Entrepreneurs

6 tips for putting together the perfect elevator pitch

For a startup, there are 60 seconds that can make or break you.

At last week's Slush conference in Helsinki, Finland, entrepreneurs from early-stage startups to large tech companies agreed the minute-long "elevator pitch" is crucial for getting an investor's attention.

Here are six tips from entrepreneurs who founded their own companies and mastered their elevator pitches.

Keep it short

An elevator pitch needs to be short — not longer than the length of time you would spend riding in an elevator.

"I see investors typically seeing hundreds of startups every single day so you really want to stand out with a really short and easy to understand pitch," said Michael Bodekaer, co-founder and chief technology officer at Labster, an education tech startup that builds virtual 3D simulations.

Bodekaer said he focused on shortening his company's pitch when he realized investors wanted to get to the heart of his idea within seconds.

Solve a problem

"We talk about how we're going to solve a problem, make a lot of money and mitigate risk," said Viola Llewellyn, co-founder and president of Ovamba Solutions, a financial technology (fintech) company focused on providing short-term capital to small and medium enterprises in Africa.

Llewellyn said she reworked her company's pitch to focus on what investors want, like growth and risk protection. She said it's important to highlight why your company is a unique solution to an investor's problem.

Sanna Westman, investment manager at VC Fund Creandum, agreed. "I'm interested in hearing what is really the value that you're going to bring," she said.

Elevator pitch
Mike Watson Images | Getty Images

Practice, practice, practice

"Crystallize your idea in your mind and be absolutely sure that you know what you're talking about," Llewellyn said.

Llewellyn said one of the worst things you can do as a startup is go into a pitch meeting and "word vomit."

Use an analogy

Entrepreneurs said one of the best ways to get an investor's attention is to use an analogy to help them understand your idea.

"I started over and used a simple example of something that made sense to them every day," said Michael Pryor.

Pryor is co-founder of Trello, a web-based app that helps organize projects into different boards. He said he helps people understand how to use Trello using the analogy of "sticky notes on a wall."

"Explaining your product in terms that people use every day is going to make it much more approachable," Pryor said.

More than 2,000 startups attended this year's Slush conference in Helsinki, Finland.
CNBC | Benjamin Hall
More than 2,000 startups attended this year's Slush conference in Helsinki, Finland.

Read the crowd

"Be willing to pivot," Ovamba's Llewellyn said.

The entrepreneur said you have to be willing to reshape your vision and ideas based on the feedback received during a pitch.

"Do not get Velcro-ed to your idea to the point that you cannot get pried off the pole because you're so attached to how brilliant your idea is."

Make it personal

If there is one theme every entrepreneur and investor agreed on when it comes to the elevator pitch, it's the need to bring personality and passion into your speech.

"As a seed investor we not only invest in the idea but also in the people," VC Fund Creandum's Westman said. "I want to know that they're super excited about this and they'll put in the work that is needed for it."