Pitching is similar to acting to a certain extent; startups refine their content until it is optimised, and then practise again and again to ensure that they can execute it. However, even though they read from a prepared script, it must still be convincing and authentic for the audience on the demo day.

Pitching practice
To pitch is an essential part of being a startup. Founders have to pitch to customers, to suppliers, and also crucially to investors and other stakeholders. JFDI has a comprehensive pitching programme in place that is being conducted by Peter Browne from Intangible Communications, a communications agency that helps individuals communicate with audience. Browne has experience in the entertainment industry as an actor and a writer, and has also trained previous batches of startups at JFDI.

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In the first part of the training, the startups are supposed to build awareness of their pitching styles and learn about the best practices of exemplar presenters. They have to watch videos of Steve Jobs, Ricky Gervais, Bill Clinton and Ken Robinson, among others, so that they can identify which presentation persona would suit them best. They also have to pitch every Friday, and receive feedback from other startups and some external visitors in a controlled environment. This allows them to experiment with different personas and see which ones are the most effective.

In the second half of the training, the startups are to refine their content. Browne tells us about the philosophy at JFDI, which is leaning more on letting the teams decide their own paths. If the startup pitch is not working out, they leave it to the teams to figure out the solution after telling them what the problems are. However, in certain scenarios JFDI has to step in. For example, when English is not the native language of the speaker, they may have to do in-depth sessions to ensure that the pronunciation of certain important terms are correct.

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Before the actual demo day, the teams have a mini-demo day, where they pitch before companies such as SAP, Abacus and Singtel, so as to get out of their comfort zone.

Taking a cue from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Be not afraid of pitching; some are born to pitch, some achieve greatness in pitching, and others have greatness thrust upon them, Browne said most of the JFDI startup teams belong to the latter two categories, and have been mostly doing fine during the previous demo days.

Let’s hope that the current batch of startups get seasoned after undertaking the programme and are up and ready for the D-day.