The art of pitching was everywhere at this year’s Forward Fest

By Erik Lorenzsonn, The Capital Times

chorom_pak_captimes_webChorom Pak sauntered onto the stage in a Monona Terrace conference room on Wednesday night, as “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor blared over the speakers and a crowd of a few hundred gave a rousing ovation. As the walk-on music and applause died, Pak, the young CEO of the biotechnology company Lynx Biosciences, squared herself on the raised platform and took a moment.

And then she made her pitch.

Pak was among the five startup executives taking part in Pressure Chamber, a high-stakes pitching competition modeled on the TV show “Shark Tank.” The gala, organized by the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce was just one of five events featured in the annual Forward Festival that centered on the idea of pitching — the spiel that all entrepreneurs give to convince others that their idea and their company is worthwhile.

Pak’s pitch for Lynx began with a description of the problem her company is trying to solve — something most entrepreneurs will say is a crucial ingredient of a convincing pitch.

“Currently there are 1.2 million people living with a blood cancer today,” she told the crowd and a panel of judges. “Unfortunately, approximately every nine minutes someone passes away from this disease.”

Afterward, she launched into the “value proposition” — the part of the pitch that summarizes how the company solves the problem in question, and why the product or service would be valued by customers. In the case of Lynx, the value proposition is that Pak and her team have developed a diagnostic device that can more efficiently and effectively predict the impact different drug treatments may have on a cancer patient.

“This is a technological advance compared to other companion diagnostics,” she said.

These ingredients of a pitch are something almost all entrepreneurs are familiar with, according to Laura Strong, the COO of Quintessence Biosciences. She said there’s a good reason pitching is such a prominent part of the festival.

“It’s a critical part of what do you do as an entrepreneur,” she said. “It really comes back to this question in life that we’re trying to convince people of things. As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of people to convince.”

To sell others on your business idea in a relatively short chunk of time can be a difficult thing to pull off. And what exactly comprises a “good pitch” can change depending on the circumstances — an entrepreneur can find themselves pitching before a team of potential investors, a possible recruit, a potential customer, or even just a member of the general public.

Even at pitching-centric Forward Fest events, there was a considerable range of pitching environments. At the Startup Showcase, a gaggle of Madison entrepreneurs gave brief reports to a general crowd of festival attendees on the state of their company — a casual pitch with no potential investors on the line. For UberPITCH, on the other hand, entrepreneurs went on an Uber ride with a potential investor, with 10 minutes to make the case for their idea. Read more …

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