A New Form for a New Norm

Audience at an event

In the wake of coronavirus, pitch events are scrambling to move online. This is resulting in some new formats of pitch events. One such interesting format was spurred by the question: Why not use videos of pitches instead of live pitching?

Although pitching online via a livestream - such as Zoom - enables the continuity of pitch events that otherwise might stay cancelled, it has two noticeable problems:

  • it exacerbates the problem of audience engagement or lack thereof: Onsite pitch events that follow the typical age-old format were already failing to actively engage the onsite captive audience. (see exceptions) On the top of it, now, having the audience remotely participate makes it even more challenging to retain their attention. How attentive the no longer ‘captive audiences’ are in the distracting environment of their homes, is anybody’s guess.
  • it fails to leverage the power of the internet: Why would one want to limit a pitch event to an audience of 60 instead of 6000?

Which brings us to the pitch-videos format that addresses the above problems.

Having pitch videos available online for a specified duration will give audience the flexibility of watching the pitches at their own pace. It will ensure their most attention for the time that they watch. They do not have to sit through all the pitches in one sitting, although, in the age of binge watching, they could very well do so.

Using videos will also allow people from different time zones to participate in the event. Rare would be the enthusiasts dragging themselves out of the bed to join a live event at 3:00am in their time zone. Potentially, each pitch event has a global audience.

Gamification + Pitch Videos = 10x engagement

Adding incentives for audience to engage with the pitch videos takes a pitch event to new level. This is where events use the Pre app to maximize the engagement.

How it works: Startups submit videos. An event is created around those videos for a period of, say, three days. During that period, audience watch the videos at their own pace and use the Pre app to interact with the startups and invest the PreMoney in those they find most investable. Leaderboards for both startups and audience are published at the end of the event.

Use cases: The upcoming CUNY Startups accelerator has their demo day from May 4th to May 8th. Audience can watch the videos anytime that period and interact with the startups. The event culminates in a live Q&A session on Zoom on May 8th. Prizes announced for both top startups and investors. CUNY's format is a great blend of videos + gamification + live.

Another example is Pitch Round that is now accepting applications for its events.

Surviving vs Thriving

Pitching in the age of coronavirus will see new forms emerge for the new norm. The ones that thrive will be the ones that take this opportunity to reflect on some difficult questions: who are the pitch events really serving? How can they become sites for more opportunities and value for startups struggling to take their idea to the market? How can they engage their audiences as active participants rather than as passive consumers?

We are betting on those pitch events that, in addition to showcasing innovative startups, become innovative themselves to stay relevant to the startup ecosystem.

Hayvn Hatch, a female-founder oriented pitch night in Darien, Connecticut, is a great example for outstanding audience engagement at onsite pitch events.