Small business week: The pitch myth

Courtney Symons
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Why it isn’t really about the money

Getting on stage at a pitchfest is a bit like auditioning for a televised talent competition.

Mercury Grove's Scott Annan. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

It’s a way to tell a compelling story about why the world needs what you’re offering, but it isn’t likely to lead to instant glory, says Ottawa entrepreneur Scott Annan and founder of Mercury Grove.

“The point of the pitch isn’t to get funded – it’s to get noticed,” he says.

Generally, pitches are more effective for media than for investors. Even if an investor is interested in a company, conducting due diligence and drawing up agreements will take weeks. But regardless, pitches are a great way to garner attention for your company.

In order to do that, the presenter needs to tell the best story and put on the best show.

Entrepreneurs should convince audience members that the problem they are solving is significant, and that it’s the right time to solve it.

The best pitches are between five to 10 minutes, and lines should be well-rehearsed.

The biggest pitch Mr. Annan ever participated in was called Demo, a major tech demonstration conference held twice annually in California. He stood in front of around 900 of the top Silicon Valley investors and tech media.

Mr. Annan says it went well because he’d practised over and over.

“If the whole set collapsed on my head or a fire broke out, I still could have delivered my message,” he says.

Be sure to end on a high note, he adds – show you have tons of users already or how you’re capable of bringing in huge revenues.

“You need to be able to show that you’re enjoying yourself, and that if people are going to invest in you or write about you, they’re going to be along for the ride,” he says.


Two Ottawa companies travelled west to pitch at the Banff Venture Forum, as part of a group of 46 startups from across the country. The local companies, both in the life sciences category, were:


Frontier Agri-Science Inc.

An agricultural biotechnology company primarily focused on the development of genetic technologies to increase yields during water shortages.

The organization was co-founded by Julian Northey, who discovered drought-resistant technology while doing his PhD at the University of Toronto and now serves as the company’s president and CEO, and Daryl Smith, who is the primary administrative officer of the company.


Impakt Protective Inc.

The manufacturer of Shockbox, a miniature wireless sensor designed to be built into helmets and to immediately alert parents, coaches and trainers when a hit may lead to a concussion.

Danny Crossman, founder of the company and one of OBJ’s Forty Under 40 in 2012, developed combat helmet sensors for the U.S. Marines and later decided to use the technology to create a simple, affordable application for sports. Impakt Protective won the Banff Venture Forum Best Presenting Company Award in the Life Sciences category.


Peter Lalonde, founder of Openera Inc., also attended the Banff Venture Summit after winning the Road to Banff Pitchoff at the Canada 3.0 conference in Stratford, Ont. this April.

The company demonstrated its web and mobile apps and was selected as the first-place winner out of the 100 companies present, earning an all-expenses trip to Banff to participate in the forum. Mr. Lalonde says that although Openera didn’t pitch at the event, it met with multiple investors interested in contributing to a series-A round of funding for the company.

Organizations: University of Toronto, U.S. Marines, Banff Venture Forum Best Presenting Company Openera Banff Venture Summit

Geographic location: California, Ottawa, Banff Silicon Valley Canada Stratford

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page