Blog: Perfecting the Pitch – In the Eyes of a Firestarter Judge

At the C4E October Firestarter Pitch Event, entrepreneur and investor judges posed unique, thought-provoking questions and recommendations for each student participant. October judges Cale Genenbacher (MBA ‘16), CEO and Founder of LOGE Co., Anna Myint (MBA ’20), Co-Owner of the International Market in Nashville, Ethan Fedida (BA ’12), Co-Founder of Campfire Group, and Amanda Stone (BS ’11), CEO of A&M Agency, extend their advice and perspectives to enrich the broader entrepreneurial community. Check out their tips below:

Myint and Fedida comment on the excitement of new ideas,

“It was an honor to be invited to judge the Firestarter Pitch Event. The students’ businesses were quite developed, and it was impressive to see how far along they were (especially the businesses with investors already on board).” – Myint.

“It’s so energizing to see all these great ideas and solutions approaching the market, all at very different stages of their journeys. What’s so great about the entrepreneurship space is the comfort of knowing that solutions for pain points and other ideas that I personally have never stopped to consider, are constantly being worked on and ideated on.” – Fedida.

Amanda Stone speaks on the challenges and opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs,

“Entrepreneurs have the unique ability to see ‘what’s possible’ instead of simply ‘what is’. Once we have a clear vision, we’re then tasked with the challenge of forging a path through uncharted territory and earning buy-in from others to join us on that path. It’s thought that some of the most disruptive entrepreneurs don’t have deep industry experience, which enables them to approach problems and develop solutions through a fresh, untainted lens.”  

Advice to Take Away From the Judges:

“My one piece of advice is to open with exactly what the business or product you are presenting. Think of the competition as an ‘elevator pitch’ where you only have a few seconds to sell your product to someone who could potentially give you a million dollars to invest. You don’t want that investor getting off the elevator unsure of what you were trying to pitch/sell them.” – Myint.

Fedida expands on clearly establishing the concept,

“Make sure your pitch clearly defines the problem or pain point you are solving for and clearly articulates the solution your company has arrived at. Do so in a way that is understandable and easy to follow by anyone. Oftentimes entrepreneurs at their companies are so close to what they’re working on, such experts on the topic, that their contextual slides are way too complex or nuanced. You need to be sure whomever you’re pitching to can fully grasp what’s on hand, even if it ultimately is incredibly complex or challenging. You can always dive further into specifics with the knowledge that has become innate to you when your audience asks questions. 

From there, make sure you clearly articulate how your solution is a business-building, money-making opportunity. This is the most important factor to a potential investor or partner. Draw that direct line from the problem to the revenue-generating solution and be aggressive in what you see the opportunity being. We all know there are steps to driving revenue and capturing market share, but it’s great also to see how you shoot for the stars if it all goes right. Being rooted in realistic expectations is very needed, but knowing your aspirations and upside is where it gets really fun.” 

Stone shares,

“During a pitch, the audience and investors likely don’t have robust industry knowledge either. This gives entrepreneurs a blank slate for establishing context and storytelling on their own terms. Still, it can be difficult to pinpoint the information to include in a brief presentation that offers a clear understanding of the team, landscape, product or service, and potential while leaving them wanting more. Perfecting the pitch process is like a comedian workshopping jokes across various audiences before finally sticking the landing for their Netflix stand-up special.”

The next Firestarter Pitch Competition will be hosted on 1/25. If you are a student who would like to pitch your business concept, send an email to c4e@vanderbilt.edu with the name of your business and brief description. If you would be interested in judging concepts via Zoom, please email stacie.pawlicki@vanderbilt.edu. We’d love to have you join us!