pitch for office space when the centre opens. This is an amazing opportunity for these new businesses to be a part of IDEALondon and gain access to the vast ecosystem of the IDEAL partnership.

Pleased with the high standard submissions, the judges had a very tough job narrowing down the field. Four start-ups made it to the finals and will pitch to the judges on 22 August at Cisco’s UK offices

The key for all the start-ups will be to have the perfect pitch to wow the panelists and stand above the rest of the competition.

4 steps to the perfect pitch

If someone asks you the question, “Tell me about your business,” what do you say? Do you have a description prepared to rattle off whenever you need to?  Can you adjust your pitch depending on whether you are talking to an investor, a mentor, or a potential customer?  If not, it is time to get your pencil out and start writing down your elevator pitch.

Let’s imagine you pitch for IDEALondon…When the Cisco team hears your elevator pitch about your start-up, they want facts on how partnering with Cisco will help you, and why they should invest or mentor you — not a fluffy marketing pitch. As a general rule, people want to hear how much money your solution could save them, what revenues it could generate, or why they should believe in you as a founder.

1. Keep in brief, but to the point. It is called an elevator pitch because it is the same length as an elevator ride — normally a short elevator ride and not one to the top of the 160-floor Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

2. Make it your mantra. The elevator pitch needs to become the mantra for all your employees, whether it is just you or 100+ people. Everyone should be able to be rattle it off at every opportunity when people ask the question “So, what does company X do?”

3. Differentiate yourself. Think about the unique elements that make your business different, and then think about how you endorse them. This is harder than it seems, so spend some time thinking about this question and get input from your colleagues.

4. Be critical. Review your written elevator pitch and ask yourself, “What does that say about my business.“ Rewrite again, until you have a couple of sentences, and definitely no more than 5 sentences you are happy with.

At Cisco, our key mantra, driven by our CEO, John Chambers is “Changing the way we work, live, play and learn.” We accomplish both of these by listening to our global and local customers, understanding their business objectives and needs, and then mapping technology to these requirements.

Each person you speak to in the Cisco Field Sales Team will have their elevator pitch tailored to their vertical or customers – but they would also be able to rattle it off when asked. Can you say the same for your start-up business?

So, if you don’t have an elevator pitch ready to go at a moment’s notice, let me encourage you to prepare one. Practice it on co-founders, friends, family, or work associates. And most important, be comfortable with it. You never know when you might have that lift ride with an investor.

All comments and feedback are welcome.

Watch this video about the Cisco-Wired Money event that brought together start-ups and entrepreneurs in the financial technology industry



Andrew Green

Account Executive