[Startups! All #LeWeb Founder, Fundraising, Pitching, and Conference Hustle Advice Now In One Place]

Highlighting 16 of the over 400 applicants, this year’s LeWeb Startup Competition, was located at the Eiffel Dock building, a perfect setup to hang out with the startups. Own lunch and café area, lounge chairs by the startup demo booths, and the startup competition stage just behind the curtain, made it easy for ideas and money to mate. And it never got too crowded nor loud. Win-Win.

Startup Focus On Making Business Social

The three finalists chosen to pitch on the LeWeb main stage also represented the overall trend: Social. Paper.li, Social content curation, Waze, Social driving assistance, Super Marmite, Social home cooking, and Deways, Social car sharing community, also the winner of the special audience award.

Only two of the 16 startups launched on stage. Nuji, one of this year’s Seedcamp winners, launched its social recommendation service to discover and share products you love, whereas Badgeville, a social rewards and analytics platform officially kickstarted its European business for its two months old Palo Alto service.

Timeless Art Of Pitching – The Dos And Don’ts

Watching the startups getting their five minutes on the spotlight to dazzle the judges and audience, I made notes on few definitive don’ts that judges really shouldn’t have, but repeatedly kept asking for:

  • Business model 
  • Distribution model
  • Customer acquisition strategy and cost

Not even with 60 second pitch can you miss out on the business model, and at least you should give a hint on the distribution model. With five minute pitch you need to include customer acquisition strategy, preferably with estimated cost. Note. Adding social sharing features and enabling viral doesn’t by default count as distribution model, nor as customer acquisition strategy. Just because something can be shared doesn’t necessarily mean it will. 

It’s Showtime – It’s About Storytelling

I also missed both the energy, passion, and demos in many of the pitches. When you’re on stage and the spotlight is literally on you, it’s showtime. If you aren’t excited, why should we be? I admit that pitching for judges like Marissa Mayer may feel intimidating, but that’s where the rehearsing part comes in. Just make sure you don’t rehearse to the point where you start to sound like an infomercial instead.

How to Crush It – Super Marmite vs. GreenPocket

An example of two startups, Super Marmite and GreenPocket, both with interesting solutions, but where only one of them was being clear on the message, telling a story, and crushing it on stage.

Super Marmite from France won the LeWeb’10 startup competition for best originality. It’s a social marketplace for homemade meals having attracted 3 000 community members since its launch for two months ago. Solving a real problem, and cooking being a big trend, there’s a big opportunity for other businesses to be built on top of Super Marmite’s model.

GreenPocket from Germany has an interesting B2B product to enable energy suppliers to provide useful customer information by visualizing energy consumption and behaviour, thereby empowering to both save money, energy and environment. In short: Mint for energy consumption. And there’s even an iPhone app for that!

Both startups started with a problem description, but only Super Marmite told a compelling story on how to find homemade cooking when the fridge is empty, instead of all the junk food available, accompanied with a tasty slideshow.

Super Marmite was also the winner of the Paris Startup Meetup earlier this fall. Watch Olivier Desmoulin to give 60 second pitch to Jason Calacanis over Skype on This Week In Startups, and crushing it. Note: As long as you have a great idea and show energy and passion, don’t worry about your accent.

GreenPocket, instead, ran practically out of time, having one of the judges, Mike Sigal of Guidewire Group, to stop the presentation after four minutes in, opening up with the spot on comment:

“Is there a reason you didn’t start by saying – we’re Mint for energy consumption?”

My GreenPocket Pitch

Here’s how I would’ve pitched GreenPocket, instead of having used four minutes out of five to state the obvious about how energy is becoming scarcity, :

  • Start by showing the regular unreadable energy bill, where you always feel like you’re being fooled big time.
  • Show figures on how much an average family spends on energy, with some scary examples of home owners during the winter.
  • Pull up the neat iPhone app and demo how a family can track and visualize their energy consumption, and how with the help of service they can make better decisions, and….
  • Happy ending! Spend the money saved on family holiday, college education etc.
  • Some awesome statistics on the global market size and possible effect on the environment.
  • Finish off with already 20 happy customers and a grand plan for world domination.
  • Voilà!

I have put together great advice and examples of both good and bad pitches. Please take a moment to recap before your next pitch. Also, the recent This Week In Startups episode is dedicated on How to give a perfect pitch by giving feedback on live pitches. #mustwatch

Need to work on your startup pitch? Get in touch! Or why not pitch me your awesome startup in Fred Destiin #Twitpitch style on the comments?

By All Means – Bring Stuff With You!


Garmz, also one of this year’s Seedcamp winners, got a free plug bringing one of its first pre-order designs on stage. The lovely design piece remained on stage during the rest of the startup pitch round, right under the noses of the judges, one of them also happening to be Google’s Marissa Mayer. Nicely done.

For eyeballs and to make your product stick with audience, bring something physical with you. Even if you have digital only service, it’s worth the effort to try visualize it with physical gadgets other than the traditional t-shirt plug. People love to hold things, thereby creating more lasting association with the product. You want to be remembered, right? If you have an app, bring extra devices, readily loaded, and hand over. Be creative!

Catch up with all the 16 LeWeb’10 Startup Competition pitches

Paula is Digital Product Advisor and Top 100 Women in Tech in Europe, focusing on Mobile only (first) products, and Go-to-market and Internationalization strategies. She has to date mentored over 150 digital technology companies, and rated as one of the very best startup mentors in Europe. Contact Paula to help your company grow its digital business. Read more about her work, connect @Twitter, @LinkedIn. “You never learn anything when you speak, only when you listen” – Roelof Botha / Douglas Leone, Sequoia Capital