In a time when new startups are popping up at every corner of the world and in every vertical, what sets the unicorns apart from the rest?
We managed to secure an email interview with the head of Google for Entrepreneurs and VP of Product Management at Google, Bradley Horowitz, and he shared with us some tips on what startups should take note of when pitching to investors.
For the unacquainted, Google for Entrepreneurs is an incubator started by Google in 2011 that provides support, resources, and ‘Campuses’ (co-working spaces, physical hubs) to entrepreneurs.
In Singapore, co-working space Impact Hub became Google’s first tech hub partner in Southeast Asia last July.
With the partnership, Impact Hub Singapore members can make use of Google for Entrepreneurs’ global network and resources.
Startups in the Google for Entrepreneurs network have raised over US$1.8 billion in funding to date.
Google for Entrepreneurs is also the organiser of Google Demo Day and Demo Day Asia, both of which aim to give a platform for outstanding startups to pitch to regional and global investors and clinch funding.
But what makes SkyMagic and the like stand out from hundreds and thousands of others in the region?
We posed 3 questions to Horowitz which would be of interest to startups looking to successfully pitch to investors, and here’s what he had to say.
1. What Are 3 Main Things Investors Look Out For During A Pitch?
Needless to say, preparing extensively for a pitch is vital.
He revealed that for Google Demo Day, judges are told to look at three key questions, and whether or not startups fulfilled them.
“The first question – Is the company tackling a real world problem? Will their solution improve the community they’re in?”
Horowitz cited the winner of this year’s Demo Day Asia, SigTuple from India as an example.
“SigTuple is tackling a massive issue: providing smart healthcare for all. Their solution has now started serving in India, but they have the potential to allow for better medical diagnosis at scale,” he explained.
The next question: “Can the solution scale globally?”
For this, he recalled how SkyMagic, albeit being based in Singapore, has operations that are “easily scalable throughout the globe with no significant changes in the technology”.
And finally, “Does the team have the experience and knowledge to move this idea to a real solution?”
“Technology might be perfect but the human factor is still paramount. When it comes to execution of an idea, it truly comes down to the team.”
He cited Hong Kong startup Origami Labs, which started up to help visually impaired people find information.
Now, its product is used by medical facilities around the world.
2. What’s The Formula For The Perfect Pitch?
As tempting as it is to stick to a particular ‘sure win’ template when it comes to pitches, Horowitz advised that passion for the cause is as important as more technical details like technology and the business plan.
“Let’s not forget about deeper elements of human relationships,” he stated.
“Passion is a fundamental driver of human decisions and, when it’s backed by a solid product, it can make the difference in the final choice of investors and users.”
In fact, he states that not having the formula for the perfect pitch “is a good thing”, because if that’s the case, “all pitches would be the same and this is not how an ecosystem can grow and thrive”.
He brought up Pakistan startup Mahram, which won the “Audience Choice” award at Demo Day Asia.
“Not only did the founder, Asma Omer, present an effective platform for helping people in need for healthcare in Pakistan, but she also conveyed the urgency of such a platform in her country with full commitment.”
3. What Would You Advise Startups To Use Their Seed Funding On? What Do You Think Should Be The End Goal Of A Startup?
Horowitz brings up three themes that founders can focus on when making the decision on what to do with the new injection of funds – ‘Diversity’, ‘Digital’, and ‘Dreaming Big’.
“Diversity means looking at problems from as many angles as possible and nurturing a team culture that is as inclusive as possible,” he explained.
The more diverse the team and the perspectives they bring to the table, the faster the startup is able in providing solutions for the varied needs of users.
Digital is as straightforward as it sounds – making use of the best tech available out there and also “setting out to help others take advantage of innovation”.
“Entrepreneurs need to keep their fingers on the pulse of digital trends and develop for an increasingly mobile only world that’s already looking at machine learning as a basic asset and Internet of Things as the next business opportunity.”
Lastly, Dreaming Big.
For this, he quoted Google founder Larry Page: “If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.”
“Diversity, digital and dreaming big are all intertwined,” he concluded.
“You can’t succeed globally if you don’t solve for a diverse range of users, you can’t grow at scale without taking advantage of new digital technologies, and you can’t achieve your best if you don’t dream big.”
We’d like to thank Bradley Horowitz for his time!