By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
It will be a SXSW pitch competition with a media twist. ATI/Silicon Hills Startup Pitch, sponsored by Silicon Hills News, Austin Technology Incubator and Central Texas Angel Network, will give 10 Austin companies a chance to pitch in front of investors and the media to determine two things:
1. How appealing is your company as an investment?
2. Can you tell a story the media finds irresistible?
Many companies know the criteria investors look for: A strong team, market validation, disruption, potential for big returns. Then they try to pitch their story to the media using the same criteria. But what makes a story sexy to reporters doesn’t always fall in these categories. A startup might become a media darling because it has a super colorful founder who gives great quotes. It might have an inspiring back story about a person whose life was changed by the product or technology. It might include a “dark night of the soul” aspect where the company nearly failed but pivoted and rose to success.
Everybody loves a good story.
“Communication is paramount,” said Kyle Cox, director of IT/Wireless & University Development portfolios at ATI. “Often entrepreneurs are too close to their own solution and find it difficult to succinctly tell their story. (Entrepreneur and venture capitalist) Mark Suster has famously said that VC’s invest in ‘lines not dots.’ Having a memorable story, a hook, for why your company is differentiated and defensible is a key component to begin building that ‘line.’”
Among the prizes is a series of articles published in Silicon Hills—which has 20,000 unique visitors monthly–about one of the companies. This would be a kind of Hero’s Journey series which might include an initial profile about the founding of the company, another about some pivot or series of iterations they’re wrestling with, another about their process learning to pitch. The topics will depend on the company.
Other prizes include three months membership in ATI’s Landing Pad Portfolio, three hours pitch coaching from Articulate Persuasion’s Monique Maley, who has coached some of the top startups in Austin, and free entry into CTAN’s next funding cycle. Each of the 10 teams competing will receive one SXSW Interactive badge.
The first round of the competition will be held online at AustinFastPitch.com. Online applications must be in by February 5th. From those applicants, judges will pick 10 startups, each of which will pitch on March 9 at the Austin Chamber Offices. The first round will take place at 9:30; the final round at 11 a.m.
Judges for the event include Venu Shamapant Live Oak Partners, John Stockton of Mayfield Fund, Pat Noonan of Austin Ventures, Monique Maley, Gary Forni of CTAN and Tom Chederar of Venture Beat.
The event is part of SXSW’s Austin section of Startup Village, one of the most popular and fastest growing sectors of Interactive.
“It’s great to have an event where Austin startups get a chance to represent on the worldwide stage that is SXSW,” Cox said.