In early November of 2015, like 40 000+ other people from all over the world, I flew to Dublin, “Where the Tech World Meets”, for the Web Summit 2015. Don’t worry: this isn’t going to be another recap article, nor another “Why You Should Definitely Spend Your Big Bucks and Go to This Big Event” article. No, it’s going to be a post that discusses only 5 small minutes of the huge three-day tech fest: my pitch for Snipcart during the PITCH competition.
As much as my ego hates to admit it, this post is first and foremost going to be a slap on the back of my hand. An exercise I accomplished to show others and myself how we could’ve done better, had we taken the appropriate time to prepare. And hopefully, it’s also going to be good advice for startups who, unlike us, intend on pitching a lot next year.
Let me show you how we should’ve pitched an exciting business, as opposed to just another cool product, at the Web Summit’s last edition.
The stuff we got right
Here’s what was already present in our former pitch:
- An analogy showing how important the lean approach, flexibility, and technology-independence should be in modern e-commerce.
- A straightforward statement of Snipcart’s “raison d’être”.
- A quick, step-by-step simple technical overview of the product and its features.
- A reminder of the benefits for merchants.
- A (way too) quick analysis of our target audience, the developers.
- A small overview of our story, team, and growth until now.
- A listing of cool communities who adopted our product.
- An unclear CTA prompting people with ideas, money or connexions to help us.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad pitch. It clearly illustrated how we solved an important pain for developers with a clean, flexible solution they liked. But it only hinted at our potential as a thriving business.
The stuff we partially or totally missed
As a business, we’re an actor operating in two fast-growing, very effervescent markets with Snipcart: the e-commerce market, and the developer products (B2D) market. It was my job to make sure the judges understood how crucial both these markets were for the years ahead, and how Snipcart could profit from their potential. How? Well, here are a few ideas:
1. Quantify and qualify our markets
1.1 Crunch a few market numbers
Even though we’re in a new, exciting, software-powered economy, you can’t forget about the good ol’ market numbers when you pitch.
E-commerce is booming.
The popular apps marketplace Moblized lists over 80 quality e-commerce tools. Some of them are answering different needs in different steps of the e-commerce flow, others are directly answering all of them in one single platform. Another go-to resource for e-commerce, the website Ecommerce Platforms, hosts a list of 120+ different e-commerce platforms and shopping cart software.
In 2013, worldwide B2C e-commerce sales exceeded 1.2 trillion US dollars. More than 1 billion users have bought something online via desktop, mobile, or tablet. There were already more than 20 million online stores all over the world in 2014. And those numbers are only going one way: up.
We’re living a developer renaissance.
As I’m writing this, there are about 5 million users on Stack Overflow, the popular exchange platform for web development. Ranging from hobbyist to professionals, the people interacting on this website are actively contributing to fostering an effervescent web development community. But they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
According to an official IDC research document, there were already 18+ million software developers (11M professional, 7M hobbyists) around the world at the start of 2014. Around 20% of them are in the USA, where the most important part of our user base is growing rapidly. Another research, by CompTIA, estimates the number of IT-related jobs in the USA should rise by 22% by 2020. Add these numbers, and you get a potential market of 4.3 million developers in the US alone, in less than 5 years.
1.2 Show we understand our market’s intrinsic value
But it’s not just the mere numbers of developers around the world that actually matters, but also the increasing importance of the developers themselves inside organizations and the global economy. Because of the almost ubiquitous place software holds in modern businesses, we increasingly see companies turning to their developers for guidance and business decisions. That’s why many B2D such as ourselves try to get in the good graces of developers first; so they can sell their tools through them.
Now whether these developers are freelancers or employees, their decisional power and organizational importance will only keep growing in the following years.
1.3 Make them feel the momentum with social proof
Some communities and startup programs such as Heavybit Industries in San Francisco now focus exclusively on B2D businesses. VC money is flowing towards developer-first products. Successful venture firms like Redpoint already boast numerous ambitious and wildly successful B2D startups. B2D heavyweights such as Stripe and Twilio have been leaving a blazing trail of success behind them for the last few years.
In short, we should’ve reminded them that software is eating the world, and that our business deserves its share of the lunch.
After that, we should’ve told them that in a world where both customers and merchants express a growing need for e-commerce, and where businesses turn more and more towards developers to achieve their technological success, we believe we’ve hit quite a sweet spot with Snipcart, a developer-first e-commerce solution.
2. Paint a metric-based portrait of our success and growth
- In our first pitch, we barely touched on a few vanity metrics. We should’ve gone deeper in order to paint a more colourful painting of our current situation as a business. Here is the list of numbers I wish we had cited:
- Our monthly growth for paying user base averages 10%.
- Our monthly growth for revenue averages 14%.
- Our CLV is 3 times higher than our CPA.
- Our churn rate is under 5%.
- Profitability was reached after only 2 years of bootstrapped development.
And of course, we would’ve concluded by stating that all of this growth was supported by organic marketing efforts with long-lasting effects (SEO + content).
4. End with a clear CTA
Our former pitch’s final note were fuzzy and unclear. It would potentially trigger questions like:
- “What are these guys asking for exactly?”
- “Do they need VC money or not?”
- “Are they looking to apply to an accelerator program or something?”
We should’ve told them straight up what we really needed:
- “We like our bootstrapped status and don’t need VC money. What we need is coaching and mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs who already grew B2D startups and marketed to developers successfully. If you know some, can you please connect us with them?”
Yup, that would’ve done the job.
Now that felt good. Better late than never, right? Of course all of this interesting stuff couldn’t fit into a short, already packed fire pitch. If we do end up pitching again, this post’s content will have to go through serious pitch distillation process. Still, I’m glad I wrote this post; it was an excellent business positioning exercise for us as a startup. And I do hope it will also serve as a reminder for startups out there looking for funding or applying to accelerators and incubators to pitch not only a product, but a business.
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