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The following us a guest post by Stefan Broda, one of the founders of BeforeWeDo, a startup that provides at-home sexual health testing, including HIV tests.

“Sex is Amazing!”

This is how I opened my pitch on stage in the final round of the 14th Founder Showcase in Silicon Valley. Do I have everybody’s attention?

The Founder Showcase is a bi-annual startup competition in which promising companies from around the world apply, travel to Mountain View and compete for the big award. Its hall of fame boasts companies like Kaggle, RelayRides and Udemy. Big shoes to fill! So, winning was an incredible honor, and I would like to share what I have learned that might benefit you – Yes, YOU! – as a future competitor!

 

Foreplay

To qualify, startups submitted video pitches and gathered votes from supporters and viewers through a Facebook application. After recording a pitch and writing a position statement, the real work started: I wrote every one of my Facebook friends personally to ask for their votes. You can get some help from Excel to create personalized messages or write your own Rails app that sends messages for you (email me if you want to know more). In any case, don’t underestimate this step – it’s going to be a LOT of Work! But the work paid off and BeforeWeDo collected the second most votes of all candidates – only beaten by TrintMe, who asked all their users to vote for them (a clever tactic if you have that option).

After emerging from the Facebook round, we were asked to submit a new pitch – under 3 minutes with slides. Instructions were very specific: the presentation had to be one recording with no cuts, no voice overs and the slides had to be in the picture as well. Quite a challenge, but also great preparation! We were chosen for the semi finals, which required pitching live on video to Adeo Ressi, founder of TheFunded.com – the company that organizes the Founder Showcase. That went well too and he gave his consent for BeforeWeDo to enter the finals. Yes!

Tips and Tricks in the preparation phase

  • Rehearse often: Start in a comfortable environment, like your bed, your kitchen or shower, and speak loudly. Then record a video of yourself, looking at the camera. Watch it, reflect and perfect it. Michael Hyatt also gives great insight on how to improve speaking by practicing out loud.

  • Don’t use a script: You don’t want your performance to seem forced, so you really need to be in bed with the ideas. Note key messages you want to convey and then just talk about them as if you were speaking to a friend. As you rehearse more and more, you will naturally find your flow and rhythm. Ultimately, there were small variations in my wording, but my message still sounded genuine.

  • Finish prematurely: Practice with ~10% less time than allowed. You want that safety buffer!

  • Dramatize it: Open bold and lead up to a strong climax. I started with “Sex is amazing!” which, as you see in the video, really grabbed the audience’s attention. Near the end, I built momentum by enumerating my team’s experience, as well as the awards and recognition we received.

  • Plan for breaks: Especially when you say something provocative, leave time for the audience to react. This will cut into your time anyway, so it’s important to plan for it.

  • Screen Resolution! Triple-Confirm the exact resolution and aspect ratio of the projector you will be presenting with to optimize your presentation file. I only double-confirmed it and the projector’s resolution was different from what I was told. My slides were stretched, and there was no time for corrections.

The Act

After successful foreplay, I found myself onstage in the auditorium at Microsoft’s Mountain View campus, quite a step up in audience size compared to the Startup Weekend we won back in San Francisco. BeforeWeDo was the first startup to pitch, and I began speaking to 400 entrepreneurs, investors and mentors.

14th Founder Showcase Winning Pitch: BeforeWeDo from Founder Institute 5 on Vimeo.

After the pitch and subsequent Q&A, the judges gave BeforeWeDo the best rating of the first finalist group. Nice! this was followed by very helpful feedback, taking the global context into account. For example, Manu Kumar from K9 said, “The US is so behind India in laboratory testing and getting online results. This needs to come!” The most striking feedback came from Noah Doyle of Javelin Ventures who gave us the highest rating, saying, “This lean approach should be the new model for modern healthcare companies!”

Now, let me give some love to the other two finalists in my group. The competition was stiff!

  • Pouch is a mobile reward system rolled out and pre-installed on over 1M phones in Malasyia and Indonesia (awesome video). Amazing progress!

  • PriceHub shows you the average sales price of your used car. Never overpay or undersell again!

They both received great ratings from the judges and strong feedback on their progress and traction. But advancing to the showdown was dependent on audience votes. Attendees used their phone to submit their favorite group 1 startup. Being on stage and waiting for the votes reminded me of my little adventure on Chinese TV back in 2005

Wow! We won the first round! So BeforeWeDo went into the showdown competing against the winner of the second group. That was FriendTrusted, an online marketplace for home remodeling. And as I was standing next to their CEO Brenton Marrelli, the judges gave their vote to Adeo, who opened each envelope one by one. After two votes for BeforeWeDo, one vote for FriendsTrusted, the fourth envelope was opened… “BeforeWeDo”. YES! We are the winner of the 14th Founder Showcase!

Tips and Tricks during the event

There were many factors that led to this win, and I can’t take credit for them all. Nevertheless, let me share some lessons learned and tips that I found helpful during the event.

  • Explore and test the territory: Arrive early to the event and try to get into the presentation room. Rehearse at least twice on stage, walking around the room before the show to familiarize yourself with the territory.

  • Flirt a little: As people come in, make eye contact and pick out the supportive people. During your presentation, look at them. Their support will fuel you with confidence. See Andrew Dlugan’s secret to improve your eye contact for more.

  • Let it flow: You rehearsed it dozens of times. Its in your system… Let it come out naturally.

  • Wow the audience and the judges: Make sure you entertain and woo the audience without sacrificing the business side that the judges care about.

  • Limit words on your slides: The Judges couldn’t actually see the big screen and had to look at smaller monitors. Be considerate of that, and make sure you use the slides to support you in the background. You want the audience to listen to you, not read your slides. For more, see the 7 visual design rules by Daniel Zeevi.

  • Don’t let them catch you with your pants down: Use your advisors or other entrepreneur friends to drill you with likely questions, such as “Why are you doing this?” or “What are your customer acquisition costs?”. Make sure you have a long list of possible questions and practice answering them concisely. Email me if you would like to use my list.

  • Show your lean side: When you come to the ask of your presentation, show the investors that you read The Lean Startup and will not waste their money.

What this victory means for us

You know, thinking back to when we started with this idea in January/February and presented it at meetups and hackathons, we found ourselves faced with little enthusiasm. Working on Google Glasses or the next travel app was just way cooler than detecting and preventing STDs. Getting people excited about our topic was and still is a challenge. So winning this big competition was a special moment for us – not only because we won a nice award, which – don’t get me wrong – is great for the ego. But also, this vote from the audience and the judges means something much more important… that:

Solving Sexual Health Has a Place in Silicon Valley!

You think so too? If you are sexually active, please let us know about your needs in terms of managing your sexual health, your experiences getting tested and what you would like us to do to improve that experience. Please comment below or send us an email.

Also, you can do one (or more!) of the following:

  1. Like us on Facebook

  2. Follow us on Twitter

  3. Sign up to be notified once we launch our app, our counseling service and additional home tests!

  4. Get a BeforeWeDo T-Shirt to raise sexual health awareness everywhere you go!

  5. If you would like to become more active, you can join us at one of our outreaches in San Francisco (Next one on Aug 9 in the Castro) or organize one in your city! Let us know!

Alright, if you have read so far then thank you very much for your continuous attention! I hope you found the article and the tips and tricks useful. Please comment below with your thoughts, feedback and questions. We would love to hear from you!

Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian



  • Utkarsh Amitabh

    Very interesting idea. I am working on building an online knowledge bank cum discussion forum on sexual health, pleasure and well being. Incidentally I won the start-up bootcamp at INSEAD as well. I am coming to Wharton in September and would love to connect with you guys. Great work. Congratulations.

    • Stefan Broda

      Hey Utkarsh, would love to talk to you further! Better together and we love to cooperate with other passionate folks in the space! Wanna just email me?

  • healthtechhatch

    Thanks Stephan for sharing all these great tips. Your rock and so does BeforeWeDo – way to go…we will share widely.

  • healthtechhatch

    Thanks Stephan for sharing all these great tips. You rock and so does BeforeWeDo – great idea, great company. Will share this widely. Congrats on a well deserved win!