In coaching clean tech startups, the most frequent question we get is “What should I say in my pitch?” We have our standard guidelines and examples, but nobody explains it better than our friend Josh David Miller. Josh has reviewed over 500 pitches of small early stage companies and has a reputation of asking some pretty blunt questions. Josh and Thomas sat down recently to discuss what makes a good pitch and it was quite insightful. The whole session is recorded [see below]. If you are getting ready to make your first or your hundred and first pitch, you should hear what Josh has to say. Here are some highlights:     

1. The best way to get information to stick in someone’s head, to get an audience engaged, is to tell a story. The worst way to begin is by talking about your technology.
2. The story has to describe through examples the problem you are trying to solve and why people should care about your solution.
3. A business is all about solving a problem for someone for a fee. So, talk about not only the problem but who that “someone” is and why. Be incredibly specific.
4. The most important thing to communicate is that you understand your customers and know where they are.
5. Don’t say anything remotely like, “If we could get only a 1% share of the current market, our revenues would be such and such.” It is a flashing neon sign that you have not done your homework and know almost nothing about your customer.
6. The objective of a pitch is to get someone to do something. That “something” is probably to agree to a second meeting. Rarely if ever does someone commit to writing a check based on the first pitch.
7. Research your target audience and what motivates them. If that audience is an investor or a fund, find out what their “sweet spot” is and tailor your pitch to that. Find out what other businesses they have funded. Research any talks they have given where they reveal their investment “thesis”.
8. The first time you make a pitch, it is always a “hot mess.” Don’t let that deter you.

Josh has a lot more to offer and he is willing to meet with you. Check out his bio and his website for his company, Rightbox. And, yes, he is well known as a wearer of bright shoes. Easy to spot in a crowd. The bright red hair helps, too.


Thomas Hall


Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart’s Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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