Elevator Pitch Template & Tips

If you have 1-3 minutes to communicate your idea, here are tips using a format hundreds of startups have field-tested with thousands of mentors.

Develop your pitch slides & with a minimum font size of 30 points. Use as many slides as you like and we recommend you use lots of images instead of lots of text. Follow the template summarized below:

  1. Company – Describe your venture in a sentence. Some tips on condensing your value proposition.
  2. Credibility – Talk is cheap, show us you are someone with more than just an idea / someone we should continue listening to. If you have no credibility yet (very common!), skip this section. Remember to show, don’t tell.
  3. Customer Segment(s) – Give us a quick feeling for who your target market is and that they have enough money to make your venture worthwhile. Better yet, tell us about a sample customer.
  4. Pains – What is the pain (for your target market) you are solving? How to articulate your painsSome tips on making sure your pains & gains match.
  5. Benefits – What benefits can you deliver to the target market that alleviates their pain?  Note: features are not benefits :).
  6. Competitive Advantages – How are you positioned better than the competition? Remember the positioning triangle.
  7. Next Steps / Ask – ALWAYS end a pitch with some kind of ask. It can be explicit or implicit, but it must always be there. A great way to do it implicitly is to show the audience what your next step is. Note: never ask people to buy your product or invest in your company. It can be illegal and never classy. If people love you, they’ll ask to buy/invest without you asking :). Get more detailed help on how to make a great Ask here.

Hat Tip: This content expands on the work of the great people at www.valleyventurementors.org.


Introducing Launch413

I am excited to announce my latest venture, an alternative venture fund called Launch413.

Over the past few years I have watched many entrepreneurs graduating from concept-stage accelerators like MassChallenge and Valley Venture Mentors hit a wall when they get into the market or try to raise a seed round. They have proof of a strong business concept but the investors feel there isn’t enough “gray hair” to execute. And the investors are often right :(.

Launch413 helps fantastic entrepreneurs get the help they need (connections, experience, strategy, etc.) to climb that wall, execute, and scale.

I’ve also watched as many entrepreneurs work to build excellent businesses that are not necessarily a great fit for traditional equity financing.

Launch413 doesn’t use equity. Instead, like Indie.VC, LighterCapital , Vested For Growth, and others, we take a share of future revenue. This aligns our interests with helping the business make money. We’ve heard that is an important thing for businesses to do :).

We invest in companies within a 2 hour drive of Springfield, MA and with a connection to Western Massachusetts (having participated in our entrepreneurship ecosystem counts :)).

Learn more at www.launch413.com

Introduction Etiquette

When you get introduced to a mentor / someone who can help you, here are a few simple rules to make sure you are Awesome. Awesome people do better and get more referrals :).
Must Do:
  1. Provide value in every interaction – ask “how can I help you?” This involves 5 minutes of research into the contact so that you can ask intelligent questions / provide contacts. Odds are they won’t ask you to help, but that you care says a lot!
  2. Connect via LinkedIn, and if relevant, ask for connections. Smart people use this and get phenomenal results!
  3. Follow up with at least a thank you email to both the person who helped you and the person who referred you. Add one sentence of what you got out of the interaction and it will increase the warmth and fuzz 5x!
  4. Bcc Referrers. When you get introduced to someone, make sure to put the referrer on the BCC line so they don’t get all the replies. When you do so start your email with something like “[ReferrerName], thank you so much for the intro! I’ve moved you to BCC to spare your inbox.  [MentorName], it is great to make your acquaintance…”

Should Do:

  1. Promote every connection – Send out a shout of thanks on twitter and retweet a message of theirs that is meaningful (where possible).  This can be done on any of the social media platforms.
  2. Use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, a lot are free – do not let valuable connections fall through the cracks!
  3. Ask to put contacts on a quarterly newsletter – (see crm above).  People who help you generally would like to know that something came of it, and this is an automated way of maintaining your network.  This is not the same as marketing emails!

The content of this post originally appeared on the Valley Venture Mentors blog and was inspired by advice from the awesome VVM Mentorship and Accelerator alum Damon Magnuski, co-founder of www.peoplehedge.com

VVM’s Next Chapter

In 2011 Scott Foster, Steve Willis, and I co-founded Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) as a nights&weekends hobby. A few years later it transitioned from a hobby to a real organization with a staff and ambition to change the face of the Western New England economy.

It was a crazy ambition. And crazy ambition requires crazy ideas :). Our unique approach to mentoring, selecting startups, and our family and sanity-friendly programming allowed us to attract great minds that so many entrepreneurship programs miss.

VVM helped hundreds of entrepreneurs follow their dreams. From cookie truck franchises to software changing how social work is done, to bacteria that can crawl into and kill tumor cells, and so so much more. These crazy, beautiful, passionate entrepreneurs muster all their courage to do what most of us are far too sane to try! Their products are touching the lives of people the world over, winning national awards, gaining national press… Along the way they have increased startup activity in this area by at least 10x. 10x more revenue from startups. 10x more investment into startups. 10x more jobs… they are approaching a thousand jobs!

A year ago I asked the amazing Liz Roberts to take over as VVM’s leader. She professionalized and systematized the ragged startup Steve, Scott, and I put together in 2011 and shepherded Team VVM to heights I could never have dared hope we would achieve. Specifically: world-class leaders of the entrepreneurial community and the Obama White House have recognized VVM’s results as extraordinary.

It has been the greatest joy of my professional life to work alongside Team VVM and the thousands of volunteer mentors that make up our community. Today is my last day as a full-time employee at VVM. I will remain an active and proud member of the community, but it is time to go. My startup baby has grown up.

Leaving is bittersweet, but it is beautiful. I could not ask for a more amazing staff and board to lead VVM to its next chapter.

I look forward to seeing y’all at a Mentorship Night, and to see where VVM goes next.


2016 #VVMAccelerator applications are open, help spread the word :)

Happy day! I could use your help to make sure that awesome startups have the opportunity to benefit from the VVM Accelerator 2016 (applications open until 2015)! If appropriate, can you forward the below information to the relevant portion of your network? THANK YOU!


Content ready to Tweet or post to Facebook


2016 #VVMAccelerator applications are open until 11/15! Apply now www.vvmaccelerator.com @VVMentors #accelerator #WesternMA


Content ready to forward via email or post on your blog


The VVM Accelerator 2016 is accepting applications until November 15, 2015. 

In summary, here’s what’s in it for participants:

  • Four months of free intense training and lovingly critical support .
  • Access to subject matter experts, investors, and highly competitive and collaborative peers.
  • Free office space from January through May.
  • The chance to pitch your business to a cadre of deep-pocketed funders
  • Eligibility to win up to $50,000(equity-free!) to develop your business.
  • A network that will benefit them long after completing the program.

Learn more and apply now at www.vvmaccelerator.com.

Thank you for taking part in the region’s entrepreneurial renaissance!


-Paul Silva

Has @WalkOffTheEarth just released the Startup Anthem?

The band (AKA musical startup) Walk off the Earth recently released “Rule The World,” and I have to wonder, is this not an awesome Startup Anthem? 🙂  All kidding aside, startups are not generally the topic of pop music.

Check out the Lyrics, listen for yourself, and let me know what you think.


Don’t cloud my vision
I’m telling you not today
Cause I’m seeing straight

Made my decision
I made it through the shades of grey
Made it my own way
I materialize the feeling
To carry on to carry on
I know some will say I’m dreaming
But I carry on I carry on


They say no way-o
I say I rule the world
Ain’t afraid of the walls I’mma break them down
They say the same-o
I’m feelin’ high as a bird
Ain’t afraid of the ground I’mma stand up
I say yeah, yeah, yeah, they say no, no, no
They say slow, slow, slow
I say go, go, go
They say no way-o
I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world

I chased illusion
Then I watched it fade to black
Throwing me off track

Found revolution
Found it in a simple fact
I ain’t coming back
I materialize the feeling
To carry on to carry on
I know some will say I’m dreaming
But I carry on I carry on


I say I rule the world


I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world