Super Bowl ads cost millions to air and take months to create. Startup pitches cost nothing and can be thrown together in a few hours. Nothing in common, right?
Actually, I see two broad parallels between Super Bowl ads and startup pitches:
- They both try to be memorable, and
- They both want to separate you from your money.
Plus, whether you have millions to pour into a new technology or a dollar to buy a soda, you ask yourself the same question: Will this thing make me happy I invested my money?
If Budweiser, Chrysler, and the other big Super Bowl ad spenders were startups—and I was a potential investor who’d never heard of them—here’s how I might react to their pitches.
Bud Light: Okay, so this looks like some sort of new online community involving beer, music, table tennis and celebrity interaction. But you never really explained how you’ll attract users, or where your revenues will come from. And frankly I just don’t get the llama at all. Verdict: No interest.
Chrysler: Blah blah America blah blah legacy blah inspiration blah heart and soul of blah American pride blah blah blah. I about completely lost interest until you got to the part where you said, “Let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone—we will build your car.” I still have no idea what makes your product special, but that’s as good an old-school positioning statement as I’ve heard in years. Verdict: Need more information.
GoDaddy: Very nice. You market web domains to entrepreneurs, and you’ve explained perfectly why they’ll buy. Everyone can relate to the desire to quit your job and make your passion your business. Your name’s a little weird, but I like what I see. Verdict: Let’s get coffee.
Maserati: Bad enough you’re introducing a new luxury car in to a US market that’s already packed tighter than a Prius at a folk festival. But for the first 95% of your pitch, I thought you were somehow looking to monetize guerilla warfare. All that stuff about waiting until the perfect moment to strike at the big, sluggish giants? Sounds like Castro, and I don’t mean the district in San Francisco. Verdict: No interest.
Radio Shack: Interesting—you’re looking to become the first national player in retail redesign. I love the gag about the 80s calling and wanting their store back, and your visuals really drove the point home. Still, I’m a little skeptical. Betting on brick-and-mortar retail could be a nice contrarian play, but I suspect I’m better off buying stock in Amazon. Verdict: Need more information.
Squarespace: A better web? What the heck does that mean? I get that the web is full of clutter and distractions, but what exactly do you do about it? Help people build websites? Can’t I do that on WordPress for free? Plus, your name sounds like an unholy marriage between Foursquare and My Space. Verdict: No interest.
TurboTax: If you’re going to waste three quarters of your pitch before saying anything about your startup, you’d better be entertaining. Lucky for you, I love the whole Super Bowl/prom analogy. And even better, when you finally get around to your business model, I get it right away. You sell tax software as a “freemium”—help them figure out their refund, then charge them up the wazoo to file their returns. Verdict: Let’s get coffee.